The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Somerley House

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Somerley House, Lord Normanton. - The house stands on a prominent brow of high banks, 60 ft. below which are the extensive water meadows of the Avon. The grounds about the house are admirably adapted for an extensive level terrace walk; but this idea has been only slightly carried into execution by an uneven narrow walk, which is, however, two miles in length. On the platform behind the house is some pleasure-ground scenery, with aviaries, and other ornamental buildings, very neatly kept; but the buildings are in bad taste, being finished with half columns, and having, in the intercolumniations, doors and windows with circular heads, and of different heights, even under the same pediments; than which nothing can be more contrary to unity of system and effect. We had not a near view of either front of the house, the family disliking the appearance of strangers. The place, as far as we saw it, was in very good order. The kitchen-garden is on the level grounds, on the bank of the Avon, about a mile from the house. Some of the water meadows are divided by wire fences, which may well be called invisible. They are composed of wires, about the eighth of an inch in diameter, each about 300 ft. long, and screwed tight into an oak post, concealed in a group of thorns. On the road from Ringwood to Wimborne Minster are some extensive plantations of pinasters, which, on the poorest soils, Mr. Hounslow informs us, grow faster than either the Scotch pine or the larch: the timber, however, especially when young, is light and porous, and is less durable than that of either of those trees; the trunks are also less straight. On approaching Wimborne there are extensive fir plantations to the left, which caught fire accidently upwards of a year ago; and the fire scathed them for some miles in extent, burning their branches and blackening their trunks so as to produce a very dreary and singular effect. Had there been deciduous trees among these plantations, they would have recovered on being cut over by the surface, as furze copses which have been burned down are found invariably to do; but resinous trees, every one knows, do not stole. To the right of the public road is Canford House, on the banks of the Avon, a monastic Gothic building, among fine old trees. It has a charming effect from the road. The minster at Wimborne would afford a fine study for the antiquary, as would many of the chimney tops of the houses in the town to the modern architect. In some of the streets, vines, climbing roses, honeysuckles, and even herbaceous flowers, are planted in the crevices of the pavement, and trained up against the houses. These flowers, some small flower-gardens hardly fenced, and the lead hanging from the eaves of the church, speak favourably of the manners and morals of the people. [Somerley, Ringwood, Hampshire, was designed by Samuel Wyatt and belongs (2005) to the Earl of Normanton]