The Dam at the Bath Stone Bridge

Part 1: Exploration and Archaeology

The team standing on the large concrete apron that sits in front of the bridge.

While much of the damaged and missing stone is being carved for the restoration of the bridge, the dam works have also been started so that the foundations and leaks are made good before the bridge structure itself is put back to its original glory.

Before work began the water level in the pond in front of the bridge did not rise to the level of the arches, where the water should flow out to create a waterfall behind. Instead it was seeping out and under the dam, potentially causing catastrophic damage to the foundations. Only during flood conditions did the water rise high enough, and then too high, creating dangers to the whole of the bridge structure itself. The concrete apron we were sure was added in the 1970’s when Mr Nataro owned the field and completed a lot of works which no doubt helped the landscape survive until the restorations could be taken up once more. What lay under this concrete apron was a mystery. Was the concrete covering an older similar in-fill that was necessary to create the dam and support the stone bridge? Or was it entirely constructed in the 1970’s and not part of the original engineering? Was it superfluous or necessary to keep the dam from crumbling and being washed down stream?

Diggers large and small put into action to understand the archaeology.

The only way to find out was to remove the broken and leaking concrete, both to locate the weaknesses and to restore the original form, if that proved possible. The condition of the above-ground bridge structure, though propped up and secured from both sides, was still highly delicate and the works needed to proceed with the greatest care to avoid unnecessary shocks and vibrations. Continue reading

Bath Stone Bridge: The Restoration

Part 1: Repairing The Stone

Since 2016 mason Mike Orchard has been carving new stone to replace the damaged or lost elements of this Halswell Park icon.

The restoration started with scaffolding to the bridge and removal of dangerous tree limbs before the winter could do any more damage to the structure. Each stone had to be numbered and mapped both on the working drawings and on the stones themselves, before dismantling the most precarious areas could begin.


The Bath Stone Bridge in Mill Wood was created by Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte (1710-1785) and probably Thomas Wright (1711-1786) as the show piece in the of their water garden vision.

The ashlar apse at the back of the central pediment had roots digging through the cracks and had been losing cut stone blocks into the water below for many years. Before Mike could evaluate the missing stone that needed to be remade a catalogue of all the stone found on site was needed so that the jigsaw could be understood. Salvaging stone lost in the silt was one of the first tasks.

Continue reading

Episode 3: The Restoration, pt.2

Episode 3: The Restoration, pt.2

Roy Bolton, Mark Lidster and Claire Fear return to the hot-seat for a more in-depth conversation about the ongoing restoration. We cover scenes of Edward Strachan’s on-site visits, the fixing of the Tudor roof and the works happening in the fabled Mill Wood, both on the landscape and the idiosyncratic Bath Stone Bridge.


Episode 2: The Restoration, pt.1

Episode 2: The Restoration, pt.1

In this fly-on-the-wall episode, we follow Roy Bolton and project leader of the Mill Wood restoration Ann Manders through the manor of Halswell. Led by Andy Coxall of Corbel Conservation Ltd, we embark on an exclusive walk-through and discussion of the building’s curiosities, as well as the upcoming plans to revitalise both the interior and exterior. Roy and Ann then visit the Rotunda, known as Mrs. Busby’s Temple, to witness the initial clearing of the landscape.


Episode 1: Halswell Park

Episode 1: Halswell Park

The first instalment in the Halswell Park documentary series.

Through interviews with art and architecture historian Roy Bolton, conservation director Mark Lidster and project architect Claire Fear, we delve into the history and legacy of historic Halswell House, how it came into the hands of current owner Edward Strachan and his vision of restoring the manor to its former glory as a true British landmark.


The Roof is Up!

A big thank you to everyone at Corbel Conservation Ltd. for their hard work and dedication in fixing up the roof, as well as everyone involved in the arduous process.

This is the first step of many in ensuring the restoration of Halswell House to its deserved status.

Today also marks this blog’s 2 year anniversary, for which we would like to thank our readers and all parties interested in this project.



U3A Visit To Halswell House

On Thursday 18th August , Halswell House hosted a visit by members of the Weston Super Mare U3 (University of the Third Age) Architecture Appreciation Society

Russell Lillford, Chairman of the Somerset Building Preservation Trust had given a talk to their members last winter and suggested that this was followed up with a visit to Halswell.  The visit, led by Martha Perriam,  proved very popular with a full contingent of 30 turning out.

The group were welcomed by Mark Lidster and Sam Foster of Corbel Conservation and Ann Manders of the SBPT.

Following a short site Health and Safety induction from Sam, the group took the opportunity to view the display of maps, photographs and other historical documents set up in the meeting room.  Ann then gave a brief talk covering the history of the site which was followed by a guided tour of the house, taking in the main staircase, the Chinese wallpaper room, the ballroom, the master bedroom, the back stairs and finally up out onto the roof.

During the tour Mark spoke about the various aspects and challenges of restoring and conserving the fabric of the house and the important historical features.  Once on the roof the group were able to view the surrounding countryside and historic parkland, they were also treated to a wonderful birds eye view of the recent roof restoration works to the Tudor range.

Following their rooftop descent the group took the opportunity to wander around the garden and woodland surrounding the house and especially enjoyed visiting the newly restored Rotunda.

The group expressed their thanks to Mark, Ann and especially the owner, Edward Strachan, for a very interesting afternoon and hoped that they would be able to visit again as the restoration work progresses.