Early C20 formal gardens, often attributed to Francis Inigo Thomas.
Reasons for Designation
The early-C20 formal gardens at Parnham House are included on the Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Date: as representative examples of early-C20 formal gardens which illustrate the taste for Revivalism in English garden design at this time;
* Design quality: the design and layout of the gardens are of a particularly high quality as expressed in the successful combination of the geometrical arrangement of planting and formal architectural features, along with their appropriateness as settings to an exceptionally important mid-C16 house;
* Group value: it has strong group value with Parnham House (listed Grade I), along with the stable block, the front courtyard and south terrace walls and gazebos (all listed Grade II*), and the ice house, kitchen garden walls and lodge (all listed Grade II).
Parnham was acquired by Richard de Strode during the reign of Henry VI, on his marriage with Elizabeth Gerard. Following the marriage of Robert Strode with Elizabeth Hody in 1522, an existing house on the site was rebuilt. This building comprised the hall, porch, and north wing, and was considerably extended by Robert Strode's son, John (d 1581), and his grandson, Sir Robert. A survey of the Pamham estate drawn up for Sir John Strode of Chantmarle, Dorset (qv), who inherited the estate c 1628, refers to a base court, together with three orchards, out gardens, and ponds extending to some 4 acres (1.6ha) (Oswald 1959). Despite the murder of Sir John's widow at Parnham by a Parliamentary soldier during the Civil War, the Strode family remained in occupation until 1764 when the male line failed. The estate then passed to Sir John Oglander of Nun well, Isle of Wight (qv), but the new owners did not reside at Parnham. During their absence, the house was reduced in size, with the base court and gatehouse being demolished (ibid).
In the early C19, Sir William Oglander returned to Parnham, commissioning John Nash (1752-1835) to renovate and improve the house in 1810. In 1896 the last member of the Oglander family died, and Parnham was sold to Vincent Robinson who housed his art collection in the house. The house was described, and the gardens illustrated, in Country Life in 1908, but Robinson died the following year. The estate was purchased in 1911 by Dr Hans Sauer, who undertook extensive work on the interior of the house, and laid out new formal gardens inspired by those of Montacute, Somerset (qv), replacing the earlier C19 scheme illustrated three years previously in Country Life. The identity of the professional designer, if any, responsible for these gardens remains uncertain (Mowl 2003), although they have traditionally been attributed to Inigo Thomas (1866-1950), who had earlier worked at Athelhampton, Dorset (qv) and Chantmarle, Dorset (qv). Dr Sauer remained at Parnham only until 1914, when the property was sold to Mr Rhodes-Moorhouse for his son, William, who was killed during the First World War. Following the First World War, Parnham was used as a country club, and was then sold in 1930 to Edward Bullivant who returned it to domestic use. During the Second World War it was requisitioned for use by the US Army. In 1955/6, when Bullivant's son moved to Anderson Manor, Dorset (qv), the estate was divided, and the house converted into a nursing home. From 1973 Parnham stood empty for three years until it was purchased in 1976 by the furniture designer John Makepeace, who converted the stables and coach house to workshops and ran his School for Craftsmen in Wood in the house (guidebook). The house was again sold in 2001 and the site reverted to single, private ownership.
Early C20 formal gardens, often attributed to Francis Inigo Thomas.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Parnham is situated c 0.5km south of Beaminster, to the west of the A3066, Bridport Road, which leads south from Beaminster to Bridport. The c 42ha site is bounded to the east by the A3066 road, from which it is separated by fences, hedges, and mature boundary planting. The southern boundary is formed by a minor road which leads west and south-west from the A3066 road to Netherbury, while to the west the site adjoins agricultural land. To the north-west the boundary is formed by the River Brit, which flows from north-east to south-west, feeding a lake to the south of the house. To the north the site adjoins domestic properties and gardens. The site slopes from north-east to south following the course of the River Brit, while the ground to the west of the house and the river rises more steeply towards the western boundary of the site. Beyond the southern boundary the ground again rises steeply, enclosing the house and lake in a combe at the southern end of the site. Due to the topography and planting along the eastern boundary, views beyond the site boundaries are limited, while further planting to the south closes the vista from the house across the lake.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
Parnham is approached from the A3066, Bridport Road to the north-east, at a point c 300m south-west of the junction of Bridport Road and Priory Hill in the centre of Beaminster. A simple entrance flanked by areas of mown grass and ornamental shrubs leads to a drive which sweeps west and south-west through the park for c.670m to the north of the house. The drive is planted with an avenue of limes (partly replanted early C21). The drive terminates at the stable court (listed Grade II*) immediately north-east of the house, which is planted with a late-C20 scheme of pIeached limes and box-edged beds. Some 120m north-east of the house, a spur diverts south-east from the principal drive and turns sharply west to join the course of the former south drive, entering the carriage court east of the house between a pair of tall stone piers surmounted by boards holding coats of arms (listed Grade II*). The court is enclosed by stone walls surmounted by piers and balustrades, the piers being in turn surmounted by obelisks with ball finials (listed Grade II*). Entrances in the north and south sides of the court, leading respectively to the stable court and the formal gardens, are flanked by tall stone piers beneath ball finials (listed Grade II*). The gravelled drive encircles a central lawn, while four free-standing stone columns articulate the corners of the court.
