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Somerset Historic Environment Record

25450

Site Name: Milton Lodge and the Combe parkland, Wells
HISTORIC LANDSCAPE REGISTER: Parks and Gardens (Grade II)
Civil Parish: Wells
Grid Ref: ST 547 468 (ST 54 NW)
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Public access:

The public accessibility of this site is unknown or has not been checked. Please ask locally and do not visit without permission. [Information last updated on 21 May 2003]

Details:

Early C20 terraced gardens and parkland of 32ha, accompanying a country house, with a detached walled early C19 pleasure ground. Two drives lead off the old Bristol Road, both marked by lodges, the lower one dated 1865, the other, further to the north beyond the bend which takes the public road westwards, dating from the early years of the C19. The drives lead across the park to the entrance on the east side of the house, and to the stable yard on a lower level, a little to the south. In 1759, Charles Tudway (d.1770) commissioned Thomas Paty of Bristol to build a house, 'The Cedars', on a site at the corner of North Liberty and College Road, north of Wells Cathedral. Remaining the family home until 1909, the house was used as a military hospital during the first World War, after which it was rented by the Wells Theological College, then by the Wells Cathedral school. The School continues to occupy it as tenants of the Dean and Chapter who purchased it from the family in 1967. In 1909, the family moved to Milton Lodge. The Lodge was originally built in 1790 by Aaron Foster, and was conveyed to Maria (d.1909) wife of Robert Charles Tudway (d.1855), in 1861. It was considerably extended when it became the main family home. Occupying a site on the south-facing slope of the Mendip Hills, to the west of the settlement of Walcombe, the house is protected at the north by the steep wooded hanger which rises immediately behind it. To the south are superb views across to Wells Cathedral, and out over the Vale of Avalon with Glastonbury Tor beyond. The boundaries of the site are marked by the Old Bristol Road to the east, Ash Lane to the south, a field boundary to the west, and the far edge of the strip of woodland behind the house, to the north. Charles Tudway had already started work developing the grounds before the family moved in, the main structure having been laid out between 1903 and 1909, with advice coming from the garden architect, Captain Partridge. A path along the south front of the house continues west as a grass walk linking to the uppermost of the four terraces. This terrace is laid out as a gently sloping lawn, surrounded on all sides by mixed borders and supported to the north by a high brick retaining wall. The grass walk runs along the top of this wall, separating the terrace from the wooded slope above. Below the central terrace is a narrower terrace with a sundial, from the western end of the lower of the terrace walls. This was put up in 1909, the swimming pool beyond having been added in 1967. A high yew hedge along the southern edge of this lowest lawn terrace marks the extremity of the formal gardens. Below the south-west corner of the house is the stable yard and associated buildings, with a lily tank forming the focus of a small rectangular gravel terrace immediately to the south. Beyond the terraces to the south and west are less formal areas with specimen trees and shrubs planted in grass, that to the west having been developed as an arboretum during the second half of the C20. The park lies mainly to the south and east of the Lodge; much of the land between the house and Ash Lane to the south has never been emparked and remains as meadow. Within the area are the remains of medieval lynchets and other traces of cultivation reflecting earlier phases of use, and also three stock drinking ponds. The Combe: Nearly opposite the lower lodge of Milton Lodge, on the east side of the Old Bristol Road, a door leads through a wall into The Combe, a walled, 13-acre pleasure ground. Although physically and visually separate, this forms part of the grounds of Milton Lodge. Purchased in sections by the Tudways during the late 1780s and early 1790s, The Combe appears to have been walled and planted up in the first decades of the C19. On the death of Charles Tudway, in 1770, the estate passed to his son, Clement Tudway (d.1835), and then to his son, Robert Charles Tudway (d.1855). It was therefore presumably Clement Tudway and John Paine Tudway who were responsible for the development of the pleasure ground as shown on a settlement of 1829, and as survives today. The site is a long narrow valley which leads northwards, curving slightly to the east, from the north end of Wells towards the hamlet of Walcombe. When first laid out it was separated from the grounds of The Cedars by a track. In 1831 an agreement was reached between John Paine and Trustees of the Wells Turnpike, for the alteration of the roads at the top of New Street. This had the effect of enlarging the Barons Fields which lay to the north of The Cedars, northwards to the present boundary wall along New Street, and also involved cutting off and reshaping the bottom end of the Combe. Gates on the new road were erected to provide access between the two properties. The floor of the southern half of the Combe is laid to grass, the sides being planted with a mix of native and exotic trees; a small stream runs down the east side. Along either side of the valley paths lead north up to the Combe House, a thatched gothic cottage (II) at the northern tip of the walled area, which forms the focus of the pleasure ground. Originally built as a dairy, this served at one time as a family museum and later as a chapel. the northern half of the Combe is more wooded, with a section along the north-west side divided off marking the site of an old orchard. Much new planting was carried out in the Combe in 1967 and again following the storms of January 1990". {1}

See PRN 25827 for medieval landscape preserved by park. {3}

Summary of Site

Early-C20 formal terraced gardens laid out to the design of Capt Croker Ives Partridge with parkland and a detached, walled early-C19 pleasure ground.

