MEM22434 - Ashcombe garden and plantation (Monument)


A designed landscape dating to the 1820s for John Knight, which was used as a garden by the Fortescues in the late 19th and early 20th Century. It includes a circuitous valley route that incorporates two outcrops of Spa Stone.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

An inventory of 1833 confirms the existence of a garden in Simonsbath in 1833 and later records dating to 1860s and 70s also note its existence. An indenture of 1864 records Simonsbath House as having a garden, shrubberies and pleasure grounds, which is reiterated in other documents dating to 1867 and a property valuation book of 1878. It is thought that this area of land is that referred to as plot 319 on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map [1]. By 1888, this area of land running along the west side of the Ashcombe stream is laid out with paths, various deciduous trees and shaded, small trees that presumably represent bushes or shrubberies. A section where several paths meet in the centre is shown as a separately enclosed piece of land and this may have been the original 'garden by the river'; the partial remains of a wall still run across the bottom of the Ashcombe valley here. The stretch of path through the woodland to the house has a hard surface and may have been wide enough for a horse-drawn vehicle, possibly providing a link to the Upper Stables. An old slate quarry within the garden (MEM22305) may have acted as a fernery. The garden may have formed a prelude to a woodland garden in Ashcombe. The plantation is shown on the 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey maps with a footpath shown continuously around the combe, crossing the stream at the top of the plantation via a footbridge. The plantation was a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees, with the majority of the conifers on the north side of the southern boundary. A small area of purely coniferous vegetation, shown on the 2nd Edition map, may be a small plantation of Japanese Larch that has been attributed to the Fortescues. Various garden plants that are present includes Love-Lies-Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus), Periwinkle, Snowdrops and Daffodils. The garden rapidly deteriorated since the Fortescue's sold off Simonsbath house. Rising above the footpaths on either side of the valley are two outcrops of quartz, currently covered in lichen and small rock plants. It seems highly likely that these natural features in the landscape have been intentionally cleared and isolated to enhance their appearance. Furthermore, these quartz outcrops create the effect of a gateway into the valley, marking the beginning of the footpaths and the entrance to the woodland wilderness garden of Ashcombe. [1-3] This was a garden created by John Knight as part of his vision for a designed landscape, which was never completed. [4] The designed landscape at Ashcombe was part of John Knight's original plan for the formal landscape around Simonsbath House and was modified in the later 19th and 20th Centuries. It includes the Garden by the River and land to its northeast. A series of terraced paths ran from Simonsbath House, around the Garden by the River and up the west side of Ashcombe, crossing the Ashcombe Water at its head via a stone footbridge before heading southwards on the eastern side. There are large quartz outcrops scattered around the area, some of which have been partially excavated to form a platform and emphasise their size. A leat running on the western side of Ashcombe may help to explain its boundary as it is thought to predate the gardens. [5]

Sources/Archives (6)

  • --- Report: Riley, H.. 2015. Survey, excavation and assessment of archaeological features in the northern part of Ashcombe and recording a 19th Century bridge at Simonsbath.
  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-1907. County Series, 2nd Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <3> Report: Garrett, C.. 2004. An Enviable Possession: The Somerset Seat of the Knight Family. 23-32.
  • <4> Monograph: Siraut, M.. Royal Forest, Exmoor: A guide to the Royal Forest of Exmoor. Exmoor National Park Authority. 25.
  • <5> Report: Riley, H.. 2014. Metric survey of part of John Knight's gardens and pleasure grounds, Ashcombe, Simonsbath.



Grid reference Centred SS 7733 3954 (314m by 657m)
Map sheet SS73NE

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Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

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Record last edited

Mar 10 2021 1:48PM


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