6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Somerset Life today click here

Somerset’s historic Halswell

PUBLISHED: 09:00 13 September 2016

The beautiful historic estate of Halswell Park

The beautiful historic estate of Halswell Park


The grounds of one of Somerset’s most historic estates are being sensitively restored, as Sarah Ford discovers

“String can sometimes be a bit longer than it first appears,” says Edward Strachan when I ask how long his restoration project will take. He bought historic Halswell House and some 30 acres in 2013 and restoring the buildings and grounds has turned out to be a very long labour of love for those involved.

“If a job is worth doing it is worth doing well and our respect of the buildings, gardens and parkland dictates that this cannot be a rush to the finish line,” says Edward, who hopes to open the restored estate to visitors when it is complete.

Halswell Park, a Grade I listed house and Grade II listed park, is situated in the village of Goathurst in Somerset. The estate has its origins in the 11th century and today the main buildings are a Tudor manor dated from the mid-16th century and a mansion house of 1689. These and the landscape are all now being carefully and authentically restored. The house and gardens were broken up in 1950 but escaped the fate of demolition, or conversion into flats.

But despite being a Grade I listed building that the famous architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner called ‘The most important house of its date in the county’ it has had a punishing time of it since then, as Edward explains.

“The 450 acre parkland was sold piecemeal and the ancient trees were felled, many of the follies scattered around the parkland and the rides and walks that circumnavigated the park were destroyed or left to disintegrate.”

An important part of the estate that is now back within the ownership is the waterfall filled lake pleasure gardens called Mill Wood.

Edward says: “Mill Wood is a highly important ancient waterway site that was transformed in the mid 18th century into a mystical place of Druid’s huts, waterfalls, bridges, mock ruins and classical temples scattered around its five lakes. “This area should be seen in the context of the 450 acre naturalistic parkland laid out by Sir Charles in the mid 18th century, very much under the influence of William Kent and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

“The first stage of the parkland restoration is the replanting of the trees. We still have a handful of 17th century chestnuts and some fine oak trees but thousands were destroyed in 1950 and even later when the pastures where put to the plough. This year alone we have planted almost 5,000 new trees in Mill Wood.”

Work has been carried out in a wood by the rotunda and ice house that was always open to locals and further flung visitors to walk amongst the bluebells, wild garlic, daffodils and wild orchids.

“By clearing and managing this wood the remaining descendants of this once flower-filled wood are again springing back to life,” says Edward. “To the south of the house a full Tudor garden is being created and wild meadow gardens are planned.”

Halswell Park contains a very important English Baroque house and is one of Somerset’s most historic estates. Restoration work has thrown up a list of challenges such as relocating bat colonimes, dealing with wet rot, dry rot, full re-wiring, full re-plumbing, installing heating, insulating the building, replacing the roof and repairing the stonework. Work is being carried out by Mark Lidster and his team at Corbel Conservation. The project is led by Claire Fear of Architectural Thread. Mill Wood, is being restored under the guidance of Architecton Ltd of Bristol.

Edward says: “We have a fantastic working relationship with Historic England and Sedgemoor District Council. We were very lucky to meet with Mrs Ann Manders. She works for the Somerset Building’s Preservation Trust which is a dedicated team and previously saved and restored two of the follies at Halswell, Robin Hood’s Hut and the Temple of Harmony. Ann was a ferocious campaigner to save Mill Wood well before I came on the scene so when I swapped some nearby farmland for it and brought it back into Halswell’s control Ann was the perfect leader of that project.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Somerset Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Somerset Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Somerset Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Tue, 10:03

Clare Gladstone takes a look at some of the jewels in North Somerset’s crown – its coastal towns, starting with Weston-Super-Mare

Read more
Tue, 10:02

Gather family and friends, a selection of tasty treats, a gingham blanket and a bottle of something refreshing and head off to some of Somerset’s top picnicking spots. We pick 10 picture-perfect spots to enjoy a good old fashioned picnic!

Read more
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Colourful floral displays, rolling green countryside and blossom-adorned trees await with our pick of eight Somerset walks to try this spring

Read more
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Although Somerset is wonderful all year round, there’s something special about the county when the weather gets warmer, daffodils start to bloom and we can enjoy a cider in the sun

Read more
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Clare Groom picks her top events for 2017 that highlight the importance and beauty of the Blackdown Hills

Read more
Friday, March 17, 2017

Chris Gladstone discovers plenty of reasons to visit this bustling market town

Read more
Friday, March 17, 2017

Chris Gladstone discovers some fascinating tales from across the ages

Read more
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

No one knows their town better than those who live there, so Clare Gladstone asks residents who tell us their favourite things about Ilminster

Read more
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

There’s nothing more appealing than a row of picture-perfect properties in some of Somerset’s most beautiful locations. Which street is your favourite in the county?

Read more
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Clare Gladstone looks at what’s going on in Taunton in the year ahead and suggests a few reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, February 27, 2017

Swathes of delicate white snowdrops bring joy to many by signifying the end of winter and the beginning of spring. We pick 6 of Somerset’s prettiest locations to admire the beautiful flower

Read more
Thursday, February 16, 2017

World famous for its wonderful architecture, iconic sights and fascinating history, there’s plenty to see and do in the wonderful city of Bath throughout the year, says Rachael Sharpe

Read more
Monday, February 13, 2017

Chris Gladstone discovers fact, fiction and a few tall tales in the Quantocks

Read more
Monday, February 6, 2017

The largest gorge in the UK, and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, Somerset’s Cheddar Gorge is a truly remarkable sight to see. We pick 15 times the Gorge and caves looked utterly mesmerising

Read more
South West Life advert link
South West Life advert link
South West Life advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
subscription ad

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Somerset Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Somerset's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search