Talk: Friday 29th March 2019

The Wincanton Museum and Heritage Society held a very interesting talk on Friday 29th March 2019 in the Memorial Hall by Emily Utgren, entitled:  Lost Features at Stourhead in the 1700s.

 Emily, a Swedish national, arrived to work at Stourhead a few years ago, and the area has become her home.

 The talk started back when the new house was designed by Colin Campbell and built in the new Palladium style. Henry Hoare I was the first of the family to be involved,and unfortunately he died the same year in which the house was completed.  However, along came Henry Hoare II (called The Magnificent – 1705-1785) and the design of the garden was influenced by his love of the arts – he had a great interest and love of paintings and sculpture, and his collection included works by Poussin, Rysbrack and Bampfylde.   All this influenced his work in the garden, the choice of Hercules being one example.

 The house started as a summerhouse, but by 1722 they had started to live there and the house and garden took shape. (When Richard Hoare became the owner, he added the two wings to the house).  So the development of both garden and house span many years, and different influences.  One of the main influences of Henry the Magnificent was Addison’s book “Developing the English garden” and Kent’s quote: “When developing  garden, do it your way, via your travels etc.”

 The gardens emerged through French and Dutch influences, into an English Garden – avenues of trees being thinned to arrive at this.  Very much the style of the time was a Turkish Tent.  We saw sketches of this, which was a very plain affair, compared with the Painshill Tent, which was rather elaborate.  Henry thought the view was more important than the tent.  Long disappeared, we were very pleased to see the sketches.  In the early 1800s a wooden bridge (destroyed three times) was built. Plans are ahead to re-build this as the original plans have been located – albeit in Swedish, English and French.  The intention now is to put seating in the original view points that Henry regarded as so important.

 The Fishpond was enthusiastically talked about by Emily, as very little was known about this.  However, a snorkel team went in to research (among them Emily).   This was a successful effort, but not much of the original structure was left.

When it was time for Richard Hoare to take over, he took down many structures, and changed the garden to make it less “Temple heavy”.  So the garden has evolved over the years.  However, it is based on Conservation, Education and Research.

This was a very interesting talk, followed by question and answers, and make enjoyable by Emily’s enthusiasm for her work.  Many thanks were due, and given, to Emily for her work and time.

Shepton Mallet prison by Graham Miller

The Wincanton and District Museum and Heritage Society held its AGM on the 25th January followed by a very interesting talk by Graham Miller, and his wife Laura, entitled The History of Shepton Mallet prison. Around 35 people were in attendance.

Shepton Mallet prison closed in 2013, after approximately 400 years is service. At the time of its closure it was the oldest operating prison in the United Kingdom. It had held, at any one time, 189 prisoners. But this Grade 11 Listed Building has a vast history.

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