Corsham Court lozenge

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Return home for Corsham Court contact details, opening times, admission charges and disabled access arrangements.

The Garden Diary is a monthly account of what to look out for in the Grounds of Corsham Court. Each bulletin includes a resume of seasonal work in progress. Click here to read this month's edition.

Please note that some of the larger trees in the garden are very old and prone to suddenly drop heavy branches from time to time. Visitors should not walk beneath them and maintain vigilence at all times.

The gardens at Corsham Court are opened twice each year to raise money for charity through the National Gardens Scheme. In 2021, the provisional dates (subject to Covid-19 restrictions) are:

21st March and 25th April 2021 planned openings for the NGS have been cancelled due to urgent tree safety works. Aplologies for any inconvenience.
  • 21st March
  • 25th April

Click here to visit the N.G.S. web site.

Other local gardens worth a visit include:

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Return home for Corsham Court contact details, opening times, admission charges and disabled access arrangements.

Lily Pond Garden

Corsham Court Gardens

A Brief History

On acquiring Corsham House (as it was then known) in 1745, Paul Methuen set about not only re-modelling his mansion but also its setting. This affected the deer park (subsequently extended to the 350 acres comprising Corsham Park today) and the grounds nearer the house maintained as formal gardens.

At this time, three avenues of elm trees radiated from the house to the north, south and east respectively. In addition there were a series of pools (or stew ponds) on the north side of the house and to the north of the east avenue.

In 1760, Paul Methuen commissioned Lancelot "Capability" Brown to extend Corsham Court and also devise a landscaping proposal. Brown was an advocate of the Landscape Movement so prevalent during the Eighteenth Century. His creation of pastrol settings, through the "naturalisation" of his client's grounds, is much in evidence countrywide today. Brown and his followers were responsible for sweeping aside the vast but precise ornamental layouts, fashioned on continental gardens, by earlier generations.

Brown was at the very pinnacle of his career in 1760 and his confidence is reflected in his radical treatment of Corsham. Little is known of the gardens that existed prior to his appointment by Paul Methuen. It is known, however, that Brown was responsible for the following:

  • the separation of the Park from the pleasure grounds through the excavation of a ha-ha approximately 400 yards from the house and running in a straight line to the North Front,

  • the creation of a "Great Walk", being a path (approx. one mile long) with clumps of trees planted along its length,

  • the planting of numerous specimen trees including Cedars and the Oriental Plane now of massive proportions,

  • the enlargement of the stew ponds to form a pear-shaped lake on the north east side of the house (later filled in),

  • the construction of a gothic bath house,

  • the siting of a lodge at the end of the North Avenue (never constructed),

  • the provision of an orangery in the gardens (since demolished).

Bath House

Of the three architectural works designed by Brown for the gardens, it is only the Bath House (right) that stands testimony to his commission. It was later re-modelled by Nash, who added further gothic adornment to the picturesque building. The cold bath is sunk into the arcaded ground floor and a flight of steps leads to a dressing room (not open to the public) above. The ogee shaped side archways, the windows, the gothic niches and the pinnacles of the roof remain from Brown's original pavilion.

During the closing years of the Eighteenth Century, Humphry Repton (a proponent of Brown's theories on landscape gardening) was appointed by Paul Methuen's son and heir, Paul Cobb Methuen. His brief amounted to an extension and consolidation of Brown's work commenced some forty years earlier. Repton was not an architect, however, and worked closely with John Nash, whom he had introduced to the Methuens. Nash was to re-fashion the north facing elevation of Corsham Court designing a gothic extravaganza of flying buttresses and steeply gabled roof lines punctuated by pinnacles and parapets. Repton perceived that such dramatic "perpendicular" architecture was best complemented by a contrast of round-headed trees. With this in mind, Repton planted a large clump of Horse Chestnuts on the North Front, a Black Walnut, Copper Beeches and Turkey Oaks. These plantings were interspersed with decorative trees including Indian Bean, Cherries and a large fruited Spindle Tree,

North Walk magnolia in blossom

The Gardens Today

The formal gardens extend (approx. 17 acres) primarily to the south (front) and north (rear) of the house with long herbacious borders and feature high walls with climbers, a lily pond, box hedging and some statuary. They have a distinctively Nineteenth Century feel which is not surprising as the wife of the First Lord Methuen, Lady Jane Dorothea Methuen (nee Mildmay) was a keen gardener and came to Corsham in 1810. The Victorian influence of later years introduced species and themes most closely associated with that era, although thankfully without detriment to the layouts and plantings of the previous century. There are a number of mature magnolias which, together with other spring blossom, provide spectacle early in the year, when a succession of flowering bulbs carpet the informal glades between trees surviving from the times of Brown and Repton.

Some of the herbacious borders are defined by clipped box hedging bordering paths permeating the far corner of the former rose garden, for which restoration plans are afoot. Throughout the season, recent plantings provide bright and colourful contrast to the shaded and intimate areas beneath the tree canopy. There is further an eighteen acre young arboretum with an Elizabethan conduit house, from where the town once drew its water.

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