Pleasure grounds and park, begun late C17 and early C18 by London and Wise, Bridgeman, and possibly John Mansfield; developed c 1746 by Kent, c 1750 by Thomas Wright and, in the later C18, reputedly by Lancelot Brown. The flower gardens and pleasure grounds developed since C19.
This entry is a summary. Because of the complexity of this site, the standard Register entry format would convey neither an adequate description nor a satisfactory account of the development of the landscape. The user is advised to consult the references given below for more detailed accounts. Many Listed Buildings exist within the site, not all of which have been here referred to. Descriptions of these are to be found in the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest produced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
Badminton belonged from the mid C13 to the Boteler family, who continued as successful gentry into the C16. By the early C17, however, Nicholas Boteler was in financial difficulties and in 1612 was obliged to sell Badminton to Edward, fourth Earl of Worcester. At this time the house was a large, irregular, courtyard building. Edward settled the estate on his younger son Thomas Somerset, who probably remodelled the house to that shown on Kip's early C18 engraving (Atkyns 1712). Thomas' daughter Elizabeth left Badminton to her cousin Henry, Lord Herbert in 1655. Henry, the son and grandson of fervent Royalists, became Marquess of Worcester in 1667 and was created first Duke of Beaufort in 1682. The Somerset estates were seized by Parliament but when Henry came of age in 1650, he set about repairing the family fortune. He became an MP and a personal friend of Cromwell and, by the time he inherited Badminton in 1655, he had won back most of the family estates. In 1657 he married Lady Beauchamp, a wealthy widow, and at the Restoration transferred his support to Charles II. He obtained licenses to enlarge the originally modest park from both Cromwell (in 1658) and Charles II (in 1664) and laid out formal gardens around the house. By the end of the C17, the house had become the centre of a vast formal landscape, possibly designed by John Mansfield, with avenues radiating out across the countryside. Around the house was a formal garden with parterres, topiary, terraces, walks, and fountains. Henry Wise, the royal gardener, influenced the design. The Marquess became a Privy Councillor and Lord President of the Council of Wales in 1672 before being awarded a dukedom for his loyalty to the Crown. He held Bristol against the Duke of Monmouth in 1685 and against William of Orange in 1688, after which he remained in political retirement until his death in 1700.
Henry had the present Badminton House (listed grade I) built from 1664 to 1691, perhaps to his own design (Kingsley 1992). The main facade, nearly twice as long as that of the previous house, was to the north. The east range was largely new but the south and part of the west ranges were retained from the earlier house. The second Duke made few changes to the house during his reign (1700-14) but built a lodge in the park at Swangrove. The third Duke, however, who held the title from 1726 to 1745, was responsible for a major remodelling of Badminton, including the reduction of the five-storey north front to three storeys and the rebuilding of the west range. Francis Smith of Warwick was commissioned to undertake the work. The third Duke, advised by Charles Bridgeman, also began to deformalise the gardens. After the third Duke's death, his brother, the fourth Duke, continued to remodel Badminton, but employed the architect William Kent, who dramatically simplified the gardens and designed Worcester Lodge. The fourth Duke (d 1756) also employed Thomas Wright to design various garden buildings. By 1768 the park had more or less reached its present form, though Lancelot Brown is said to have carried out further work in the park, following Kent's landscaping (Stroud 1975). Badminton remained in the Beaufort family and is still in private hands today (2000).
Badminton lies 7km north-east of junction 18 of the M4 motorway, c 9km east of Yate. Badminton House stands just north-east of the village of Great Badminton, which lies at the southern end of the park. The c 800ha site lies in undulating country and is bounded to the north by the A433 from Tetbury, to the south and west by minor roads, and to the east by agricultural land. The village of Little Badminton lies on the western edge of the site and Didmarton village stands at its north-east corner.
