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
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.
Part Two: The Bath Stone Bridge
“One of the most curious and obscure garden buildings in the country – the 1750’s rockwork and shell encrusted Bridge at Halswell. It formed part of Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte’s freemasonic-inspired circuit of garden buildings in Mill Wood”
So wrote Timothy Mowl and Marion Mako in their book The Historic Gardens of England: Somerset, 2010 about the Bath Stone Bridge of c. 1755 at Halswell’s Mill Wood.
Charles Kemeys-Tynte chose to have himself depicted with books on gardening and his prised Bath Stone Bridge being built behind him.
William Hogarth, detail of the construction of the bridge from his portrait of Sir Charles, c. 1753.
Arthur Young, 1771