The north drive, which is today (2013) the only approach to the house, was restored in the early C21 and corresponds to a drive and avenue shown on the 1890 OS map, and on the early-C19 OS surveyor's drawing (c 1800). The carriage court forms part of the early-C20 formal garden scheme designed for Dr Sauer, replacing the earlier informal carriage sweep shown on the late-C19 OS map (OS 1890).
In the early C20, a further drive was laid out on the axis of the east facade of the house, leading c 300m east-south-east to join Bridport Road adjacent to an early-C20 lodge, sometimes known as the Dower House. This entrance (now, 2013, blocked), was marked by a pair of massive stone piers surmounted by ball finials, one of which is attached to the south-east corner of the lodge. The drive, which survives as a track, passes through a ranked avenue of yew, beech, and lime, and at its central point encircles a circular mound which presumably served to prevent a through-vista from road to house. The early-C20 east drive, which formed part of the formal scheme developed for Dr Sauer, replaced an earlier drive and avenue which extended on the axis of the stable court, c 100m north of the course of the early-C20 drive. The earlier drive, which is shown on the 1890 OS map, probably corresponds to an avenue shown extending east from the house on the OS surveyor's drawing of c 1800.
Parnham (listed Grade I) stands on a level terrace towards the southern end of the site. Constructed in lias ashlar, the house comprises two and three storeys under stone slate and lead roofs. The building has an irregular E-shaped plan with wings projecting to north and south of the projecting, full-height porch turret on the east facade. Lit by stone, mullion-and-transom windows, the building is gabled and has a skyline enlivened by pinnacles and high stone chimneys. The two-storey crenellated service wing is situated to the north-west of the main block of the house. The house has a mid-C16 core, and was extended in the C17. It was extensively remodelled by John Nash c 1810, at which time many of the ornamental details including pinnacles, some chimney stacks, and fenestration were added.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The formal gardens are situated principally to the south of the house, with further formal gardens to the north-east, and areas of informal pleasure ground to the north and west of the house.
An entrance at the south-west corner of the forecourt leads to a terrace below the south façade of the house. The terrace returns below the west facade, and is laid out with a series of square panels of lawn which are divided by gravel walks and planted with a geometrical arrangement of standard Portugal laurels and specimen topiary yews. To the south, the terrace is enclosed by a stone balustrade which is divided at regular intervals by stone piers surmounted by stone obelisks under ball finials. The southern balustrade is terminated to east and west by a pair of circular stone gazebos inspired by early-C17 examples at Montacute, Somerset (qv) (all listed Grade II*). To the west the terrace is enclosed by a further stone balustrade (listed Grade II*). A double flight of stone steps (listed Grade II*) descends from the south terrace to meet at a landing, the rear wall of which supports a lion's-mask stone wall fountain (listed Grade II*). From this point a segmental flight of stone steps (listed Grade II*) descends to the south lawn, which is planted with a symmetrical arrangement of clipped yew pyramids. Yew pyramids define an axial grass walk which extends c 100m south from the steps between a pair of stone-lined rills. The axial walk is terminated to the south by a further flight of stone steps flanked by a pair of stepped stone cascades and low balustrade walls (all listed Grade II*). The south lawn is retained to the south and west by grass banks, and to the south, a further approximately rectangular lawn extends c 100m to reach a stone balustrade and a flight of stone steps (listed Grade II*) which form the northern termination of an irregularly shaped lake. The lawn to the north of the lake is adjoined to east and west by areas of mature specimen trees and ornamental shrubberies, through which grass paths descend to the lake which is bordered by similar planting.
