Lydney Park is a 17th-century country estate surrounding Lydney House, located at Lydney in the Forest of Dean district in Gloucestershire, England. It is known for its gardens and Roman temple complex.
House and gardens
Lydney Park was bought in 1719 by Benjamin Bathurst, son of the Cofferer of the Household to Queen Anne, and has remained in the family since then. The house was originally close to the main road, with a large deer park behind it.
In 1875, Rev. William Hiley Bathurst built a new house in the centre of the deer park, with views over the River Severn. The new house was built by C. H. Howell, with a formal garden and shrubberies. The old house was demolished, apart from the buildings now occupied by the Taurus Crafts centre. Rev. Bathurst's grandson Charles, later Viscount Bledisloe, made some further changes to the garden before the house became used in the Second World War, first to house the Dutch royal family and then a girls' school.
The current garden was developed after 1950 by the second Viscount Bledisloe and his family. There is a woodland garden running along a secluded valley, planted with magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas and other flowering shrubs. There is a paved terrace above and formal gardens which are popular in the Spring, when the daffodils bloom.
The gardens are private land, and are open to the public on certain days depending on time of year. The house also has a museum containing findings from the Roman site and artefacts from New Zealand collected by the first Viscount Bledisloe.
The area has an early British Iron Age promontory fort–type hill fort, known as Lydney Camp, covering 4.5 acres. The Romans dug there for iron ore, probably in the 3rd century AD, but apparently abandoned the workings as unproductive. Open-cast iron mines, or scowles, and tunnels still exist throughout the hill.
In the late 4th century, the Romans built a Romano-Celtic temple to Nodens, a Celtic divinity who is reflected by the later figures of Nuada and Nudd/Lludd in Irish and Welsh mythology respectively. Lludd's name survives in the placename of Lydney. Several model dog images have been found there, indicating it was a healing shrine; dogs were associated with such shrines and may have been kept to lick wounds. The structure was a somewhat unusual design consisting of a cross between a basilica and the usual Romano-Celtic style temple. The walls of the sanctuary or cella were arched colonnades until a fault in the rock below caused the almost total collapse of the temple. It was rebuilt with solid walls to the cella. There was a fish-covered mosaic with an inscription that referred to 'Victorinus the Interpreter', probably an interpreter of dreams. The temple was accompanied by a large courtyard guest house, a long building used as dormitory accommodation and an elaborate bath suite or thermae.
Sir Mortimer Wheeler excavated the site between 1928–9 and more excavations took place in 1980–1. The finds included a hoard of imitation Roman coins which were thought to date from the 5th century, but are now believed to be 4th century artefacts. Other finds suggest that the temple was still being used in the 5th century. The author of The Lord of the Rings novel, J. R. R. Tolkien, then a well-known philologist, was asked by Wheeler to write a paper, The Name 'Nodens', which was included as an appendix to the excavation report.
- Wheeler, R.E.M. & T.V. (1932) Report on the excavation of the prehistoric, Roman and post-Roman site in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire. Oxford.
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