Reasons for Designation

Milton Lodge and The Combe are included on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Representative example: it is a good and mostly intact example of a formal Edwardian terraced garden laid out within earlier parkland and with a detached, walled early-C19 pleasure ground;

* Documentation and influence: the site is well documented and as evident from contemporary articles the qualities of its design and planting scheme were well respected.

History

In 1759, Charles Tudway (d 1770) commissioned Thomas Paty of Bristol to build a house, known as The Cedars, on a site at the junction of North Liberty and College Road, c 150m north of Wells Cathedral. This house, which remained the family home until 1909, was accompanied by a lawn to the north, beyond which lay a triangular-shaped field, known as Cedars Field, enclosed by walls and boundary planting. To the south of North Liberty, opposite the house, an area of grass was planted in the mid-C18 with a pair of cedars, from which the house derived its name. During the First World War The Cedars was used as a military hospital, and was subsequently let successively to Wells Theological College and Wells Cathedral School. The school took ownership of the property in 1967, and today (early C21), the field is laid out as sports grounds.

During the late C18 Charles Tudway's son, Clement (d 1815), and Clement's nephew, John Paine Tudway (d 1835) began to acquire land in a long narrow valley, known as The Combe, to the north of Cedars Field, from which it was originally separated by a track. In the early C19 The Combe was enclosed by walls and laid out as a pleasure ground, this work being completed by 1829 when it was recorded on a plan annexed to a deed of settlement (Bennett, 1829). In 1831 an agreement was reached between John Paine Tudway and the Trustees of the Wells Turnpike for the alteration of the roads to the north of The Cedars. This had the effect of enlarging the Cedars Field, and also involved cutting off and re-shaping the southern end of The Combe. Gates were erected on the new road to provide access between The Cedars and The Combe. With the exception of the changes associated with the 1831 highway improvements and extensive re-planting in the mid- and late C20, the layout of The Combe remains substantially unchanged since 1829.

Milton Lodge, to which Charles Tudway moved from The Cedars in 1909, had originally been built by Aaron Foster in 1790. The property was conveyed in 1861 to Maria (d 1909), wife of Robert Charles Tudway (d 1855), and was considerably extended when it became the family's principal residence in the early C20. Charles Tudway had begun work on the gardens in 1903, laying out formal terraces with the advice of Capt Croker Ives Partridge, sometime partner in a garden design business of Alfred Parsons (1847-1920). Charles Tudway died in 1926, when the property passed to Capt Lionel Tudway, RN. In 1962 Milton Lodge and The Combe were inherited by Capt Tudway's nephew, David Quilter, who added the name Tudway to his own. Extensive restoration of the house and grounds, with further planting were carried out in the late C20 as a result of storm damage in January 1990.

Details

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Milton Lodge and The Combe are situated on the northern edge of the city of Wells, c 0.75km north-north-west of Wells Cathedral. Milton Lodge comprises c 29ha and is bounded to the north-east and east by Old Bristol Road, and Ash Lane to the south. To the west and north the site adjoins agricultural land, while to the north-west it is bounded by Reservoir Road. Milton Lodge is set on the south-facing slope of the Mendip Hills and enjoys far-reaching southerly views across Wells and the Cathedral, and beyond across the Vale of Avalon towards Glastonbury Tor. Separated from Milton Lodge by Old Bristol Road, The Combe comprises c 4ha. Enclosed by stone walls, The Combe is bounded to the east by Walcombe Lane and to the west by Old Bristol Road. To the north the site is bounded by a minor road leading east from Old Bristol Road to the hamlet of Walcombe, while to the south-east it is bounded by the A39 Bristol Road. To the north-west it adjoins agricultural land. The Combe is a long, narrow valley which extends north from the junction of Ash Lane, New Street and College Road, and curves slightly east towards Walcombe. Although physically and visually separate, The Combe forms part of the grounds associated with Milton Lodge.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Milton Lodge is approached from Old Bristol Road to the north and east. The north entrance is situated c 100m west of the junction of Old Bristol Road and New Cut, and is marked by an early C19 lodge. From the entrance a drive leads c 120m south-west parallel to the north-west boundary of the site, before joining the east drive and turning west for c 80m to approach the carriage court to the east of the house, and the stables at a slightly lower level to the south. The east entrance is situated c 130m south-south-east of the junction of Old Bristol Road and New Cut, and is marked by a stone lodge dated 1865. A drive sweeps west and north-west for c 200m across the park before entering the pleasure grounds and turning west to join the north drive. The north and east drives appear to be shown on the 1" OS map (1811), but curiously does not appear on Bennett of Bruton's plan of 1829 (Bennett, 1829).

