An eighteenth-century landscape park reveals the painterly instincts of its gentleman-architect designer. By Roger White ike many a worshipper at the shrines of Lutyens and Jekyll, I found my way to Hestercombe early on in my garden-visiting career. And like many a pilgrim, I there admired the geometric formality of their splendid terraced creation, commanding a broad, sloping prospect towards Taunton, without for a moment realizing that, lost in the wooded coomb behind me, was an equally fascinating achievement from a very different phase of garden history. The Lutyens-Jekyll layout, completed in 1908 for the Portman family, Sustainable home design turns its back on a house disagreeably Vic-torianized a generation earlier, and encourages the visitor to do likewise.
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But in the second half of the eighteenth century, Hestercombe was known among horticultural cognoscenti for an earlier landscape created by its then owner, Cople-stone Warre Bampfylde. In 1750, Coplestone (Cop to his family) inherited from his father, who had concentrated his efforts on making a handsome Georgian mansion out of the Elizabethan seat of the Warre family. Bampfylde junior was a man of parts: landowner, colonel of the Somerset Yeomanry, amateur architect and talented artist.
Once master of his inheritance, and inspired perhaps by the activities of two friends and neighbours – Henry Hoare of Stourhead and Sir Charles Tynte of Halswell – he turned his painters eye upon the sheltered valley behind the house.