Boundaries & Hedges: Look Deeper

Look into this photo…look deep into this photo.

What do you see?

Kingston Lacy NT403 4 Feb 1989

Yes, I know.. it’s just a bit of farmland.

Look deeper…there’s at least 4000 years of farmland here.
Look at the hedgerows….they’re very precious …on a European scale, our bushy boundaries are surprisingly rare and wonderful for wildlife.

Off to the left is the edge of Badbury Rings.. so we’re on the Kingston Lacy Estate in Dorset again.

Kingston Lacy for me is like Miss Marple’s village.

We are on the south side of the grand Beech Avenue. William John Bankes had this planted for his mother in 1835.

This land has been ploughed for many generations. Bottom centre, there’s a dark circle with a black blob in it.

The ploughing has levelled an Early Bronze Age burial mound and all that is left is the cut of the quarry ditch. From here the chalk was dug to heap up the bright white mound over the grave. Perhaps the body is still be in the grave pit marked by the blob.

The Round Barrow was once an eye-catcher. About 1000BC the land was divided into units by linear boundary ditches. Perhaps population was rising. Boundaries needed to be clear and well defined. The barrow mound formed a good fixed point and the boundary runs against it.

Look again. This linear boundary does not follow a straight line. It has to weave between existing fields. Can you see the white ghost lines of the chalk field banks it has to negotiate. These are small ‘celtic’ fields, in use from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period and later.

Many hedge and wall field systems in the west still follow boundaries as old as this.

Nothing is completely static.

Look up to the centre right and see a group of dark-lined enclosure ditches overlying the ghosts. I walked there with the farmer once and recovered scraps of Roman pottery from the new ploughed field. Stock enclosures, Roman development over part of the old system.

Zoom out a little… can you see broad bands of darker and lighter stripes running roughly with the hedgerows?..

These are the remains of the furlongs and strips of Shapwick’s common arable field system. A time of centralisation when scattered farmsteads and fields became concentrated. Devised by the Saxons, around the 10th century, communities farmed their scattered strips within the great fields, managed by the lord’s manorial court.

At Kingston Lacy, this system continued right down to the 19th century. We have a great map showing all the strip fields in 1773-4, it tells us who farmed what.The small guys were being squeezed out by the larger farmers.

How old fashioned! This was the advice of William Woodward, the surveyor, who advised the Bankes family to enclose the land. In 1813, a new map was made and the land was divided up into large economic farms with straight hedge boundaries. The smallholders became farm labourers.

Kingston Lacy 39007 Aug. 1994

Look into this photograph. Look deep into this photograph. We are east of Badbury now. Towards Kingston Lacy Park.

Bottom left is the tree-edged enclosure of Lodge Farm. All the names in the landscape matter. It’s ‘lodge’ after the medieval hunting lodge.

The stone lodge itself now has a lawn in front of it. A 15th century building on the site of an earlier building at the gateway to the royal deer park and warren of Badbury. This park is documented right back to Henry de Lacy’s time in the 13th century.

Top, right of Badbury, is the medieval High Wood, and middle right is a hedgerow strip marking the deep survival of the broad medieval deer park ditch. Designed for fallow deer to leap in but not get out. Deer were valued for their high status meat, a preserve of the rich carefully nurtured and guarded.

Badbury Warren was maintained right up to bachelor John Bankes’ day. There were complaints that the thousands of rabbits kept there, got out into the corn and coppices and damaged the crops.

John’s mum Margaret always kept the accounts and when John took over the Estate he followed her example….right up to 1740, when he closed the account book and left a few sheets of paper there.

One of these contained the inked in costs of enclosing the Warren. All the hedges in this photo were planted at this time. Their names give away the old use of this new farmland…’Lodge Field’, ‘Deer Hill Field’, ‘Hare Run Field’ and ..

‘Watch House Field’ (watching for poachers? a dangerous job, one of the medieval keepers Henry Warren was murdered…)

Sometimes… in the right conditions…. the Roman road from Poole on the coast to Badbury can be seen running from Lodge Farm across the fields.. aiming for the saddle of land between the hills of Badbury and High Wood.

