History of Lodge Park
The landscape at Lodge Park was considered revolutionary, created by the gardener Charles Bridgeman. Much of this landscape has now been lost but there are still plenty of clues as to what Lodge Park may have looked like in the past.
Lodge Park is best known for its 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.
Sir John Dutton
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 intact and extended the park.
Charles Bridgeman's work at Lodge Park
At the same time, the soon-to-be Royal Gardener Charles Bridgeman – who had worked at Blenheim Place and was closely involved in the gardens at Stowe – visited Sir John at Sherborne. He drew up proposals for landscaping on the newly expanded Lodge Park.
Bridgeman's plans for Lodge Park
Bridgeman's surviving plan for the park also included 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. It also 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.
Rare surviving plans
It's thought that the Lodge Park plan is the only surviving copy of one of Bridgeman's working drawings. As such it's 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.
Bridgeman's revolutionary designs
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
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 it's been confirmed that most 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, several ancient ash and oak trees shown on Bridgeman's plan, but which predate it, have been identified.
Lodge Park's lost trees
A LIDAR scan of the park has revealed details of the lost features of the park including the blocks of trees. It also shows the planting pits from trees lost in the avenues.
Changes to the plan
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 implemented.
Lodge Park today
Much of Bridgeman’s original design remains, and in autumn the blocks and avenues of trees create beautiful autumnal hues through the landscape to the other side of the valley.
However, a lot has been lost and the team at Lodge Park and the Sherborne Estate are now deciding how much of Bridgeman’s plans could be put back into Lodge Park and how best to do it.
The landscape at Lodge Park was designed by Charles Bridgeman in the 18th century, but it was never completed. Now, almost 300 years later, work has begun to restore the design.
Sherborne estate is a great place for a walk throughout all seasons. It is also a haven for wildlife, so bring along your binoculars and see what you can spot.