Late-C18 park and late-C18 or early-C19 picturesque pleasure grounds with rockwork.
Reasons for Designation
Beaminster Manor is included on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Date: it is a good example of a late-C18 park and pleasure ground which has been little altered;
* Group value: it has strong group value with the manor house (Grade II*), the gate piers and wall at the entrance to the manor house (Grade II), the stable block (Grade II*) and the kitchen garden walls and doorway (Grade II) within the registered area and associated with the estate.
Beaminster Manor was constructed in the late-C18, replacing an earlier dwelling. The house was extended and remodelled in 1822 by George Allen Underwood.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING: Beaminster Manor is situated immediately north-east of the centre of Beaminster, to the north-west of North Street, a minor road leading north-east from Beaminster to Maiden Newton. The c 25ha site is approximately triangular-shaped on plan, and is bounded to the north by an extension of Fleet Street, Beaminster, which separates the site from the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church. The site adjoins agricultural land to the north-west, and domestic properties in Fleet Street to the west. The south-eastern boundary is formed by North Street, from which the site is separated by stone walls and hedges. The site slopes steeply from north-east to south-west, and there are views from the park across the town to St Mary's Church and the grounds of Parnham (qv) to the south of the town. White Sheet Plantation, c 100m north-east of the park and outside the area here registered crowns White Sheet Hill and forms a visual termination to the north-easterly vista through the park.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES: Beaminster Manor is approached from North Street at the southern tip of the site. The entrance is marked by a pair of C18 rusticated stone piers (listed Grade II) surmounted by stone grotesque beasts. The inner faces of the piers are ornamented with shell niches. The piers, which support timber gates, are flanked to the north-west and north-east by ashlar stone walls with stepped coping. The north-east wall extends along the North Street boundary and joins the outer wall of the kitchen garden. From the entrance, a drive leads c 20m north before turning sharply east to arrive at the carriage turn below the south facade of the house. The stable court lies to the south-east of the house, with the stables (listed Grade II*) forming its eastern side. Constructed in lias ashlar under tile and stone slate roofs, the stables are T-shaped on plan, with a range extending parallel to North Street possibly originally comprising the coachman's lodgings. The stables were constructed c 1670.
PRINCIPAL BUILDING: Beaminster Manor (listed Grade II* as The Manor House and Stable Block) stands towards the south-western end of the site beneath the south-west-facing slope of the park. Constructed in stuccoed stone under hipped slate roofs, the house comprises two storeys. It is lit by sash windows, and the comers are articulated by rusticated quoins. The south or entrance façade comprises five bays with a slightly projecting central bay defined by further rusticated quoins. An early-C19 stone porch is ornamented with coupled Doric columns. The north and west facades are of plain design and constructed in ashlar. The interior of the house incorporates a ceiling painting by Andrea Casali (c 1720-c 1780) and a carved marble fireplace, both of which were removed from Fonthill Spendens (qv) when that house was demolished by William Beckford between 1801 and 1807.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS: the informal pleasure grounds are situated to the north and north-west of the house. Lawns extend to the north and north-west to a crescent-shaped lake c 100m north of the house. This lake is fed by another, smaller pool to the north-east (silted), from which the water flowed into the lake down a rocky cascade. The outflow of the lake, to the south-west, is similarly formed into a cascade with large rocks arranged for picturesque effect. A walk extends from the drive c 20m south-west of the house, along the western side of the lawn for c 90m before dividing, one branch sweeping north-east and east to pass along the southern bank of the lake, and the other branch continuing north, parallel to the western boundary of the site and immediately west of the lake. The south-western boundary of the site is screened from the walk and the lawns by shrubbery and specimen trees, while the northern extension of the walk passes through a belt of shrubbery and mature specimen trees for c 300m to reach a private gate leading to Holy Trinity Church. The walk crosses the outflow from the lake on a picturesque bridge formed from rock and tufa (c 50m north-west of the house). The walk continues north, passing over a further bridge, and reaching a small basin surrounded by further rock and tufa (c 200m north-west of the house), immediately beyond which the walk passes through a rocky archway set in a stone wall. The pleasure grounds appear to have assumed their present form in the late-C18 or early-C19, and are recorded on a plan of 1822 (private collection). This plan, and the features surviving in the late-C20, corresponds closely to the delineation of the pleasure grounds on the early-C20 OS (1903). To the north-east of the house, on the boundary between the pleasure grounds and the park, is a rectangular pool planted with water lilies. This feature may survive from a landscape scheme associated with an earlier house on this site.
THE PARK: the park is situated on the steep, south-west facing slope above and to the north-east of the house and pleasure grounds. The park remains (as of the late-C20) predominantly pasture with scattered specimen trees, and is divided by fences into several grazing enclosures. Some 130m north-east of the house a double avenue ascends through the park for c 1.1km to the north-east corner of the site, where stone piers, The Pinnacles, lead from the avenue to the minor road running from Beaminster to Maiden Newton. This avenue appears to be of C18 or earlier origin, and as it is not aligned on the present house, may be a relic of an earlier landscape phase. To the west-north-west, a sunk fence allows Holy Trinity Church to be seen from the park. The park appears to have assumed its present form in the late-C18 or early-C19, and its layout has changed little from that shown on the early-C20 OS (1903).
KITCHEN GARDEN: the kitchen garden is situated c 60m north-east of the house, and to the east of the stable yard. Rectangular in plan, the garden is enclosed by coped ashlar and rubble stone walls (listed Grade II) which are of C18 construction. The garden is entered from the pleasure grounds through a doorway at its north-western corner. This doorway (listed Grade II) incorporates C16 polygonal buttresses, ogee-domed finials and a Tudor Gothic arch brought in from Clifton Maybank, Dorset, an important mid-C16 mansion which was largely demolished in 1786 (Oswald, 1959).