Not in this photograph though..

each year brings new conditions of ploughing, drought, snow and frost and …new revelations of the past become possible…

Kingston Lacy 39017 Aug. 1994

Look into this photograph…north of Badbury now…what can you see?

The spaghetti junction of Roman Dorset! We’re looking down the barrel of the late 4th century road from Old Sarum (Salisbury), the London Road, to the civitas captital of Dorchester (still Dorset’s county town).

This late road crosses two, perhaps three earlier roads. The Poole road turns in the middle left of the photo and splits.

First joining the field boundary running to bottom centre (the road to London).

Second crossing the centre of the field, under the Dorchester road, and continuing to Bath and….

Third.. following the straight, thick hedge boundary between Badbury and the arable fields. Another road, long forgotten, heading for the Somerset Roman town of Ilchester.

This boundary, preserved and managed over the centuries.. ancient, ancient boundary held in the landscape as a hedge…once a Roman road.. it became a convenient straight marker in the 12th century to divide off  the new manor of Shapwick from the royal manor of Wimborne Minster…

and today it remains the parish boundary between the St Batholomew’s Church of Shapwick  and St Stephen’s of Pamphill.

Everything in the landscape speaks. Ancient public footpaths, names of fields, woodlands, coppices…all  full of stories and ….hedgerows are particularly precious and vulnerable…





‘Here Gen. Montgomery stayed and ate before the invasion…..’

Ted Applegate

Major Ted Applegate

Just recently I have managed to make contact again with the lovely family of Major Ted Applegate. It is always worth trying the internet every now and then when searching for a lost contact :-)

Grace, one of his daughters, has recently sent another of her Dad’s letters written while based at the American Army hospital during WWII at Kingston Lacy. We got very excited as it was about a visit inside the big mansion. It is wonderful to get first hand accounts of our properties in the past. A fresh eye on the contents and place and we often glean important or interesting information we would never have discovered in the estate archives.

Anton W Sohrweide sat next to Kingston Lacy

Anton W Sohrweide sat next to Kingston Lacy

We had gathered from other family members of staff who served at the American hospital that they were allowed up to the house and that the officers had use of some rooms in the house. But we had no real details to confirm the past memories and snippets. I have reproduced the letter below as it speaks for itself….

Ted’s letter home –

Monday 1830, 6 November 1944, England –

Dearest Margie

………………I must tell you! I had the most amazing experience today. Ten of us were invited to go thru Kingston-Lacy estate, the manor house. The agent’s kindness was great and he took us thru himself.

As you enter the large entrance hall – all the beautiful marble with fluted columns – the pieces that take the eye are four enormous deeply and intricately carved teakwood chests about four feet high and eight feet long. They are massively exquisite! Swords, pikes, daggers, shields and armor adorn the walls in profusion. The carving on the chests is Jacobean (?). There are two daintily fine French cabinets. Enormous vases stand here and there. Two steps straight ahead take you to a right angle hallway which leads to marble stairs to the left. Here is a Van Dyke painting of a cavalier – another point of interest is a chair attached to a marble cabinet in which is a balance with bronze weights marked in measurement of stone (7 lbs). You sit in the leather chair and weigh yourself. It is 17th century. As you walk up the marble stairway toward a one piece window which much be 6 x 10 feet you are struck by the enormous bronze figures lying on the stairwell ledgers looking down. They are the works of Michael Angelo! The stair makes one (180 degrees) turning and on the walls are two enormous paintings of dogs attacking a bull. They were painted for one of the Kings of France! They were a gift to the owner years ago – or the master as they speak of him.

Now we go into the library. The room is enormous and above the book lined walls are life sized paintings of the ancestors running back to 1700! Some of the books, most of them in fact, are old enormous works of art, some printed by hand! Desks, chairs, footstools are all most interesting, all very old and in excellent shape. I could have spent months there with pleasure.

