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.
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.
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.
Part of the Mill Wood Restoration Scheme
Opposite the Temple of Harmony and sitting in a high position on the southern bank of Mill Wood’s final pond is a stone-faced bridge of three arches. Built between 1756 and 1771 when the northern most end of Mill Wood, along with the temple itself, were added to the earlier phase of the landscape, the bridge straddles the water below at a particularly interesting visual stop. Unlike many of the original room-like eighteenth-century spaces created within this landscape the bridge was intended to have clear sightlines in all four directions.
Standing on the bridge the four views include the Temple of Harmony to the west, the Rotunda to the east, the flow of the ponds to the north and to the south, noisily cascading over a mossy and rusticated rockery below, is the water that finally rests in a large still pond, these days with an island at its centre.
Restoration of the Mill Wood lakes outflow
The water that springs up in the cold bath at the south of Mill Wood flows through various lakes, over many waterfalls, through and under wonderful eighteenth-century bridges and leaves the wood at its southern end where it then flows beneath a man-made culvert and out into the fields opposite where it retakes its form as a natural stream.
This was the grand plan of Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte (1710 -1785) and, almost certainly, his landscape designer the famous astronomer, mathematician, architect and landscape designer Thomas Wright (1711-1786), of whom a lot more will be written in these pages in due course.
1771 Estate map by William Day. The roadside cascade is on the southern side of the road that passes the northern end of Mill Wood, near to where the Temple of Harmony is marked on the left of this map.
8th February 2016
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Somerset Gardens Trust and it’s AGM at Halswell House the Chairman, Mrs Camilla Carter, and Edward Strachan jointly plant an Acer Trauvetteri near the site of Lady Tynte’s Summer House in Mill Wood. The group trundled up the hill in Mill Wood during what can only be described as ‘chilly’ conditions to examine the newly planted native trees and to add a finishing touch of their own.
The choice of the summer house to plant this wonderful gift from the SGT is due to the belief that the building, long since vanished, was in the chinoiserie style and so the inclusion of a non-native tree is appropriate for this part of the wood. The recently commissioned archaeology has revealed that this summer house was about five meters deep with a curved front supported by pillars. As yet we have no images of the lost building but we live in hope that a watercolour or print might survive and surface one day, as so many other important records have done. We are grateful to Mrs Gill Durman for her recollection of the site in the 1950s and will be thrilled to hear from anyone who has any more information or memories of what once stood here!
Camilla Carter, Chairman of the Trust, with Edward Strachan
Some of the brave windswept enthusiasts.
Left to right: Alyona Strachan, Chris Stones, Roy Bolton, Alex Sergeyevs, Ann Manders, Stuart Senior, Edward Strachan, Camilla Carter, Simon Bonvoisin, James Harris, Councillor Ian Dyer, Ann Dyer, Helen Senior and Mark Lidster
Inspecting the trimming of the laurels at the Grotto and Cold Bath. The Roman Bath-style grotto arches have had the full force of thick laurel roots burying into their structures so a careful removal of the worst offenders was needed to secure the structures. Laurel is believed to have always been the plant of choice around this area to give it a canopy of natural wild overgrowth appropriate to the rather pagan elements of the river source and the surrounding follies.
Simon Bonvoisin, braving the cold having graciously given up his coat for a lady, discusses the final phases of tree planting in Mill Wood with Edward Strachan. Some small areas have been left unplanted to leave room for archaeological work and rebuilding the missing follies and the necessary structural work that must be carried out on the dams and bridges.