MSO7973 - Post-medieval landscape gardens at Ashley Combe (Monument)


Embattled walls, tunnels, bridges, turrets, battlements and extensive earthworks associated with Ashley Combe.

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Type and Period (1)

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Full Description

A folly comprising embattled walls, tunnels, bridges, turrets, battlements and extensive earthworks is reported to the west of Worthy. [1] The structures are associated with Ashley Combe House (MSO7970). [2] The gardens were largely developed in the Italian style by Lord William King and his wife Ada Lovelace. Against the hillside at the rear of the property there are many arches, reflecting Italian architecture. Major works were carried out on both the house and gardens between 1835 and 1837. The tunnels were reputely built to stop tradesmen from spoiling the view when accessing the house, as due to the house being set against the hillside they could not access from the rear of the property. It is probable that the tunnels were originally cuttings to stop landslips that were then bricked over. There are a number of follies and other features in the area outside of the immediate formal gardens, however they are now overgrown. [3] The ruins of Ashley Combe House, formerly Ashley Combe Lodge, are in the woods above Worthy. It is believed that a house was on the site in the 17th Century. Lord King, the 8th Baron (later to become the first Lord Lovelace), improved and extended the house and created the Italian gardens. The house was built in the style of an Italian castle and there were several tunnels in the grounds, large enough for traders' vehicles to approach the house unseen. Many trees were planted in the grounds. The Lovelace family owned Yearnor, Culbone, Sparkhayes and Bratton, near Minehead. The view from the house was magnificent, looking over Porlock Weir and across the bay. Lord King married Ada, the daughter of Lord Byron. The house was demolished about 1960. [4] One tunnel is depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. [5] William King, who owned Ashley Combe, married Augusta Ada Byron, the daughter of Lord Byron and his wife Anne Isabella Milbanke, in 1835. He was made Earl of Lovelace in 1838 and his wife became Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace, mathematician and collaborator with Charles Babbage). William and Ada spent their honeymoon at Ashley Combe and from 1835 to 1840 the house was extended and improved, gardens created and landscaping of the steep woodlands between Ashley Combe and Culbone Church carried out. The tithe map for Porlock (1841, [7]) shows the footprint of the house, then called ‘Ashley Lodge,’ a number of paths and rides to the north and south of the house, a road from Worthy to Culbone, and an irregular enclosure to the west of Ashley Lodge. [8]

Sources/Archives (8)

  • <1> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. M Aston, 6 February 1976.
  • <2> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. Chris Webster, Somerset Historic Environment Record, 10 June 2005.
  • <3> Report: Turner, R.. 2011. A Little Bit of Italy Brought to Exmoor at Ashley Combe, Porlock.
  • <4> Monograph: Corner, Dennis. 1992. Porlock in Those Days. Exmoor Books. p61.
  • <5> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1868-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <6> Report: Riley, H.. 2016. Ashley Combe and Culbone Church: Recording the Archaeological Remains of the 19th Century Designed Landscape.
  • <7> Map: Cox, J. W.C.. 1841. Porlock Tithe Map and Apportionment. 13.3 inches : 1 mile.
  • <8> Report: Riley, H.. 2018. The archaeology of the 19th Century designed landscape at Ashley Combe and Culbone Church, Exmoor National Park: Project Report. 2-5.



Grid reference Centred SS 8564 4816 (240m by 284m) (Estimated from sources)
Map sheet SS84NE

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Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Related Articles (1)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Coastal Risk 2014: Flood Zone 3 fluvial
  • Coastal Risk 2016: Flood Zone 2 fluvial
  • Coastal Risk 2016: Flood Zone 3 fluvial
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE34
  • National Park
  • Pastscape HOBID (was Monarch UID): 1127376
  • Shoreline Management Plan 2 (0-20)
  • Shoreline Management Plan 2 (20-50)
  • Shoreline Management Plan 2 (50-100)
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33957

Record last edited

Mar 10 2021 5:11PM


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