Prior Park Landscape Garden
- For the nearby Catholic Independent School adjoining the Prior Park Landscape Garden see Prior Park College
Prior Park Landscape Garden is an 18th century landscape garden, designed by the poet Alexander Pope and the landscape gardener Capability Brown, and now owned by the National Trust. Prior Park and the estate is south of Bath, Somerset, England. The garden was influential in defining the style of garden known as the "English garden" in continental Europe. The garden is Grade I listed in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England.
Around 1100 the site was part of a deer park set out by John of Tours the Bishop of Bath and Wells. In 1720s it was bought by Ralph Allen and landscaped to complement his new house. Further dvelopment was undertaken after the house became a seminary and then a Roman Catholic grammar school which became Prior Park College. In the 1990s 11.3 hectares (28 acres) of the park and pleasure grounds were acquired by the National Trust and a large scale restoration undertaken. Features include a Palladian architecture bridge, lake and ancillary buildings.
The park is set in a small steep valley, with views of the city of Bath. The first park on the site was set out by John of Tours the Bishop of Bath and Wells around 1100, as part of a deer park, and subsequently sold to Humphrey Colles and then Matthew Colhurst. Even before the dissolution of the monasteries the walls which had enclosed the deerpark had fallen down and the deer escaped. The land was then used for agriculture.
18th century design
The estate was bought by Ralph Allen in the 1720s. Prior Park's 11.3 hectares (28 acres) landscape garden was laid out by the poet Alexander Pope between the construction of the house, Prior Park, which was built by local entrepreneur and philanthropist Ralph Allen from about 1734 until his death in 1764. During 1737, at least 55,200 trees, mostly elm and Scots pine, were planted, along the sides and top of the valley. No trees were planted on the valley floor. Water was channelled into fish ponds at the bottom of the valley.
Later work, during the 1750s and '60s, was undertaken by the landscape gardener Capability Brown. This included extending the gardens to the north and removing the central cascade making the combe into a single sweep. The garden was influential in defining the style of garden known as the English garden in continental Europe.
In 1828 the house and estate were purchased by Bishop Augustine Baines to create a seminary and then Bishop William Clifford for a Roman Catholic grammar school which later became Prior Park College. Further landscaping was carried out in the 1880s.
In 1993 11.3 hectares (28 acres) of the park and pleasure grounds were acquired by the National Trust and it was opened to the public in 1996. In November 2002, the large-scale restoration project began on the cascade, serpentine lake and Gothic temple in the wilderness area, this is now complete. Extensive planting also took place in 2007. Future plans include re-roofing the grotto and building a replica Gothic temple.
Its many interesting features include a Palladian architecture bridge (one of only 4 left in the world), Gothic temple, gravel cabinet, Mrs Allen's Grotto, ice house, lodge and three pools with curtain walls plus a serpentine lake. The curtain wall by the lake is known as the Sham Bridge and is similar to Kent's Cascade at Chiswick House and Vunus Vale at Rousham House. Ralph Allen was also responsible for the construction of Sham Castle on a hill overlooking Bath.
The rusticated stone piers on either side of the main entrance gates are surmounted by entablatures and large ornamental vases, while those at the drive entrance have ornamental carved finials. The Porter's Lodge was built along with the main house to designs by John Wood the Elder.
A five-minute walk from the garden leads on to the Bath skyline, a six-mile (10 km) circular walk around the city that encompasses woodlands, meadows, an Iron Age hill-fort, Roman settlements, 18th century follies and spectacular views.
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- Durman, Richard (2000). Classical Buildings of Wiltshire & Bath: A Palladian Quest. Bath: Millstream Books. pp. 91–94. ISBN 978-0948975608.
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- "Bath Skyline". National Trust. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
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