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A Benedictine nunnery was established on the site in 1211. This was patronised first by the Gournays and later by the Berkeleys.

The whole site was leased by John Drew of Bristol after the Dissolution and used as a country house. The estate then passed through several different families before being bought by the Gibbs in 1881. Henry Martin Gibbs came to Barrow Court in 1882 and made substantial alterations to the buildings. At this date the gardens and park were laid out in their present form.

After World War II the house and grounds were leased to the College of St. Matthias. In the last few years the estate has been divided into upwards of 20 separate residential occupancies. However, this has been done without the division of the main formal garden, which is communally maintained by the residents.

The formal gardens were largely designed by F. Inigo Thomas.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

 

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

The first recorded Lord of the Manor of Barrow was Geoffrey, Bishop of Coutances (CL 1902), but by the 13th century it was in Crown ownership. William Rufus granted it to Robert Fitzhardinge, via the marriage of whose grand-daughter it came into the Gournay family. It was from this family that the neighbouring village of Barrow Gurney took its name. The house stands on the site of a Benedictine nunnery founded before the 14th century, and possibly as early as about 1200, whose first recorded prioress was Joan de Gournay. A deer park is known to have been established in the medieval period (Bond 1998), and The Conygar is recorded as the name of a wood about 300m south-west of the house on early Ordnance Survey maps. The estate went through various owners until the Dissolution, after which Henry VIII granted it to John Drew of Bristol, who converted the core of the present house between 1537 and 1539. In 1602 it was sold to Dr Francis James, a lawyer, who altered and extended the house to its present E-shaped form. In 1659 the estate was sold to William Gore, in whose family it descended through the 18th century and much of the 19th century, although in the early 19th century it was being used only as an occasional residence. The Barrow Gurney estate, including the 16th century Barrow Court, was acquired in 1881 by Antony Gibbs of Tyntesfield, Avon, who sold it in 1883 to his younger brother, Henry Martin Gibbs. He remodelled and refurbished the Jacobean house and between 1887 and 1891 rebuilt the adjoining church. In 1892 he commissioned F Inigo Thomas (1866-1950) to produce a comprehensive new garden design, in a series of interlinked formal compartments dominated by yew hedging and architectural features, which was completed by 1897.

The house remained in the Gibbs' ownership until 1976, although it was used as a military hospital in the Second World War and was leased as a college of education from 1949 to 1976. In 1978 the house was converted into separate dwellings, and the gardens are now (2002) maintained by the Barrow Court Residents' Association.

Site timeline

After 1882: Henry Martin Gibbs came to Barrow Court and made substantial alterations to the buildings.

1939 to 1945: The house was used as a military hospital in the Second World War.

1949 to 1976: After World War II the house and grounds were leased to the College of St. Matthias

1978: The house was converted into separate dwellings.

People associated with this site

Designer: Francis Inigo Thomas (born 25/12/1865 died 1950)

Features

boundary wall

garden wall

temple

Feature created: 1890

Creator: Francis Inigo Thomas (born 25/12/1865 died 1950)

Temple, Exedra and Linking East Boundary Wall of Formal Garden at Barrow Court: The Temple is a tetrastyle Doric loggia with a hipped roof and ridge ball finials which gives on to a square courtyard walled on the east and west and leading via 3 semi circular steps down to the formal east axis of the garden. At each side of the steps are curving quaadrant balustrated walls and tall Gatepiers, 2.5 metres high. The Exedra is a semi-circular recess in the Boundary Wall with ball finiars to the rear wall and 2 tall piers, 3 metres high, with attached columns with composite capitals, deeply projecting entablatures and vast urn finials with fruit and flower swags.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II*

loggia

exedra

hedge

Yew hedges.

shrubbery

The shrubbery forms part of the formal garden, and is laid out and planted with similar attention to detail. It has carefully planned views and includes a small loggia.

