The Charles Bridgeman landscape at Lodge Park
Lodge Park is most well-known for the Grandstand complete with mile-long course for the 'kingly sporte' of deer coursing. Deer coursing went out of fashion in the late 17th century, but the course and deer park survived. Later, the park was given a revolutionary new design by Charles Bridgeman. Much of the design still remains, and in autumn the blocks and avenues of trees create beautiful autumnal hues through the landscape to the other side of the valley.
Sir John Dutton, nephew of Lodge Park's original owner John 'Crump' Dutton, commissioned William Kent to alter the interior of Lodge Park and design furniture for the new rooms. Deer coursing had long since gone out of fashion, but Sir John had left the course in tact and extended the park.
At the same time the soon-to-be Royal Gardener Charles Bridgeman, who had worked at Blenheim Place, was then closely involved in the gardens at Stowe and visited Sir John at Sherborne. He drew up proposals for the landscaping on the newly-expanded Lodge Park.
Bridgeman's surviving plan for the park also includes a survey of the layout of the earlier park and shows a number of tree clumps, as well as parish and field boundary trees, most of which have now been lost.
The plan also shows the construction lines for Bridgeman's proposed new parkland layout and includes changes to the design, as well as being 'pricked through' with a pin at key locations, most likely to facilitate the preparation of a final version for Sir John Dutton.
As far as we are aware, the Lodge Park plan is the only surviving copy of one of Bridgeman's working drawings, and as such it is important and significant in understanding his working methods.
Bridgeman's landscaping style lay firmly within the 'grand manner', with impressive avenues of trees defining extensive vistas, while deer roamed within huge enclosures bounded by blocks and belts of woodland.
The design for the landscape was revolutionary, re-orientating the central axis of the park to make the most of the situation of the grandstand. The grandstand being separated from the parkland by a ha-ha, which Bridgeman was credited with inventing.
A serpentine canal was proposed within the river Leach; had it been implemented, it would've been the first of its kind in England, predating Bridgeman's design for the Serpentine in London by several years. Sadly, it appears it wasn't constructed, although Sir John Dutton left explicit instructions in his will that it should be completed.
Through recent research we have at last confirmed that the majority of Bridgeman's plans were carried out. The research has included maps, accounts, archives and detailed surveying of all of the trees.
The tree survey has shown that the bulk of the proposed tree plantings still survive, hidden away inside later plantations. In fact a number of ancient ash and oak trees shows on Bridgeman's plan, but which predate it, have been identified.
We have also had a LiDAR scan of the park, depicting in minute detail the lost features of the park including the blocks of trees; it also shows the planting pits from trees lost in the avenues.
Interestingly the scan also confirms where Bridgeman’s proposals were modified. A key example is the proposed woodland, terrace walk and ha-ha with central viewing point. Whereas the woodland, ha-ha and terrace walk were constructed largely as planned, the central viewing point was greatly reduced in size, with only a projecting rectangular viewing terrace actually implemented.
Now we’re deciding how much of Bridgeman’s plans we want to put back into Lodge Park and how we can do that.