Adjoining is the saloon. I can’t begin to tell you of half the marvels here. Enamel portraits of many people of the times – most, most beautiful China figurines and some unbelievably delicate. Lace over the hair, around the collars and sleeves which I felt sure must be lace until I looked at it with a magnifying glass. There were some pieces exactly similar to what you have on the way. Two Van Dykes were here.

Now into the drawing room. Twice as big – really an enormous room. (All the ceilings are beautifully painted with figures) the overhanging border near the ceiling looks as though the room as been prepared for indirect lighting. Gold leaf adorns it! Here is an enormous painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds and another by Rembrandt! Many others whose names are not familiar to me, several Dutch names. An ebony and ivory cabinet heavily inlaid with mother of pearl! It is most delicate. A book of signatures bears many King’s names, the Duke of Windsor’s, German Emperor, or Duke of Wellington, etc. etc. I can’t remember everything – museum pieces were in the greatest profusion. Every door everywhere was carved deeply and signed by – Gobelin (?) I’m not sure of the name but he should be famous.

Now into the small or private dining room. The walls are oak covered with the original leather all over. It is dark and cracked. The ceiling is most beautifully carved and covered with gold leaf! Here Gen. Montgomery stayed and ate before the invasion for two weeks with his staff! This room has many pieces about the room from Spain. It is called the Spanish Room.

Now the State dining room. It must be 40 feet square. An enormous massive circular mahogany table in the center would seat a regiment. The walls are oak paneled and the doors are two inches thick plus the carvings which are 3 or more inches bas-relief. Tapestries long on each wall and the most colorful and beautiful I ever saw.

From here we went upstairs again to the bedrooms. About 10 of these have little dressing or sitting rooms adjoining & also a bathroom – but there are no fixtures or tub or anything. The bath was made ready by the servants. All beds are four posters (10 feet). Prints and bric-a-brac of all periods adorn everywhere. Now upstairs again to the nursery and servants quarters. The corner bedrooms are adorned to make them appear as tents. Cords (wood carved) run down the seams from the top from head height they taper to a point. At the head of these top stairs is a low gate (carved, of course) to prevent the youngsters falling downstairs – the servants’ quarters are as nice as ours at home. From here we went onto the roof. The roof is solid sheet lead! The chimneys (4) are enormous and each has 8 big lead rectangular outlets, all of lead. The agent said each weighed 300 lbs.

Now to catch up a few points – a picture in the drawing room – glass encased is worth 1/4 million ($1,000,000). I didn’t hear the name of the author or painter it is Madonna with two children.

The chandeliers (4) deserve a word. Cut glass, very intricate and enormous. Each was alike in drawing room, salon and two dining rooms. They must be 8 ft high and four across. They held I guess 100 candles. How they sparkled.

Now down to the 1st basement where is the room which we would call the den where the gentlemen retired after dinner for their smoking. Paneled walls of Belgian oak, racy and racing prints and prints of beautiful horses, many hunting scenes and such – a wheeled server for liquor and wines and such was beautiful with recessed and carved receptacles for glasses and decanters, all filled with proper glasses. Then across the low ceilinged wide hall to the billiard room with a full sized (not our size) table similarly decorated. The present master has a bed here where he sleeps when he comes here. His sister sleeps in the smoking room.

Now to the kitchen. The original tables and benches and ovens are here! It is enormous, the tops of the tables are 2 inches thick and sturdy as stone. The floor is flagged with large stones. The ovens are built in the wall (new electric stoves stand beside them).

The two obelisks I spoke of previously were brought from Egypt and the cornerstone was laid by the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon’s nemesis.

Some of the doors took 3 years – for their carving – and they look it.

A total of 56,000 acres append the estate. They are taxed all but 6 pence out of each pound of revenue – the gov’t gets $3.90 out of $4.00!

I don’t want to bore you but I wanted to tell you about this. It is all so very interesting to me & I wish you could see it. You would love it. I’d never get you away.

In the library are all the old keys to Corfe Castle, some as long and heavy as my forearm. Many other old relics of Corfe are in the second basement beneath the first but he said he couldn’t take us there. There are 27 bedrooms not counting the servants’ quarters

Here I have done all this writing and no work done so I will have to get busy, my love. If you don’t mind, Mother would probably enjoy reading about these things. I am getting writer’s cramp & can’t make my pen behave – I have been hurrying to get to my work.

