MEM23035 - Garden by the River, Ashcombe, Simonsbath (Monument)


The Garden by the River is mentioned in documents dating to the 1830s. It forms part of the designed landscape around Simonsbath House created for John Knight.

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Full Description

An 1833 inventory of Simonsbath mentions a 'Garden by the River'. Garrett suggests this is situated in the land between Simonsbath House and White Rock Cottage, on the west side of the Ashcombe stream, rather than being by the River Barle. This may have been designed after a path was laid down, possibly by John Knight, which led past this location. Later documents from Frederick Knight's ownership confirms the existence of a garden in the 1860s and 1970s; this may not have been the 'Garden by the River', although the acreage listed for the house and gardens aligns with the plot area on the 1888 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. This map shows the area laid out with paths, various deciduous trees and shaded, small trees that may represent bushes or shrubberies. The site also would always have commanded good views towards Birch Cleave or up the Exford road, combined with dramatic views down to the fast flowing Ashcombe stream. [1] The area was subject to geophysical survey in May 2014. The report concluded that there was evidence for the removal of a garden path (shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map) and its replacement between 1891 and 1903, probably due to water saturation of the ground resulting from works associated with the creation of the Simonsbath House garden and plantation. Evidence for other structures and paths was also noted. Field drainage seems to have been undertaken to mitigate the wet ground associated with natural drainage channels. [2] The garden has very definite boundaries, being enclosed by a stone wall to the northwest, north and east, and by the large slate quarry and Ashcombe Water to the south. A terraced path would have provided views of the garden from above and some steps in the wall to the northwest provide another entrance into the garden. The garden contains some large quartz outcrops and smaller, earthfast quartz boulders, with the area around the largest outcrop partially excavated to emphasise the rock and to make a level area in front of it. One path runs through the remains of the boundary wall, where there are several large quartz boulders and a lump of quartz visible in the wall remains; this may suggest the presence of a formal opening, perhaps a gateway or arch, leading out into Ashcombe beyond. [3] The area was subject to archaeological evaluation in 2018, which determined the location and form of the main path crossing the garden and demonstrated the use of quartz gravels to its build. The use of quartz in this way is significant as it is paralleled in Picturesque gardens elsewhere. No trace or a seat or vantage was identified in Trench 5. Other trenches proved less conclusive and raised more (different) questions. It is possible the natural substrate encountered in Trench 1 formed the base layer to a path similar to that exposed in Trench 2. No trace of the main path was located in Trenches 3 and 4. The evidence for the boundary wall revealed in Trench 6 is equivocal about the character of its build. The Gardens are clearly more complex than previously appreciated, and the upper terrace (and perhaps also the lower terrace/path) are multi-phase structures. These structures may have been purely functional or purely aesthetic, successively one then the other, or both from the outset. [4]

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> Report: Garrett, C.. 2004. An Enviable Possession: The Somerset Seat of the Knight Family. 22-25.
  • <2> Report: Dean, R.. 2014. An archaeological gradiometer and earth-resistance survey: Land at Ashcombe, Simonsbath, Exmoor, Somerset.
  • <3> Report: Riley, H.. 2014. Metric survey of part of John Knight's gardens and pleasure grounds, Ashcombe, Simonsbath. 6-8.
  • <4> Report: Bampton, J. and Morris, B.. 2018. Ashcombe Garden, Simonsbath, Exmoor, Somerset: Results of an archaeological evaluation.



Grid reference Centred SS 7732 3946 (151m by 118m)
Map sheet SS73NE

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Record last edited

Oct 28 2019 3:43PM


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