Historic Parks and Gardens In South Somerset

In the UK the creation of the man-made landscape, whether garden or parkland has been a consuming national interest for many centuries and an activity that it could be said has been raised to an art form in which the UK specialises. We are all familiar with the  extent that private houses with extensive gardens and parkland or indeed great urban public parks shape the landscape and townscape of the country.

In recognition of this cultural importance the most significant Historic Parks and Gardens are formally identified as heritage assets by Historic England (formerly English Heritage) in the national Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. South Somerset is richly endowed with rural parks and includes 14 entries on the national register. Several other parks are of special local importance.

Planning policy seeks to safeguard these from unsuitable development that would adversely affect their character, appearance or setting.

Historic Parks and Gardens in South Somerset 

What makes a park or garden of historic interest?  

As a general rule, Historic England considers all parks or gardens over 30 years old to be "historic". However just being over 30 years old does not, in itself, make a park or garden of special historic interest.

Whether or not a site merits national recognition through registration will depend primarily upon the age of its main layout and features, its rarity as an example of historic landscape design and the quality of the landscaping. For registration purposes, therefore, what makes a site of interest is the survival, quality, and interest of its historic structure. For a garden, the structure will usually include the basic pattern of its layout which might, for example, be formal with terraces, straight walks and hedges, formal pools and canals, or informal with winding paths through lawns, rockwork, and informally-planted trees and shrubberies. For a park it may include the historic boundaries and entrances, the routes of the approach drives and rides, the siting of the main buildings, the underlying landform, built features which provide structure and focal points in the design, lakes and rivers, and the planting of parkland trees, clumps, shelter belts, and woodland.

  Criteria for selection

Historic England registers only those sites which it considers to be of special historic interest. As a guide to the level of historic interest required to make a site "special" nine criteria have been drawn up against which assessment and decisions whether to register a site are made. Their application, however, must be accompanied by expert and extensive knowledge of the country's historic parks and gardens as a whole, to ensure that decisions are consistent.

The criteria are based on the assumption that the older the surviving features of a site, the rarer that type of site is likely to be, although added to this premise are other factors for consideration. Thus, types of site likely to prove of sufficient historic interest to merit inclusion on the Register are:

  • Sites with a main phase of development before 1750 where at least a proportion of the layout of this date is
    still evident, even perhaps only as an earthwork.
  • Sites with a main phase of development laid out between 1750 and 1820 where enough of this landscaping survives to reflect the original design.
  • Sites with a main phase of development between 1820 and 1880 which is of importance and survives intact or relatively intact.
  • Sites with a main phase of development between 1880 and 1939 where this is of high importance and survives intact.
  • Sites with a main phase of development laid out post-war, but more than 30 years ago, where the work is of exceptional importance.
  • Sites which were influential in the development of taste whether through reputation or references in literature.
  • Sites which are early or representative examples of a style of layout, or a type of site, or the work of a designer (amateur or professional) of national importance.
  • Sites having an association with significant persons or historical events.
  • Sites with strong group value.

These criteria are not mutually exclusive categories and more than one of them may be relevant in the assessment of any particular site.

Four selection criteria guides Historic England use for designation of parks and gardens is available at