How about sending me a couple of pairs of cheap cotton gloves to protect my hands from this coke & coal I have to handle? Did you say you had sent me some nuts? West is going to London next week and will take my film to be developed, then I’ll send it to you.

I love you my dearest, but I wonder if you have read this far. Goodnight and kiss my girls for me – I kiss you in spirit my love – and in person. Again someday I hope – soon.

Always your faithful – servant! and husband,


Thank you once again Grace and family for treating us to such a wonderful insight in to life during the war on an English country estate.



Solsbury Hill and the Bath Skyline

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night…. Peter Gabriel 1978

Solsbury Hill on the north-east side of the World Heritage City of Bath may be particularly famous for this song (if you’re a Peter Gabriel and Genesis fan) but my job this week has been to write about its archaeology.

The NT are commissioning new guide books and Brean Down and Bath Skyline are on the go at the moment.

This land does what it says in the property title. It occupies the skyline to south, east and north of the city and has been acquired bit by bit over the years. It enables the National Trust to buffer development on the high ground and conserve views to and from Bath.

The view from the front o Ralph Allen's 18th century Neo-classical house looking north-west across is designed parkland landscape towards the city of Bath. The palladian bridge over the lakes can be seen in the middle distance

The view from the front of Ralph Allen’s 18th century Neo-Classical house looking north-west across its designed parkland landscape towards the city of Bath. The palladian bridge over the lakes can be seen in the middle distance

Anyway here is the draft for the guidebook. This bit gives a bit of an overview..

In the minds of our ancestors, Bath would appear as a rare, wonderful and magical place where hot water issued from the ground.

No wonder the god of the spring required worship, and prehistoric objects including Iron Age coins were cast into the hot water long before the Romans arrived. After the Conquest, the Romans created a monumental shrine complex to worship the celtic god Sulis which was then partnered with the Roman god Minerva. This place became a site of pilgrimage from far and wide.

The surrounding landscape had light limestone soils and were a magnet for early farmers; ideal for early cultivation using the primitive ploughs of the time. When the Romans arrived, they saw the qualities of the easily worked local beds of Bath freestone. The Saxons were less inclined to build in stone but Bath boasts great stone buildings from the medieval period to the present day. In the mid 18th century, Ralph Allen recognised the qualities of Bath stone and marketed it by building the great house and designed landscape of Prior Park as his shop window.

View of Ralph Allan's great house looking south from the middle lake of the designed landscape.

View of Ralph Allen’s great house looking south from the middle lake of the designed landscape with the palladian bridge in the foreground.

He helped develop the Georgian city which gives the place its World Heritage Site Status today.

There’s a bit about Bushey Norwood which has the earthworks of a prehistoric farm and a bit on Bathwick and Rainbow Wood once part of the Bishop of Bath’s deer park where the remains of Roman buildings survive.

Bushey Norwood prehistoric field system looking south west towards Bath

Bushey Norwood prehistoric field system looking south-west towards Bath

The main bit is on Solsbury Hill….

This is a stunning location, an ideal place to build an Iron Age hillfort.

Many centuries later, its abandoned earthworks were adapted into a medieval strip farming system. These narrow fields were marked by mere stones, each engraved with an allotment holder’s initials.

People have visited this place for thousands of years: stray finds dating to the later Neolithic (2600-2300 BC) and Bronze Age (2300-700BC) demonstrate this; but the key feature is the 8 hectare (18 acre) hillfort, a defended settlement occupied over 2000 years ago. A visit to Solsbury Hill will help you appreciate its strategic position overlooking the Avon valley: a near level hill-top protected by steep slopes with clear views in all directions.

Two pieces of archaeological work: one very recent and the other over 50 years old, help us to imagine the lives of the families that once lived on Solsbury.