gate lodge

Feature created: 1894

Gate Lodge and Entrance Archway to South East of Barrow Court: Dated 1884 on rainwater head. Squared and coursed rubble with flush dressed stone quoins, openings and copings, stone tile roof, ashlar stack. Tall 3 storey lodge, square on plan in Cotswold Vernacular style.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II

courtyard

Feature created: 1890

Creator: Francis Inigo Thomas (born 25/12/1865 died 1950)

East and West Courts and linking South Boundary Wall of Formala Garden at Batrow Court: Two walled Courts and Garden Wall. Squared and coursed rubble to Courtyard walls, rubble to Garden Wall both with dressed stone copings. Ashlar coins and archways to Courts, iron railings. Each Court gives access through round-arched entrances to the North Lawn and the cross axis path along the north boundary of the Rose Garden.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II*

gazebo

Feature created: 1890

Creator: Francis Inigo Thomas (born 25/12/1865 died 1950)

East and West Corner Gazebos and Linking North Boundary Wall of formal Garden at Barrow Court: Rubble to Gazebo bases, flanking curved walls, ashlar to piers and stone slates to Gazebo roofs. Each Gazebo has a Venetian loggia on its south facade with ornamental keystone and further arched openings with curving steps up to each side givve access to a wooden settle-type seat.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II*

gate piers

Feature created: 1890

Creator: Francis Inigo Thomas (born 25/12/1865 died 1950)

Gatepiers, gates and 12 Pillars collectively known as the Twelve Months of the Year. Rubble to base of curving quadrant walls which form the semi-circular enclosure. Ashlar coping, gatepiers and piers, ironwork railings 6 terms, 2 metres high to either side of central Gatepiers. Each term has a moulded base and develops into the bust of a woman depicting a month of the year: the month is carved in letters below each bosom which is decorated with foliage sprays.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II*

sundial

Feature created: 1890

Creator: Francis Inigo Thomas (born 25/12/1865 died 1950)

Steps, Walls, Ornamental Vases and Sundial forming Junction between Rose Garden and North Lawn at Barrow Court: A series of stone steps up either side of a rusticated archway over a semi-circular pond. A viewing platform of stone flags placed centrally on the north boundary axis path of the Rose Garden. The archway has a lion's head spout whose water course links with the Lily Pond. Wrought iron railings on the north side with urn finials and wrought iron panels of Tijou derivation; 2 ornamental Vases are set at each corner as the steps ascend. The sundial is placed centrally on the platform; balauster shaped shaft with acanthus carving and a copper plaque with missing shadow bar.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II*

kitchen garden

The large and well-ornamented kitchen garden complements the formal garden and shrubbery. It has lost some of its original cohesion by being sub-divided to form separate private gardens. Much of the basic layout can nonetheless still be seen. Many of the trained fruit trees also survive. Like the formal garden, the kitchen garden has excellent views over the surrounding parkland.

arbour

statue

stable block

Feature created: 1891

Former stable range, now housing. Main entrance range with adjoining rear ranges forming U shaped plan. Water pump circa 1891. Ashlar and cast iron. Quatrefoil base with 2 steps to each niche in between foil projections. Square rising to octagonal pump shaft with pyramid cap. Cast iron pump handle and water spout.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II

building

Feature created: 1300 to 1399

Tithe Barn: Former Tithe Barn, now house. Large squared and irregular coursed rubbled with flushed rusticated dressed stone quoins, stone copings and pantile roof.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II*

pond

Feature created: 1890

Creator: Francis Inigo Thomas (born 25/12/1865 died 1950)

Lily Pond and 2 Ornamental Pedestals with Urns each 20 metres either side of Pond in Rose Garden at Barrow Court: Rubble stone to pond walls below water level, ashlar coping. Ashlar pedestals and Urns. Ironwork railings enclosing pond. It is enclosed by tall yew hedges but on axis with the 2 Pedestals which are central to 2 symmetrical parterres of rose beds.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II*