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)

Protected Status

Full Description

A folly comprising embattled walls, tunnels, bridges, turrets, battlements and extensive earthworks is reported to the west of Worthy. [1] The ruins of Ashley Combe House, formerly Ashley Combe Lodge, are in the woods above Worthy. Lord King, the 8th Baron (later 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. [2] The remains of the Italianate gardens of Ashley Combe lie on the edge of Yearnor Wood, above Worthy Combe, centred at SS 858 482. These were laid out in the latter part of the 19th Century as a setting for Lord Lovelace's house (recorded under MSO7970). The main approach to the house and gardens is via a drive which leads from Worthy Toll Road at SS 8576 4802. To the south of the house site, at SS 8573 4818, are a series of brick garden terraces, consisting of an L shaped arrangement of three tiers of relieving arches. These are now in a ruinous and dangerous state. At the southeastern end of the south terrace a narrow flight of slate steps leads up through a circular turret of brick and stone, 2.7 metres in diameter with internal rendering. This leads onto a circular building (SS 8572 4809) of brick, 5 metres in diameter with walls 0.6 metres thick. The interior has render/plaster. There are windows on the first floor, grilled openings on the ground floor: it may be a fern house or tea house. To the south of this a narrow terrace runs for some 100 metres. It contains the remains of cold frame (SS 8572 4802) and also preserves the brick detailing on its back wall. It leads via arched openeings to an arched doorway (SS 8569 4800) to Yearnor Woods, where substantial ornamental planting has taken place. Alternative access to the house was apparently via a tunnel, whose blocked entrance (7 metres high) is visible at SS 8573 4823. This subterranean theme is echoed in several other areas of the grounds. A stone and brick structure with upper relieving arches and limewashed interior to the north of the house (SS 8573 4818) is the starting point for a trail which leads up the hillside over the main tunnel to two further tunnels (SS 8578 4822 and SS 8574 4823). A path leads up to a viewpoint (SS 8566 4826): a stone vault has a narrow stair onto a balcony, then an arch leads over the coastal path to a stair turret (SS 8566 4825). The old path to Rockford Cottage (MSO7986), an ornamental boathouse on the beach, probably started around this area, but has apparently been destroyed by landslips. A brick and slate plinth lies at SS 8576 4821. Close by is a circular tower of stone and brick, sited to give glimpses of the sea through its narrow, brick edged windows. Four garden terraces lie close to the lodge (SS 8580 4820) (MSO10676), designed to frame the view up to the house from the lodge gate. [3] The structures are associated with Ashley Combe House (MSO7970). [4] 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. [5] One tunnel is depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. [6] From 1835 to 1840 Ashley Combe house was extended and improved, with gardens created and landscaping of the steep woodlands between Ashley Combe and Culbone Church carried out. The Tithe Map for Porlock (1841, [8]) 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. [9] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [10]

Sources/Archives (10)

  • <1> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. M Aston, 6 February 1976.
  • <2> Monograph: Corner, Dennis. 1992. Porlock in Those Days. Exmoor Books. p61.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 1999.
  • <4> Verbal communication: Various. 1900-. Somerset County Council / South West Heritage Trust staff comments. Chris Webster, Somerset Historic Environment Record, 10 June 2005.
  • <5> Report: Turner, R.. 2011. A Little Bit of Italy Brought to Exmoor at Ashley Combe, Porlock.
  • <6>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. [Mapped feature: #35516 Estimated extent of gardens, ]
  • <7> Report: Riley, H.. 2016. Ashley Combe and Culbone Church: Recording the Archaeological Remains of the 19th Century Designed Landscape. Hazel Riley.
  • <8> Map: Cox, J. W.C.. 1841. Porlock Tithe Map and Apportionment. 13.3 inches : 1 mile.
  • <9> Report: Riley, H.. 2018. The archaeology of the 19th Century designed landscape at Ashley Combe and Culbone Church, Exmoor National Park: Project Report. Hazel Riley. 2-5.
  • <10> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1127376, Extant 14 February 2022.

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
  • Local Heritage List Status (Proposed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 NE34
  • National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1127376
  • Shoreline Management Plan 2 (0-20)
  • Shoreline Management Plan 2 (20-50)
  • Shoreline Management Plan 2 (50-100)
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33957



Grid reference Centred SS 8567 4815 (296m by 307m) With reference to other sources
Map sheet SS84NE

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Related Events/Activities (1)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

Nov 2 2022 1:46PM


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