Excavations from 1955-1958 revealed that the hill-top was surrounded by a carefully constructed stone faced rampart with an entrance on the north-west side. Within this was evidence for the warrior farmer community which once occupied this place. Their homes were round houses, each constructed of a ring of timber posts infilled with mud and woven branches with a thatched conical roof.

In 2012, a geophysical survey of the interior by the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society, revealed the sites of over 50 round houses. These homes and store buildings show up clearly on the survey plan because each was surrounded by a distinctive circular drainage ditch.

The 1950s digs showed that the earliest houses were built before the hill-top was defended. Then the first rampart was built and then pulled down… perhaps after an attack. Then another wall was constructed but this time associated with a new form of pottery.

Does this suggest invaders and if so what happened to the original Solsbury dwellers? But perhaps they never left; just bought some more fashionable pottery and rebuilt their defences (the marvelous vagueness of archaeological evidence).

The dig director was W.A. Dowden of the Bristol University Spelaeological Society. He looked at the cooking pot fragments found in his trenches and concluded that the fort settlement had been occupied in the middle Iron Age c.300BC and had been abandoned at least 100 years before the Roman army conquered the area c.AD44.

The excavation revealed the farm produce from the surrounding countryside: quern stones, once used to grind the harvested grain into flour and the meat bones of their grazing animals; domestic cattle and sheep.

A bridle bit demonstrated that the wealthier occupants rode horses; two decorated weaving combs were a reminder that clothing was made here and two spearheads and sling stones demonstrated that the inhabitants were armed and ready to defend their homes.

Solsbury Hill Iron Age hillfort looking south-west towards Bath. The earthworks of the medieval and later strip farming system can be seen as earthworks hiding the earlier round houses.

Solsbury Hill Iron Age hillfort looking south-west towards Bath. The earthworks of the medieval and later strip farming system can be seen as earthworks hiding the earlier round houses.

As you stand on the hill top, imagine it crowded with Iron Age round houses and people, then sweep them away and see the ridges of long strip fields with medieval farmers trudging up and down behind ox teams, ploughing the settlement ruins buried below.

It still needs some editing… but next time you go to Bath, visit the Skyline and enjoy the archaeology and views of the City.

Celebrating National Volunteers Week

A happy Rob with his pot

Rob our longest  serving volunteer – 30 years!

We are lucky to have such wonderful volunteers to work with,  as a charity we are able to offer opportunities for all ages to get experience of all aspects of archaeology and heritage. Whether you want to do something you have always dreamed of doing, or want experience before deciding it’s what you want to do at University or as a career we will try and find a place for you.

Here are some of our archaeology  ‘gang’ of all ages and abilities. To all our volunteers we would just like to say a big ‘THANK YOU’  for all your  hard work, patience and cakes:-)  

It’s an impossible task to include all our lovely volunteers so here is just a taste of what they get up to…

Fay and Kate take a well earned break

Fay and Kate take a well-earned break from digging

Ray barrow man

Ray barrow man

Honey with her flint from the Bronze Age burial mound

Honey with her flint from the Bronze Age burial mound







Meg doing an important job - updating the Historic buildings, sites and monuments record database

Meg doing an important job – updating the Historic buildings, sites and monuments record database


Thank you for all the miles walked doing geophysical surveys

Thank you for all the miles walked doing geophysical surveys



Ben and his brother Sean, a few years ago and still volunteering with us, event activities specialists

Ben and his brother Sean, a few years ago and still volunteering with us, event activities specialists

Jeremy our best pot marker and master weaver

Jeremy our best pot marker and master weaver

Vera top of the pot washers

Vera top of the pot washers



Thank you for braving the weather

Thank you for braving the weather

Nick models what all best dressed archaeologist are wearing this season

Nick thanks for all the fun

Thanks for all the smiles Aparna

Thanks for all the smiles Aparna










Don’t  forget the cake !

Thanks Masie

Thanks Masie

‘For ever for everyone’



The Knight and the Otter, Boynton Church

Wiltshire is named after Wilton, once the county town;

Wilton is named after the River Wylye which meanders from my home town of Warminster to the 13th-century cathedral city of Salisbury.

