The first reference to a garden at Hestercombe is from a medieval document of 1249 which records ‘my Lord of Hestercombe’s garden’. The next reference is from the estate accounts of Sir Francis Warre for, ironically, pulling down a garden hedge in 1698. In 1731 John Bampfylde, MP for Exeter, who had married Sir Francis’s daughter Margaret in 1718, commissioned plans for a garden from a Mr Brown of London.
Coplestone Warre Bampfylde designed and laid out the Landscape Garden as we know it today, after inheriting the estate from his father in 1750.
Miss Elizabeth Warre, the last of her line, died in 1872 and in the following year, Hestercombe was acquired by the 1st Viscount Portman who undertook considerable remodelling of the house including the creation of the Victorian Terrace.
In 1903, the Hon Edward Portman, his grandson and Hon Mrs Portman, commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to create a new formal garden with a planting scheme designed by Gertrude Jekyll. Hestercombe Garden’s Formal Garden is arguably the finest example of her collaboration with Sir Edwin Lutyens.
In 1944 the estate was sold to the Crown Estate with the exception of Hestercombe House and the Formal Garden. These were sold to the Somerset County Council in 1978. Since October 2003, the gardens have been managed by the Hestercombe Gardens Trust. Somerset County Council transferred the freehold of the house, Formal Garden and visitor centre to the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, under the Community Asset Transfer Scheme, thereby reuniting the house with its historic landscape for the first time in more than 60 years.
In September 2018, thanks to a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Hestercombe Gardens Trust was able to acquire land totalling 320 acres, securing the world-class, Grade 1 heritage landscape, gardens and buildings for future generations.
Read more about the Hestercombe archives.