The Combe is approached from Old Bristol Road at a point almost opposite the east lodge of Milton Lodge. A small gate set in the stone boundary wall provides access to the pleasure grounds in The Combe.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Milton Lodge stands on an artificially levelled terrace immediately below the north-west boundary of the site. The steep slope above the house is planted with a beech wood which forms a backdrop to the building. The house comprises two storeys and is constructed in stone under pitched slate roofs. The core of the house was constructed by Aaron Foster in 1790, and appears originally to have been known as 'The Folly' (Bennett, 1829). This building was considerably extended for Charles Tudway in the early C20 when it became the family's principal residence.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

A stone flagged walk extends below the south facade of the house, which is planted with a variety of climbing plants. At the south-west corner of the house this flagged walk continues as a grass walk which forms the upper of the four early-C20 formal terraces. The walk, which separates the terraces from the woodland on the south-facing slope above the house, is supported by a high brick wall to the north of the Central Terrace. Stone steps descend from the upper terrace to the central terrace, which is laid out with a gently sloping lawn which is surrounded on each side by mixed borders. To the south-east of this terrace, and immediately south of the stables, a small gravelled terrace surrounds a rectangular, stone-edged lily tank; terrace affords views across the lower terrace towards Glastonbury Tor. At the eastern end of the retaining wall of the Central Terrace a flight of steps descends to the Sundial Terrace. The Sundial Terrace is laid out with a border of roses beneath the retaining wall to the north, a central grass walk extending from east to west, and a yew hedge to the south. A stone baluster sundial stands towards the eastern end of the terrace below the steps descending from the Central Terrace, while at the western end of the terrace further stone steps descend to the Pool Terrace. The steps adjoin a single-storey stone pavilion. Square on plan under a pyramidal roof, the pavilion was constructed in 1909 as part of the formal garden scheme designed by Capt Partridge. The Pool Terrace comprises an approximately rectangular lawn with a mid-C20 swimming pool towards its western end. To the north, below the retaining wall and yew hedge of the Sundial Terrace is a mixed border, while to the south the terrace is enclosed by a high yew hedge which marks the lower extremity of the formal gardens. The eastern end of the Pool terrace is dominated by a mature specimen oak said to have been planted in the late C18 (guidebook).

To the south and west of the garden terraces are less formal areas of lawn planted with specimen trees. The area to the west of the terraces was developed as an arboretum during the second half of the C20. The Combe comprises an area of informal pleasure grounds. The floor of the lower, southern, end of the valley is laid to lawn, while the sides are planted with a mixture of native and exotic specimen trees. A small stream flows through the lower section of the valley, parallel to its eastern side. Walks extend along each side of the valley, leading north for c 500m to reach the Combe House (listed Grade II) which stands at the northern end of the walled enclosure. This early-C19 thatched, stone, gothic-style structure forms the focal point of the pleasure ground, and was originally constructed as a dairy; it was subsequently used as a family museum and later as a mission chapel by students at Wells Theological College (Tudway-Quilter, 1990). The northern half of The Combe is more densely wooded than the southern half, with an enclosure to the north-west marking the site of an old orchard. The Combe, which was originally laid out as pleasure grounds in the early C19 by Clement Tudway (d 1815) and his nephew John Paine Tudway (d 1835) became overgrown during the first half of the C20, and was extensively restored and re-planted by the present owner's father after he inherited the estate in 1962. Further tree planting was undertaken following storm damage in 1990.

THE PARK

The park associated with Milton Lodge lies on the south and south-east facing slopes below the house. Much of the land between the house and Ash Lane on the southern boundary of the site has never been imparked and remains meadow ornamented with scattered specimen trees. Within the park are the remains of mediaeval lynchets and other traces of cultivation reflecting earlier phases of use, together with three stock-watering ponds.

Bennett's plan of 1829 suggests that the area which now forms the park remained in agricultural use with field boundaries extending up to Old Bristol Road (Bennett, 1829). The north-east area of the park, which is crossed by the east drive, is likely to have been laid out when the drive was constructed in the early C19; the remainder of the park had assumed its present form by c 1900 (OS, 1903).

Selected Sources

Country Life, Vol. 161, 12 May 1977

Country Life, 59, 27 March 1926

Country Life, Vol. 26/90, 28 June 1990

Milton Lodge Gardens - Guidebook, 1990

D Tudway-Quilter, A History of Wells Cathedral School, 1990, 84

J Sales, West Country Gardens, 1980, 164-6

Timothy Mowl and Marion Mako, Historic Gardens of Somerset, 2010, 198, 202-5

Milton Lodge Estate, http://www.miltonlodgegardens.co.uk, 6 August 2013

Milton Lodge Gardens, Milton Lodge Gardens, http://www.miltonlodgegardens.co.uk/, 26 June 2013 {4}

References:

1 Superseded entry in Statutory List - Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. (not dated) Location: HER file.
2 Map - Map of Kilmersdon.  (1829) Available at Archives and Records at Somerset Heritage Centre. Reference: DD/BT/1/42
3 Verbal communication - Webster, C [Chris]. Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record (15/12/1998). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
4 English Heritage Parks and Gardens Register entry - Amendment to the Register of Parks and Gardens. (15/8/2013) Location: HER file. HER digital source: 37628.

Record created in July 1994

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