In the early twentieth century, Hestercombe had three superb gardens: an eighteenth-century landscape garden, creating an idealised natural landscape with waterfall, lake and architectural 'seats' (pretty shelters to sit in); a Victorian shrubbery and terrace; and most famously, an Arts and Crafts formal garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens. While Hestercombe House has survived the last century pretty much intact, the gardens were not so fortunate. During the war, army barracks were built on the land, while the Crown Estate felled a number of trees in the 1960s. The number of gardeners had declined to two.
Happily, the gardens are now restored. The work was begun by Somerset County Council, who in 1973 undertook the initial restoration of the formal gardens. Their endeavours were hugely assisted by the discovery of the original planting designs in a potting shed drawer; there were also photographs of the garden from Country Life. The eighteenth-century landscape gardens, designed and laid out by Copplestone Warre Bampfylde in the 1750s, had to wait until the 1990s; their restoration has been directed by Philip White. He noticed the remnants of the garden - a disused waterfall and the remains of buildings - in the early 1990s, and remortgaged his house to fund the initial work in 1997. (Further funding would later come from the National Lottery.) There were no detailed plans available this time, but Copplestone Warre Bampfylde was a gifted amateur artist who had painted the garden he created. Just over ten years later, the garden has regained its glory and is a magical place to stroll or sit and enjoy the views.
The Hestercombe Gardens Trust now manages the site, with Philip White as its Chief Executive, and has yet another project planned: the restoration of the eighteenth-century water mill.
Related post: Hestercombe House