The Mill Wood Tree Planting

With 4,423 specimens being planted in January 2016

These are the last photographs taken of Mill Wood whilst still an agricultural field (1950-2016).

Panoramic view of Mill Wood looking south.

Panoramic view of Mill Wood looking south.

Panoramic view of Mill Wood looking north.

Panoramic view of Mill Wood looking north.

On Monday 18th January 2016 the work commenced to re-plant the lost forest of Mill Wood with 2750 Oak, 950 Beech, 250 Sweet Chestnut, 250 Wild Cherry, 200 Hornbeam, 20 Scotts Pine and 2 Abies Alba. The Somerset Gardens Trust has also kindly gifted a Zelkova Carpinifolia.

Thousands of the new trees planted beneath one of the few surviving old trees, a horse chestnut of c.1660.

Thousands of the new trees planted beneath one of the few surviving old trees, a horse chestnut of c.1660.

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The Temple of Harmony

and Robert Adam at Halswell

“Passing to the Ionic portico, which is excellently placed, the scenery in view is truly enchanting; the lawn is gently waved, and spotted with trees and shrubs in the happiest taste. The water seems to wind naturally through a falling vale; and a swelling hill, crowned by a rotunda, forms a complete picture. The whole scene is really elegant; every part is riant, and bears the stamp of pleasure.”
– Arthur Young, 1771. 

The Temple of Harmony, photographed in January 2016.

The Temple of Harmony, photographed in January 2016.

The Temple of Harmony, photographed c.1898.

The Temple of Harmony, photographed c.1898.

The Temple of Harmony, designed by Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte’s gentleman-architect friend Thomas Prowse (1708-1767) was based on the plans in Isaac Ware’s (1704-1766) influential The Four Books of Andrea Palladio’s Architecture published in 1738. Palladio’s designs were taken directly from the ancient Temple of Portunus which still stands in Rome. Halswell’s Temple of Harmony, though inspired by Palladio’s vision of ancient Rome, was designed and built by gentlemen architects, like so many of the monuments throughout eighteenth-century Britain. The Estate Steward for Halswell, Mr Escott, records in his eighteenth-century memorandum that the building was commissioned in 1764 at a cost of £400 and was dedicated to the memory of two of Sir Charles’ friends: Mr Peregrine Palmer of Fairfield House, Somerset, MP for the University of Oxford, who died in 1762, and Mr Thomas Prowse, the Temple’s architect, an MP for Somerset who died in 1767, the year the building was completed.

Transcription of the Halswell Steward’s diary, Escott’s Memorandum, relating to the commissioning of the Temple in 1764.

Transcription of the Halswell Steward’s diary, Escott’s Memorandum, relating to the commissioning of the Temple in 1764.

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The re-roofing of the Tudor Manor

And the removal of twenty-first-century dormer windows

The roof structures of the old manor complex at Halswell date from the many different phases of building. Roofing evidence from before the Tudor period has not yet been identified; we know there has been a manor here since at least Domesday times but the roof structures have not necessarily survived as well as the stone. From the early and late Tudor periods respectively we have the Great Hall building to the east, the south range and the two sides of the inner courtyard. It is this area of the roofing structures and their associated wood and stone repairs where this current phase of restorations focusses.

The roof plans of Halswell, courtesy of Claire Fear of Architectural Thread Ltd. The areas highlighted in red correspond to the Tudor Great Hall, which takes up the northern half of the east range, the 1590’s south range and the three gabled additions to the Great Hall in the east of the courtyard.

The roof plans of Halswell, courtesy of Claire Fear of Architectural Thread Ltd. The areas highlighted in red correspond to the Tudor Great Hall, which takes up the northern half of the east range, the 1590’s south range and the three gabled additions to the Great Hall in the east of the courtyard.

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Revealing the historic Manor House at Halswell (part 1)

Restoration of the south façade.

The south range photographed in c. 1898.

The south façade photographed in c.1898.

The areas highlighted in red date from the 1590’s improvements to the old manor. The blue outlined addition to the right was probably added by the architect Francis Cartwright of Blandford in 1754, and includes a classical mid-eighteenth-century room with a high ceiling and florally decorated plaster cornice. Originally built with Georgian sash windows, this corner addition was transformed shortly before 1908, when Tudor-style gables were added to the south and east corners (see third image) and the Georgian windows on the east side were removed and replaced with sixteenth-century style stone mullions. A gabled loft space with window was also added to the east; externally this has the appearance of an extra full floor but was never in fact converted for habitable use. The green highlighted buildings to the left date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

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Restoration of the Riding School Facade

”…the court [yard] is enclosed by the west facade of the riding school (listed grade II), a red-brick structure designed by John Johnson in 1769.” – Historic England listing

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The Riding School is a field enclosure for horse training, fronted by a long redbrick wall that faces the Gatehouse courtyard to the west. It is arcaded with ten arches which equally flank a central doorway beneath an eleventh archway that leads to the enclosed riding area beyond. At either end of this arcaded wall is a pair of rusticated redbrick gate pillars. To the north, the gateway is attached to the ‘Cider House’. To the south it connects to the farm building called ‘Old Farmhouse’. Directly behind the wall, though not exactly centred, is the much older ‘Dovecote’. This dates from at least the seventeenth century, though the reason for its unusually vast size is the subject of some debate, as well as a future blog entry.

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The Coach House

And its rebirth as the new bat roost

The coach house under scaffolding while undergoing its full restoration.

The coach house under scaffolding while undergoing its full restoration.

The Coach house, or a building of similar proportions, was on this site by 1756 when it was recorded on the earliest surviving estate map. It is Grade II listed but until this year appears to have had little repair work since it was built. The entire roof structure was being held up by the insertion of two 1950’s red brick partition walls beneath the two original eighteenth-century cross beams.

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Restoring the Chimneys

The chimney stacks at Halswell consist of two distinct groups; those hidden within the formal architecture of the Baroque north wing, and those that survived from the Tudor manor with its later additions in the 1590’s and beyond. During the nineteenth century and the 1920s all of the chimneys were rebuilt above the roofline, either using big new redbrick stacks typical of a robust Victorian roofline, or hidden completely within the parapet of the seventeenth-century Baroque wing. As enticing as it seemed for us to remove the Victorian redbrick and attempt to re-create the older mix of chimneys, there were no remaining features to work with, and although the Victorian brick has a different feel, they are honest indicators of the house living through that period, and as such are important historically in their own right. Therefore, in consultation with conservation authorities, the decision was made that the redbrick would be maintained, and the mixture of twentieth century pots that cap them should be removed and replaced with more sympathetic features.

chimneys East Range Continue reading