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Case study: Capel, Tunbridge Wells / Tonbridge and Malling, Kent TN11 0NL (South East)

List entry number: 1000381

Somerhill park and garden at risk, view across parkland
View across the parkland, Somerhill

Background and history

The designed landscape at Somerhill surrounds the grade I listed mansion (built 1611 to 1613). The early 19th century terraced garden at Somerhill was probably laid out by William Sawrey Gilpin. The terrace is surrounded by the 19th century ornamental gardens. All is set within estate parkland.

JMW Turner famously captured the picturesque view across the lake up to the house in his 1811 painting, 'Somer-hill'. The site is now divided between the Schools at Somerhill, the Hadlow Estate and several smaller private owners.

Is it at risk?


The site was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2009. Its fragmented ownership had led to a period of reduced and uncoordinated management. This had put the designed landscape at risk of degradation and loss. 2015 has seen the risk to the site sufficiently reduced for it to be removed from the HAR Register.

What's the current situation?

Last year, Historic England was pleased to report that the site's condition was improving. The major landowners had put in place a historic landscape parkland plan funded by Natural England. They had developed a joint steering committee, and were sharing equipment to assist in general land management.

Further consolidation of this joint effort between the major landowners has resulted in a major improvement of the 'Turner View'. This was achieved under a Natural England Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement. There are now plans being developed to carry out restoration of designed landscape features and estate buildings. This will further enhance understanding of the site. The Schools at Somerhill are keen to incorporate this work as part of a national curriculum project.

Historic England and Natural England are certain that the parkland landscape will continue to make suitably guided progress. This is due to the HLS agreement in place. The risk to the registered park and garden has been sufficiently reduced to allow us to remove it from the Heritage at Risk Register this year.

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