Badminton House is approached from the village of Great Badminton. At the east end of the High Street, which is lined by estate cottages and almshouses (C19 and earlier) is a small green, to the north of which stands the estate office (early C19, listed grade II). South of the green is Essex House (c 1700, listed grade II* with its surrounding ashlar wall), a two-storey Queen Anne-style building. Attached to its north-east corner is Village Lodge (c 1860, listed grade II), a Tudor Gothic-style squared rubble lodge with a Cotswold stone slate roof. To its north are squared rubble walls, terminating in square ashlar piers, surmounted by cast-iron lanterns. The piers support inner, vehicular, cast-iron gates and outer pedestrian gates. From the gates, a drive curves north-east to the south front of the House. Other entrances to the park include: Kennel Drive, which leads north from the west end of the High Street, passing mid to late C19 gates and piers (listed grade II) and another, ashlar, Tudor Gothic-style lodge (mid-late C19, listed grade II), then the ashlar-built Kennel Lodge (early C19, listed grade II); drives from the gothick Slait and Lower Slait Lodges (Thomas Wright c 1750, listed II*); and a straight avenue from Worcester Lodge (a tall, domed lodge, with a central arch and flanking pyramids; William Kent c 1746, listed grade I), 4.8km north of the House.
The site consists of landscaped pleasure grounds and parkland, with woodland to the north. The pleasure grounds lie west, south, south-east, and east of the House. The west face of the House overlooks flower gardens, with an Italianate orange garden and specimen trees. At the south-east corner of the House is the church of St Michael and All Angels (1785, listed grade I), c 20m south-east of which is an orangery (Thomas Bateman of London 1711, listed grade II*). South of this lies a small formal pool. The pleasure grounds were laid out in the late C17. George London and Henry Wise designed a large formal parterre east of the House but this was removed by Kent in the mid C18. The pleasure grounds were developed in the C19 and new gardens, with box parterres, have been developed since 1984 by the Duchess of Beaufort (CL 1994).
The main body of the parkland consists of open ground with scattered trees (mainly oak, horse chestnut, and lime) and formal rides and avenues. Worcester Avenue, running south from Worcester Lodge for nearly 5km, forms the backbone of the park. The remains of several other avenues and cross avenues (many of which were replanted with beech and horse chestnut in the 1970s) survive in the southern part of the park, radiating from the House. In 1699, Celia Fiennes (Morris 1982) recorded that from the roof of the house it was possible to 'look twelve ways down to ye parishes and grounds between all through glides or vistos of trees'. Approximately 1km south-east of the House, on the 2km long Centre Walk Avenue, is a rondpoint where twenty-four avenues once met. The scheme may have been designed by John Mansfield, gardener from 1683 to 1688. It is possible that neighbouring landowners would have felled or planted trees on their own land to continue the line of the Duke's avenues across the surrounding countryside (Kingsley 1992), though the vast formal scheme shown on Kip's 1712 engraving was never fully laid out. Two lakes, Park Pond and Mount Pond, stand c 0.5km north and north-east of the House respectively.
West of Kennel Lodge is The Tyning, an area of woodland, with walks west to Castle Barn, a castellated gothick farm with dovecotes (part dated 1748, by Wright, listed grade II*). A more extensive woodland area, covering the northern quarter of the site, at Hinnegar and Swangrove, is cut by numerous rides, six of which radiate from a rondpoint north-east of Swangrove House. Seven Mile Plantation, a narrow belt of woodland, curves south from the west end of Swangrove Wood, through agricultural fields (outside the area here registered), terminating c 0.5km south-west of The Tyning.
Numerous garden buildings are to be found throughout the park and woodland. These include: the Hermit's Cell (a root house; Wright c 1750, listed grade II*), c 1km north-east of the House; Ragged Castle (an eyecatcher folly; Wright c 1750, listed grade II*), at the north-east corner of Swangrove Wood; and Swangrove House (a `maison de plaisance'; William Killigrew of Bath 1703, listed grade I), at the south-east edge of Swangrove Wood.
Note: There is a wealth of published material about this site. The key references are cited below.
R Atkyns, The Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire (1712), pl facing p 242
D Verey, The Buildings of England: Gloucestershire The Cotswolds (1970), pp 254-8
D Stroud, Capability Brown (1975)
J Harris, The Artist and the Country House (1979), pp 125, 315, fig 47
J Sales, West Country Gardens (1981), pp 30-1
C Morris (ed), The Illustrated Journeys of Celia Fiennes 1685 - c 1712 (1982), p 191
G Jackson-Stops, The Country House Garden: a Grand Tour (1987)
N Kingsley, The Country Houses of Gloucestershire, Volume One, 1500-1660 (1989), pp 53-5
N Kingsley, The Country Houses of Gloucestershire, Volume Two, 1660-1830 (1992), pp 55-61
Country Life, no 18 (5 May 1994), pp 64-7
Badminton, guidebook, (nd)
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1881, published 1886
Description written: May 2000
Register Inspector: TVAC
Edited: March 2003