In NT terms from Cley Hill to Mompesson House but…

this blog tells of a rare encounter; so forgiveness please as I stray from National Trust boundaries.

I am on holiday after all.

The faster route is the main valley road, following the the edge of Salisbury Plain. The slower, more beautiful route lies close to the other side, a sleepy, tranquil drifting lane against the high chalk ridge dividing Wylye from Nadder.

A string of ancient settlements, parishes and manors follow the river to Wilton; each with thatched flint and limestone cottages and little mansion houses. Bishopstrow, Sutton Veny, Tytherington, Corton, Boynton….it’s good to glide along these lanes on a bicycle..and do it often to catch the seasons passing. The bluebells are all but gone now.. the bright green leaves are reaching their peak, the copper beech trees are maturing to a deeper red, the red campion are giving way to a landscape of buttercup yellow, white ox eye daisies and corn parsley….

So many generations have farmed here and seen these changes year by year. A harder life with lower yields, terraces of contoured strip lynchets stand out in shadow on the steeper slopes, helping to extend the arable onto more marginal land.

Last week, a chilly overcast day turned into warm sunshine so Jan and I went for an afternoon cup of tea at Boynton …but the cafe was closed.

We could go to the church instead. I’d been a couple of times before.. in the autumn, but this was during the historic churches ride. The parishioners signed our sponsorship cards and fed us cakes and lemonade as we cycled to the next one. Not much time to get your head round the history of each place.

The Church of the Blessed Mary is hidden down a lane beside the High Street; we parked under a tree and opened the churchyard gate..the door was open. A peaceful place, just the sound of birdsong and the children playing in the nearby garden. Inside it was mainly 13th century, across the nave was a chapel with the bright light from a large circular window drawing us to the life sized sculpture of a knight. His shield revealed the coat of arms of the Giffards, an ancient family, whose ancestors accompanied William I when he brought his army from Normandy in 1066.

Boynton had long been a Giffard manor and the chapel was their family chantry. The adjacent building had housed the chantry priests who were provided with an income to say daily prayers for the family.

Rich and pious medieval families would build chantries sometimes in churches and sometimes as separate foundations like Stoke Sub Hamdon in Somerset and Wilkswood Farm in Purbeck.

The stone knight was well preserved; quite often sculptures were defaced during the religious turmoils of the 16th and 17th centuries but not this one. Though it had once been brightly painted. Traces of gold, red and white paint survive. An oyster shell, the artist’s palette, was found during the 1950s renovation still with splashes of colour within it.

What was that at his feet? An unusual sleek animal with a long broad curving tail.

The 1960s guide book identified the animal as an otter ..and the knight as Sir Alexander Giffard. Otters were once a feature of the River Wylye. Was this a symbol of Sir Alexander’s riverside manor? Otters were driven from the Wylye valley for many years.. but more recently there have been rumours.

The guide book’s preferred explanation for the stone otter was more symbolic. The otter-like escape of Sir Alexander that saved his life! He was a crusader and in 1250 fought beside the Earl of Salisbury in the battle of Mansourah in Egypt. When all was lost, he evaded capture by slipping into the nearby river and swimming away….

He died in 1262 and soon afterwards the chantry was created. His tomb has remained through the generations, lying in this quiet place, dressed for battle, with a sword at his hip and an otter at his feet. I suppose back in the day otters were quite common.

Two days later Jan said we should go to Langford Lakes.. a little beyond Boynton. It’s a nature reserve between the Langford villages. Archaeologist does nature..armed with bird and wild flower books we stepped out onto the first lakeside jetty.

A brown thing dipped beneath the water. I pointed to the spot expecting a duck to surface but something very unexpected popped up. It was a large sleek otter, brown teddy bear face and rounded ears. I don’t think he’d arrived from Egypt.

Sunset over the Wylye Valley

Sunset over the Wylye Valley

He gave us a look and glided away.

Seymours Ruin in the Woods, Brownsea

1852 map of Brownsea Island. Not the enclosed lakes and the embankment built across St Andrews Bay top right.

