£1.5m grant helps save country house grounds
THE grounds of one of Somerset’s best-loved country houses have been saved thanks to a £1.5 million grant.
More than 300 acres surrounding Hestercombe House, near Taunton, had been earmaked for sale by the Crown Estate earlier this year.
But plans to restore the beautiful gardens are now in motion after a £1.5 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund was received.
The Hestercombe Gardens Trust is now able to buy all 320 acres, including the early 17th-century water garden which the group plans to restore.
Hestercombe Gardens Trust chairman, Sir Andrew Burns, said: “This is a tremendous vote of confidence in Hestercombe and recognises Somerset’s leading heritage garden as a site of outstanding national importance.
“We are enormously grateful to the National Heritage Memorial Fund and our other funders for their most generous and timely assistance in securing the future of Hestercombe for public enjoyment.”
The total cost of buying the land from the Crown Estate, a collection of lands and holdings in the United Kingdom belonging to the British monarch, was priced at £2.7million.
Other grants and donations to meet the cost were received from three private trusts and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
In 1944, Hestercombe was sold to the Crown Estate, which continues to hold the land, apart from Hestercombe House itself and the formal garden.
These were sold to Somerset County Council in 1978, which transferred the freehold of the house, formal garden and visitor centre to the Hestercombe Gardens Trust.
Philip White, founder and chief executive at Hestercombe, welcomed the chance to bring the land “together again”.
He said: “This has been a remarkable and possibly unique opportunity to put back together a nationally important historic landscape when so many are broken up, that had been made possible by the vision shown by Hestercombe’s trustees and its generous supporters.
“The Hestercombe Gardens Trust is very grateful to the leaders of both Somerset County Council, David Fothergill, and Taunton Deane Borough Council, John Williams, for their strong support and also to Taunton MP, Rebecca Pow, a longtime champion of Hestercombe, who was able to promote the application at a national level.”
The 300 acres surrounding Hestercombe Househave been saved