Visitors will notice a new feature as they take the main drive towards Hestercombe House.
A body of water currently awaits restoration to be transformed into an original Water Garden that formerly graced the estate.
The Elizabethan Water Garden is incredibly rare, and is situated in the parkland area of Hestercombe. When fishing was a popular pastime for women, this would have provided the perfect place for recreation, picnics, and of course, catching fish.
A flock of Canada Geese have already made their home there, and soon it’s hoped that two buildings will be brought back to life.
Funded by the Countryside Stewardship Scheme work to restore the Elizabethan Water Garden started in 2020. Following extensive archival research and careful excavation a wall around the pond and island in the middle were revealed and subsequently rebuilt. In the autumn of 2021 the natural spring was reconnected and the pond filled. Hestercombe has also secured funding as part of the LEADER programme which will allow us to rebuild the summerhouse and boathouse.
The summerhouse is based on a watercolour believed to have been painted by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde which depicts Hestercombe’s 17th century Water Garden and gives us the basis of the design.
In the late nineteenth century the Portmans dredged the lake and added a boathouse, probably to facilitate duck shooting as ducks were known to be reared in the early 1900s at Combe House by the gamekeeper, Mr Butters. The foundations of the boathouse, along with a sunken punt, were uncovered during excavations.
The boathouse will take design cues from the architecture of Hestercombe House, specifically the original meat store which was constructed in the same era. The boathouse will be built in a horseshoe shape, following the original footings.
Alongside the Water Garden, handmade estate railings will mark the boundary and will also be taken from the original designs found elsewhere on the estate.
CEO of Hestercombe Philip White, said: “This water garden is just one of a handful left in the UK today, and there are only a couple still open to the public, which is why it is vital that we restore this hidden gem.
We’re delighted that we can now move forward to restore this rare feature, and to get it back to its original splendour.”
When it’s been restored to its former glory, the punt from the Pear Pond will be relocated to the water garden, and the area will be open to visitors.
Hestercombe is unique in having now four complete period gardens on one site, which firmly establishes it as one of the most important heritage gardens in the country.