Jekyll and Lutyens garden reborn
THIS year, Hestercombe Gardens in Cheddon Fitzpaine, Somerset, is marking 20 years since opening to the public and, to celebrate, a campaign was launched last Friday to raise £1.5 million towards the restoration of the historically important landscape, which spans three centuries and includes one of the best examples of design by Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Hestercombe House has seen its fair share of footfall: it was a British and, later, American Army base during the Second World War; some 33 barrack blocks were constructed in the grounds (only one now remains) and, in 1944, a Junkers Ju88 crashed onto the drive (shot down by the Air Force). Much of the 18th-century parkland was felled for timber in 1963 and the house provided a respite for returning soldiers after the Normandy landings and later housed the control room for the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service until 2012.
In addition to the substantial restoration that has already taken place—fortuitously, Jekyll’s original plans were found stuffed into a drawer in a potting shed in 1973—a range of projects is now planned, including the re-creation of Sibyl’s Temple, a lost 18th-century rotunda, the reinstatement of a lime-tree avenue planted between 1904 and 1908 to a Lutyens design and the re-establishment of a 1750s hermitage overlooking the Vale of Taunton, the foundations of which were uncovered by archaeologists only relatively recently.
The £1.5 million will also cater for an endowment to secure future sustainability and there are hopes to restore a rare Elizabethan Water Garden in the future.
Thanks to a generous private charity, the first £200,000 raised will be matched pound for pound. The Hestercombe Gardens Appeal is the first stage of a larger ambition to raise £8 million for a complete restoration of both house and garden, plus the establishment of a new garden, 12 artist studios and an auditorium to seat 200.
‘Hestercombe has been transformed over the past 20 years,’ says CEO Philip White, ‘but there is still more to do and this is the first step on a new journey, which will take us even closer to giving current visitors and future generations a true taste of what Hestercombe looked like in its heyday.’
To donate, visit www.hestercombe.com/appeal, telephone 01823 413923, pick up a donation form in person or text ‘HEST20 £’ adding the amount you’d like to give (up to £10) to 70070. If you’d like to donate to a specific project or leave a legacy, contact Hestercombe directly.
Alongside the launch of the appeal is a 20thanniversary exhibition, ‘Completing the Picture’, until May 21, with images from the archives charting the story of Hestercombe from Arcadian landscape to ruin and rebirth.
Hestercombe Gardens is seeking £1.5 million to help restore its historically important landscape