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The manor of Lower Swell was purchased in the mid-13th century by Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans, who created a park there. Before 1257 he gave the manor to the Cistercian abbey which he had founded at Hailes. The manor was purchased in 1659 by Sir Robert Atkyns (died 1710), lawyer and MP, and father of Sir Robert Atkyns (died 1711), author of The Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire. A house at Bowl Farm, the historic demesne farm 400 metres south-west of Abbotswood and alongside the River Dikler was, from 1683 or earlier, one of the elder Atkyns' two country seats. His son seems never to have lived there. The manor remained in the Atkyns family until 1844 when it was sold to John Hudson. In 1865 a large part of that estate, including 400 acres (about 162 hectares), the manor house, and the park, was sold to Alfred Sartoris, who also owned a large part of Upper Swell. In 1867 he built a new house, Abbotswood, on an elevated site in the park, away from the river and the old house's farm and service buildings.

In 1901 Abbotswood was sold to Mark Fenwick, wealthy from his family's coal and mineral interests in Northumberland and from the sale of Lambton's Bank in Newcastle. He was a keen gardener, while his wife, Molly, was interested principally in country sports. The house, 'far too ugly to be lived in as it was' (quoted in Brown 1996), was extended and remodelled by Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), whose initial advice to the Fenwicks about the existing house was to 'Blow it up, and start again!' (Brown 1996). Instead the existing house was reordered both internally and externally, especially the north (entrance) and west (pool terrace) facades. The main, south, garden front was changed little, if at all; instead Lutyens planted it with climbers and creepers. West and south of the house Lutyens designed strongly architectural gardens. The planting of those gardens, and the creation of others, was apparently by Mark Fenwick himself. Fenwick remained at Abbotswood until his death in 1945 when it was sold to Harry Fergusson (died 1960), the tractor manufacturer and inventor. It remains (1999) in private ownership.

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Architect: Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens (born 29/03/1869 died 01/01/1944)


terraced lawn