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The East Curtain Wall with Turrets, Compton Castle

A Grade II Listed Building in Compton Pauncefoot, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.0289 / 51°1'44"N

Longitude: -2.5041 / 2°30'14"W

OS Eastings: 364742

OS Northings: 125625

OS Grid: ST647256

Mapcode National: GBR MV.HHDJ

Mapcode Global: FRA 56ND.D7Z

Entry Name: The East Curtain Wall with Turrets, Compton Castle

Listing Date: 24 March 1961

Last Amended: 17 February 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1056523

English Heritage Legacy ID: 263365

Location: Compton Pauncefoot, South Somerset, Somerset, BA22

County: Somerset

District: South Somerset

Civil Parish: Compton Pauncefoot

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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Summary

Feature walling with turrets, enclosing a terraced garden in front of Compton Castle, Built during the 1820s as part of the castle complex by John Finden for John Hunt, representing a defensive curtain wall in miniature. The structure has received some alteration over the course of its history, including the construction of a doorway between the two south-western turrets, some time after 1911, and the demolition of the northernmost turret at some time between 1903 and 1960.

Description

MATERIALS: Ham stone, cut and squared, with ashlar dressings.

PLAN: the walling is roughly semicircular on plan, enclosing the area around the eastern side of the house. To the east, in line with the principal entrance of the house, two circular turrets serve as gate piers for the approach to the house. Two more turrets stand to the south of the house. These formerly served as piers marking the point in the drive where it passed between the rear area of the house and the wider park, and now form the entrance into the southern formal garden. There are four further turrets, two to either side of the central piers, spaced at intervals.

TURRETS: the slender turrets are very similar in style to those which mark the corners of the house. The turrets have castellated parapets, and some have a pointed opening to the west, in some cases with an arrow loop above and/or one to the east, and others have western niche. The majority are circular on plan, with one square turret to the south, and one to the north. The wrought-iron gates between the eastern piers are thought to be a later introduction. Between the two southern piers, the inserted wall of c 1911 is broken by a central doorway taking the form of a Tudor arch of three orders with hollow spandrels below a hoodmould, the whole having a stone coping. There are arrow loops to either side of the doorway.

WALLS: the wall serves as a retaining wall to the raised area of ground it encloses, rising to an average of 3 metres in height on the east face. Simple steps are built into the walls at occasional intervals, and there are also more recent steps set against the eastern face.

We have considered whether powers of exclusion under s.1 (5A) of the 1990 Act are appropriate, and consider they are not.

History

Compton Castle was constructed for John Hubert Hunt c 1820-5. The Hunt family appears to have had an estate centred on Compton Pauncefoot since the mid-C17; John Hubert Hunt inherited the estate from his father in 1807. He never married and it was not until his later years that he created the new house and park. The suggestion in the current list description that the house incorporates part of a C17 house is refuted by the map evidence of an 1800 survey of the estate, which shows the site of the castle as open farmland. Following Hunt's death in 1830, the house was rented to a succession of tenants; the 1831 advertisement notes that the house 'although of modern creation is in strict accordance with the ancient style of Architecture' being 'placed upon an extended lawn, enclosed by embrasures, castellated walls, and turrets', and that the surrounding gardens and parkland, complete with cascades and waterfalls, are 'so beautiful as really to be an Elysium'. William Phelps, in his 1836 History of Somerset described and illustrated 'a castellated mansion delightfully situated in a small amphitheatre of wood'.

Hunt's architect is generally thought to have been John Finden, who exhibited drawings for the ‘Elevation of a House now building for J. H. Hunt Esq, at Compton Pauncefoot’ at the Royal Academy in 1821. Finden, who worked in both London and Somerset, was not prolific; Compton Castle is his only known extant building, and was probably his most significant commission, others including municipal buildings and more modest private houses. The similarities between Compton Castle and the work of Robert Smirke – particularly at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire – have been noted (Colvin, 2008, 375), and it is likely that Finden was aware of Smirke's designs; there were professional connections between the Finden and Smirke families. Finden is not known to have worked on landscape commissions, and it must be supposed that Hunt was closely involved in the creation of the landscape, or possibly that another designer was employed.

The house appears to have remained largely unaltered during the course of the C19; tenants generally had the building, furnished, on leases of three or five years, and presumably would not have been in a position to undertake works in their own right. However, certain garden features mentioned in 1831 but now no longer in evidence may have disappeared during that time. The Husey-Hunt family eventually sold the house in 1911; the next owner, William Peake Mason, later Lord Blackford, had substantial alterations and additions made under the direction of architect Charles Biddulph-Pinchard. The formal sunken garden to the south of the house was also created at this time, interrupting the driveway which formerly ran to the south of the house; a doorway was constructed between the southernmost turret-piers, to complete the enclosure of the new garden. At some time between 1903 and 1960, the northernmost turret was demolished. Further alterations were made to the interior of the house, and to the grounds, by subsequent owners, from the 1960s onwards.

Reasons for Listing

The eastern curtain wall with turrets at Compton Castle is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic Interest: as a significant feature in the development of the Compton Castle estate; constructed in the 1820s;
* Design: as a picturesque feature, creating an architectural boundary between the Gothick castle and its landscape;
* Group Value: with Compton Castle, listed at Grade II*, and the adjacent garden buildings, as well as the lodges, stable block and grotto and cascade, all listed at Grade II, and the registered landscape.

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