The formal gardens and pleasure grounds to the south of the house assumed their present form in the early C20, when they were remodelled, perhaps by Inigo Thomas, for Dr Sauer. While the south terrace received its architectural form at this time, the late-C19 OS map (1890) indicates that a terrace approximately conforming to the extent of the present terrace was already in existence, while early-C20 photographs published by Country Life (1908) indicate that the lion's-mask wall fountain survives from late-C19 and early-C20 gardens developed by Vincent Robinson around features such as the Ladies' Garden and Bowling Green which already existed when he acquired the property in 1896. The location and age of these features, which were almost entirely swept away by Dr Sauer in the early C20, is not known, although some features may have been contemporary with Nash's remodelling of the house in the early C19. The lake, which was cleared of silt in the early C21, appears to have been constructed in its present form in the early C20 as part of Dr Sauer's scheme, replacing an artificially widened section of the River Brit which is indicated on the late-C19 OS map (1890).
To the west of the house, the steep, west-facing slope above the River Brit is terraced with stone retaining walls and has been laid out in the early C21 with lawns and ornamental planting. To the south this area is enclosed from the south lawn by a C19 stone wall which is buttressed at regular intervals by stone piers surmounted by ball finials. Two further formal gardens are situated to the north-east of the house, beyond the stable court and immediately east of the kitchen garden. The Dutch garden is entered from the south through an opening flanked by tall brick piers, and is enclosed to the east by a yew hedge and to the west by the kitchen garden wall. It is laid out with a central lawn and rectangular, stone-edged fountain pool, and square flower beds and perimeter borders. To the north an early-C21 yew hedge separates this area from the Bowling Green, a further rectangular lawn enclosed to the north by an arcaded yew hedge which may correspond to one of the features illustrated in the early-C20 Country Life photographs (1908). An area of informal pleasure ground comprising specimen trees and conifers and ornamental shrubbery extends to the north of the Bowling Green and the kitchen garden. This area is today (2013) overgrown, but corresponds to the 'Shrubbery' shown on the 1896 sale particulars and the late-C19 OS map (1890). A walk leads south-west from this shrubbery, parallel to the River Brit, to reach a footbridge leading to the west bank of the river. Here a further area of informal pleasure ground comprising specimen trees and ornamental shrubbery extends c 200m south-west parallel to the river. This area, known as The Grove, is shown on the 1896 sale particulars and the 1890 OS map. To the north-east of the footbridge, an area of ground formerly planted as an orchard (OS 1890, 1903) contains an C18 brick icehouse (listed Grade II).
The park is situated principally to the north and south-east of the house, and is divided into two unequal areas by the avenue and former east drive; there is a further area of park on the east-facing slope to the west of the River Brit and The Grove. The northern area of park is today (2013) grazed by deer, and retains scattered specimen trees and clumps of planting. To the west the park is bordered by the River Brit, while the north drive and its avenue extends through the park parallel to the river. The eastern boundary of the park is screened by a belt of mixed planting. The north park remains essentially as delineated on the OS surveyor's drawing (c 1800), the 1890 OS map, and the 1896 sale particulars.
The south-eastern park is undulating and remains pasture planted with scattered specimen trees. This area does not appear to be indicated as parkland on the early-C19 OS surveyor's drawing, although it was imparked by 1886 (OS 1890). The east-facing slope to the west of the River Brit and The Grove similarly remains pasture with scattered mature specimen trees. The early-C19 OS surveyor's drawing appears to show this area enclosed by a pale, while the late-C19 and early-C20 OS maps indicate an avenue extending north-west from The Grove through this area (OS 1890, 1903).
The kitchen garden is situated to the north of the house. The irregularly shaped garden is enclosed by mid-C18 red-brick walls (listed Grade II). The garden is entered through a door at the south-east corner, while a pair of timber carriage doors is set in an arched opening in the north wall. The garden remains in cultivation (2013), with a mixed scheme combining ornamental and productive areas having been established in the early C21. This scheme has perimeter gravel walks reflecting the arrangement shown on the 1896 sale particulars and the 1903 OS map, while the early-C21 glasshouse at the north-west corner of the garden occupies the site of the range of glass shown on the 1896 sale particulars and the 1903 OS map.