The terraced gardens at Woodchester Park were created in the early 19th century. They were associated with a Georgian Mansion owned by the Ducie Family. Very little is known about the gardens first seen on the Tithe Map of 1838, but sales particulars from 1843 describe a garden that had ”terrace walks of great extent…a temple adorns a different spot, which overlooks the Italian Gardens and fountains playing, with the ornamental water in the foreground….”.
The estate was subsequently sold and the Georgian mansion demolished and replaced by the Mansion that stands today. Work on the new Mansion was abandoned in the 1870’s and the gardens and much of the Park began to fall into disrepair. It gradually disappeared under laurel and other vegetation until the late 1960’s when it was cleared and planted with conifer trees.
When the National Trust acquired the park in 1994 it was under threat of being sold off and broken up. The terraced gardens were hidden under a dense plantation of conifer, beech and ash trees. Over the last 20 years we have thinned out trees and cleared some of the central vista to reveal some of the impressive terraces and structure of the gardens. A survey by volunteers revealed the existence of gravel paths. An archaeological investigation was also carried out of the ruin of a temple folly within the gardens. This revealed that it is in a perilous state and would be impractical to restore.
The former temple remains will be archaeologically protected using geotextile to protect and filled with rubble and soil before being sown with grass seed to create a new viewing platform so that the views from the temple can once again be enjoyed. A bench will be designed to sit on the platform.
Today the c. 60,000 visitors to the Park each year have been largely unaware of the existence of the terraced gardens and were unable to walk through and appreciate the area. This project will open up the gardens and restore the terraced walks so that the public can once again enjoy the views and appreciate the beauty and scale of the place.
Following the recommendations in the Parkland Plan we will work with contractors and archaeologists together to identify, map and re-instate the old gravel paths. It is believed that these historic paths linked with the back of the Georgian Mansion and reinstating them will enable the gardens to be accessed directly by visitors to the existing Mansion.
20 years ago whilst thinning out the trees to open up the views and reveal the structure of the gardens the remains of an old pond/fountain were discovered. This was discovered on the bottom terrace directly in line with the temple on the top terrace. Also discovered a few years later was an old pipe that connected the fountain with water. The pond/fountain will be archaeologically excavated to reveal more about its history and will be protected to prevent it from further deterioration.
It is a very exciting project and thank you to the generosity of the Gloucestershire Environmental Trust and Linley Shaw project we are able to carry out the restoration of the terraced gardens after its many years of neglect.
Hopefully that have given an insight to what work is proposed for the terraced gardens and I look forward to giving you more information about what we have found.
Max Dancer, Area Ranger Woodchester Park