This historic house and gardens is home to some of the best gardens in England. The grounds are an ideal place to relax and contemplate. The garden was designed by the famous landscape gardener Gertrude Jekyll, who collaborated with Sir Edward Lutyens. It features an Early C20 plantation and an intricate Pergola enclosing the house.
If you are looking for a garden with a bit of history, you might consider visiting Hestercombe gardens. The site features three distinct garden areas: a landscape garden, a Victorian terrace, and a formal Edwardian garden. Lutyens’ work at Hestercombe is arguably one of his finest achievements.
The gardens of Hestercombe are a mixture of a C18 landscape designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde and early C20 terraces and pleasure grounds designed by Edwin Lutyens. The gardens were designed to be linked by a monumental flight of stone steps known as the Daisy Steps. These steps descend a terraced grass bank c thirty metres north-west of the House.
The garden features a Rotunda and patterned stone paving that radiates from a central pool. Lutyens and Jekyll combined hardscape and ornamental features to create a harmonious environment. The use of natural materials such as dry stone and local woods was also a feature of the garden.
The styles of gardens throughout history influenced the formal gardens at Hestercombe. Lutyens took inspiration from a variety of styles to create his designs. Dutch gardens, in particular, are considered to influence England’s Tudor-era gardens. In addition to the formal gardens, the gardens also feature a Tudor-style house called Cotehele.
Gertrude Jekyll’s gardens at Hestercombe are Grade I registered gardens. Visitors can take in her geometric-shaped lawn panels, central sundial, and beds of delphiniums and gladioli. The gardens were designed by the British horticulturalist, the first woman to receive the Victoria Medal of Honour, the highest award in British horticulture.
The garden is a mix of late Victorian and early 20th-century styles. The park contains lakes, temples, and woods, as well as a stunning Arts and Crafts water garden and large pergola. The Oxford Companion praises the gardens to Gardens for their bold layout and imaginative handling of contrasting materials.
The principles of dynamic succession influence the design of Gertrude Jekyll’s garden. She believed that by designing her flowerbeds in such a way that plants take each other’s places, the garden will always be alive. Her ideas have influenced gardens across the UK, France, and Europe.
A horticulturalist and painter, Jekyll created over 400 gardens across the UK. Her gardens reflected her passion for flowers, flora, and fauna, and she made a living from her work. She was also an active member of the Arts and Crafts movement, and her influence on gardens is undeniable.
Gertrude Jekyll was an influential gardener and was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1897 by the Royal Horticultural Society, the highest award a British horticulturist can receive. She was also a fellow member of the Royal Horticultural Society.
Early C20 plantation
Early C20 photographs show the rambling landscape of Hestercombe Gardens, including a stuccoed south facade and heavy planting that formed a backdrop to garden terraces. The late C19 stables were incorporated into the south range. This early C20 planting was removed in the mid-C20, as the Crown Estate acquired Hestercombe.
The main attraction at Hestercombe Gardens is the Lutyens/Jekyll garden. The garden was designed around the house and was a high point of their collaboration. A large rose garden, filled with old and rare varieties, sits in the centre of the garden. Circular walls encircle the central pond, surrounded by elaborate stone paving.
A late C19 stone lodge, Gotton Lodge, sits adjacent to the Cotton Gate. The drive continues south-west through the plantation, passing through the Cotton Copse plantation. To the south and east of the House is the service area. The drive was in place by 1741, although Edward Portman altered it in the late C19.
Originally there were two separate ponds in the park. One lies to the south, and the other is in the west. The east has lawns and a stone fence. The west has a pond surrounded by stone walls. The eastern garden was a walled garden and contained the remains of a C18 glasshouse.
Pergola enclosing hestercombe gardens
The Pergola enclosing Hestercombe gardens is a landmark structure in the gardens. The pergola frames the view of the valley from the south side of the House and is covered with climbers. It also contains a flagged walk that affords panoramic views of the surrounding country.
Pergolas are a favourite feature of the garden. They were designed by a celebrated architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. The garden has Mediterranean features, including a dome connecting the orangery to the terrace. Lutyens also added flights of steps and a parterre known as the Dutch Garden.
Pergolas are typically circular and are built around the edges of gardens. The garden has three circular pools with varying depths and sides planted with perennial beds. Water flows into a tank at the bottom of the garden. The Great Plat features a 200-foot pergola enclosing the garden. The pergola covers the Great Plat and provides a magnificent view of the surrounding valley.
The Hestercombe Gardens Trust manages the Hestercombe gardens. They are a private charitable organization located in the village of Cheddon Fitzpaine, just north of Taunton.
C20 stone lodge
Hestercombe Gardens is a delightful estate with a fine twentieth-century garden and eighteenth-century house. The grounds also contain lakes, temples, and woods. The Arts and Crafts style garden features a large pergola. The Oxford Companion to Gardens praises the “bold layout and imaginative handling of contrasting materials”.
The octagon summerhouse, created by C W Bampfylde, was located 80 metres to the northeast of the House. Its location provided views over the park to the southeast and over Taunton Deane and Creech Barrow.
Hestercombe House, an impressive C20 stone lodge, is open to the public and has a history dating back to 1280. It was acquired by the Hestercombe Gardens Trust in 2013, having previously served as the headquarters of Somerset’s fire brigade. In 2014, it was opened to the public, marking the start of the estate’s second phase of restoration.
A C18 stone lodge, built by the family in 1790, is also part of the estate. The building has a Venetian-style well-head that is not visible in early photographs. It is surrounded by stone piers and a stone-flagged entrance to the Rotunda.
A retaining rubble-stone wall forms the west part of the west Water Garden Terrace. A gravel walk runs parallel to this wall and leads to the C20 walled gardens 270m southwest of the House.
C20 water garden terraces
The water garden terraces in Hestercombe Gardens were only discovered in recent years, as a result of archival research. They are the oldest terraces of water garden terraces in the country and were originally part of the estate’s Landscape Garden, which Coplestone Warre Bampfylde designed in the late 1760s. By the time the gardens were demolished for commercial purposes in the early C20, they had become completely silted up.
A short walk from the house, the terraces have classical stone urns. The urns were erected by Bampfylde in 1786, surrounded by a late C20 copy. In addition to the water garden terraces, the gardens are also home to several sculptures.
The first terrace is enclosed by a stone-lined rill, while the second terrace descends east to west on stone steps. These terraces surround a large sunken garden. The water gardens each have a circular pool with different depths. The terraces are linked by a monumental flight of stone steps designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1908. They are named the Daisy Steps and descend a stone-lined bank to a level c 30m northwest of the House.
The Western Water Garden Terrace includes a herbaceous border extending south along the west-facing retaining rubble-stone wall. A gravel walk extends south parallel to this herbaceous border and leads to the walled gardens 270m southwest of the House.