1852 map of Brownsea Island. Note the enclosed lakes (upper centre) and the embankment built across St Andrews Bay top right. Seymours (top left in red)

Over the years I have occasionally come to this place. It’s known as Seymour’s House.

The effect is always the same: a romantic sense of … well, perhaps a whiff of Indiana Jones hacking back the remote jungle fronds and finding a Mayan temple.

Of course, that’s not quite it, this is Dorset… but the Island is a lost world, once a succession of rich men’s kingdoms. Their evidence hidden amongst the trees.

We landed on Brownsea in the early spring to check the winter’s erosion along the coastal archaeology. Each year increasingly exposed and washed away during the winter storms.

By chance, we had tripped over a perfect day: absolutely still; clear blue skies and bright low sunlight freckleing the water. Didn’t see anybody all day.. until the return to the ferry in the afternoon.

I usually get to Seymours from the west end. Climbing up from the ruins of Maryland settlement. We crossed the fence into the nature reserve.

There is no good path here. I always forget exactly where it is, peering through the pine trees to make out a craggy outline, treading the pine needles, hunting for a remote and rarely seen home, long abandoned.


Then I pick out the line of the wild laurel hedge that once framed the garden and there is Seymours with its tall chimney and its circular privy.


I first came here in 88 and I always expect it to have fallen down but it looks just the same, sheltered by the pines. It was once a single storey lodge with a verandah overlooking the coast.


A flight of steps leading down to the beach. The roof has long gone with stacks of Welsh slate piled against the walls. In the kitchen, the hand pump over the sink is now missing but on the other side of the fireplace, the copper for heating water is still in place.


The house clearly developed over time. It had over century of tenants before the last occupants left. The earliest brick building had pointed gothic windows and then these were blocked and the kitchen was built.


The 1861 census records that the manager of the brickworks and his family lived here.. but when was it first built?

Time for some documentary research. Sir Charles Chad is barely mentioned in the Brownsea guide books but he came from a wealthy Norfolk family and owned Brownsea 1817-1840. I typed him and Brownsea into Google and there he was in ‘Jones Views of Seats, Mansions and Castles 1829’. It was just what I needed. ‘At Seymours, Sir Charles has also built another ornamental cottage which commands such a fine view of the Castle together with the Harbour and Town of Poole which can be compared to the beautiful scenes in several parts of Italy’

No views today, the place is shrouded in trees..

Usually Brownsea is famed for its scouting heritage and wildlife. Perhaps we have forgotten what the wealth of its various owners did to this place.

From the late 17th-early 20th centuries, each man bent Brownsea to his will.. creating a succession of designed landscapes to embellish a private kingdom… set apart from the world.

Contrived views and plantations, lakes, follies, a model farm and a kitchen garden reached via looping carriage rides.

Sir Charles’ other claim to Google fame is his long legal dispute with the fishermen of Poole. They were prevented from entering Brownsea’s St Andrew’s bay after dams were built across it to make the great lakes and lagoon….Sir Charles applied money and influence and eventually won the court case.

I came back to Seymours with Sarah and Jonathan a few weeks ago. This time we approached from the east between the great lakes. They have agreed to investigate Brownsea and at last tell the stories of its gardens and landscape parks. I look forward to reading their report.

Lodge Park Grandstand, Behind the Blocked Door

Lodge Park in Gloucestershire was where the last Lord Sherborne lived before he bequeathed his Sherborne Estate to the National Trust in 1982.

It wasn’t originally meant to be a home but a place to go with your mates. It was an ornamental grandstand built in the 1630s by the then owner John Dutton. A posh place to drink and bet on the deer selected from the adjoining park. The deer were sent down a walled corridor of land, chased by hounds across the front of this unique building. The assembly then probably got drunk and had venison for tea.

Lodge Park on the Sherborne Estate, Gloucestershire. This is John Dutton's grandstand where he and his mates could spend boozy afternoons betting on deer chased by hounds across the front of the building. About a century later the park behind the house was transformed into an avenued designed landscape by Charles Bridgeman. Our excavations were on the left (west) side of the building.

