The Lost Gardens of Otterhead House

The pleasure grounds of Otterhead House had largely been developed by the time of William Beadon's death in 1864. The steep sided valley meant that most features including drives and paths had to be terraced. Rhododendrons were of special note at Otterhead from the 1860's until the 1980's. Many of the garden plants noted in the past such as azaleas, lilies, paeonies, phlox and roses no longer survive at Otterhead; likewise apricots, figs, nectarines, peaches and pineapples. Few of the garden structures have been deliberately removed and in some cases the garden terraces are believed to be hidden under 'picnic area' landscaping carried out in the 1970's.

The Otterhead Estate Trust with help from partners such as Taunton Deane Borough Council, the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Somerset County Council, Otterhead's two parish councils: Churchstanton and Otterford, Otterhead Forest School, Somerset Rural Youth Project, Somerset Gardens Trust and Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society, as well as the site's owner, Wessex Water and the site's other leaseholder, the Forestry Commission, is attempting to record, conserve and where possible restore elements of Otterhead's garden history including surviving garden plants:

 

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Baroness Henry Schroeder' at Otterhead May 2008

Rhododendron Hybrid 'Baroness Henry Schroeder' at Otterhead May 2008.

 

and elements of the designed landscape such as lost paths and drives:

 

Path Clearance at Otterhead by a Holyrood Academy team organised by Somerset Rural Youth Project November 2011.

A section of the lost main garden path at Otterhead cleared in November 2011 by Somerset Rural Youth Project teams.

 

Former Drive East of Otterhead Lower Lakes October 2010

The lost Otterhead South Drive cleared by Groundwork South West teams in 2010-2011.

 

Some 'lost gardens' have been destroyed by various types of redevelopment over the years or even by a garden redesign. Others have been recorded and surveyed but still neglected until reawakened. The former pleasure grounds of Otterhead House have not been completely destroyed, though there have been removals of non-native garden plants but neither has the gardens' continuing existence been recorded until this project began in 1997 other than in a Taunton Deane Borough Council gardens survey. 

There would have been little incentive to develop the gardens after 1904 and the last gardener was made redundant in 1938; the result is that changes in garden fashion including choice of plants will have had little or no effect on the Victorian gardens at Otterhead. 

The Victorian designed landscape at Otterhead was listed by Parks and Gardens UK in March 2012:

http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/7087

Although the lost gardens of Otterhead House are now in Somerset, most of the gardens as well as Otterhead House were in Devon until a county boundary change in 1897.

 

The Otterhead Gardeners

 

- Lee c1864.

- Clarke c1899.

- Peters c1904.

W. Sanders c1918.

W. Fennell c1922 - 1926 Died in service following accident.

W. Rowsell        - 1932.

S. Hessey c1928 - c1935 Became gardener at Cothelstone House c1937 - 1939. 

C. Dunbar          -  1938  Became gardener at Sheafhayne c1940 -     .

 

Page under development.

 

Copyright The Otterhead Estate Trust Company Ltd. 2011-2017.

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