The restoration of the unique Hestercombe Gardens near Taunton is a major step closer thanks to a £1.5million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
The grant means the Hestercombe Gardens Trust can buy land totalling 320 acres, reuniting landscape, gardens and buildings.
What makes Hestercombe Gardens so important is it combines four complete period gardens spanning four centuries of garden design.
The newly acquired land includes the site of a rare, early 17th century water garden which it is planned to restore together with other historic features within the park. Planted to its original design, Hestercombe’s formal garden is considered the finest example of the collaboration between garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and architect Edwin Lutyens.
The purchase also allows for the possibility of extending the contemporary art gallery in the house to include outside spaces for the display of art.
The Hestercombe estate was sold to The Crown Estate by the Portman family in 1944. In 1961 The Crown felled all the eighteenth century designed landscape, parkland and woodland for its timber value. This process also drained the lakes and destroyed a number of garden buildings. The statuary from the Lutyens garden was sold off and the Georgian landscape and surrounding woodland were replanted as commercial forestry.
In 1953 Somerset County Council rented Hestercombe House from The Crown to provide a headquarters for Somerset County Fire Brigade. In 1973 Somerset County Council began the restoration of the gardens.