Lodge Park on the Sherborne Estate, Gloucestershire. This is John Dutton’s grandstand where he and his mates could spend boozy afternoons betting on deer chased by hounds across the front of the building. About a century later the park behind the house was transformed into an avenued designed landscape by Charles Bridgeman. Our excavations were on the left (west) side of the building.

The park is full of earthworks including the best preserved Gloucestershire long barrow and the earthworks of the strip fields of open field systems. Three parishes meet at a point just behind the Lodge and it was here in the 1720s that Charles Bridgeman chose the key outlook point for his innovative garden landscape design. A segway between earlier formal and later Capability type landscapes. Highly significant and we have his drawn plan. Was it ever completed? Did it work? Should NT redo it? Lots of discussions but that’s not the point of this blog.

We’ve discovered something new.

The stairs down to the 17th century basement kitchen infilled about 100 years ago and dug out again in the 1990s when Lodge Park was restored.

The stairs down to the 17th century basement kitchen infilled about 100 years ago and dug out again in the 1990s when Lodge Park was restored.

Back in the 1990s the NT took out the later additions and divisions within the Lodge Park Grandstand to return it to its 1630s form. The cellar had been backfilled about 100 years ago and this was dug out again to reveal the 1630s kitchens where John Dutton’s feasts were cooked. The cellar had vents put into it 20 years ago but despite this has always been damp wih mould growing off the walls and floors. Bit unpleasant.

One solution was to open the blocked door. In the 90s the discovery of the blocked door led to the suggestion that there had once been an external flight of stairs, a tradesman’s entrance where perhaps the venison and other food stuffs could be brought into the kitchen. So..find the stairs, uncover them, unblock the door, new access and extra ventilation…. damp problem solved.

November 2015 looking for the external stairway into the basement. No trace. We need a machine.

November 2015 looking for the external stairway into the basement. No trace. We need a machine.

So in November building surveyor Christina asked Jim and I to turn up with shovels and mattocks to look for the top step of the cellar stairway. On the most likely north side of the blocked door our hole just found modern service pipes. So we dug beneath flagstones on the south side nothing… the ground here seemed to be natural about 30cm down. We gave up and vowed to return with a machine.

The mysterious blocked door in the cellar. The ranging pole divisions are 0.2m and at 1.7m up you can see that the doorway and blocking has been removed and the wall rebuilt in the 19th century. Note the vent top right can be seen in the next photo outside to the left of the mini-digger.

The mysterious blocked door in the cellar. The ranging pole divisions are 0.2m and at 1.7m up you can see that the doorway and blocking has been removed and the wall rebuilt in the 19th century. Note the vent top right can be seen in the next photo outside to the left of the mini-digger.

A few weeks ago Jim brought his mini-digger. This time we aimed for the centre of the west side of the Lodge immediately above the blocked door. More reduntant drainage pipes and then clay and then… solid stone and mortar about 0.6m down. I jumped into the trench and cleaned back its gently arched top. There was a gap between the Lodge wall and the newly discovered structure. It was where the wall had been rebuilt about 100 years ago.

Mini-digger digs down to find the blocked door.

Mini-digger digs down to find the blocked door.

I took part of the filling from the gap and found that I could put my hand into a void under the structure. I was sitting on the roof of a vaulted chamber. I got a ranging pole and slid it into the gap and then swung it round into the void. It fell away. Only the front end was filled with spoil.

Solid stone and mortar roof of the vault cut by the rebuilding of the Lodge annex in the 19th century. We slid the ranging pole between the gap an waved it around in the empty space which is the hidden room or passage heading west...

Solid stone and mortar roof of the vault cut by the rebuilding of the Lodge annex in the 19th century. We slid the ranging pole between the gap and waved it around in the empty space which is the hidden room or passage heading west…

We speculated…is it a tunnel and where does it go? or is it just a hidden chamber. Jim reckoned it might lead to slaughter barn where the deer are supposed to have been dispatched before being brought to the Grandstand..

A mystery…I wonder whether we should unblock the door.