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The following material has been provided by Avon Gardens Trust:

Clevedon Court takes its name from the family of de Clevedon, one of the longest-serving lords of the estate. By 1700, the owner was the Earl of Bristol, who sold it to Sir Abraham Elton, a trading magnate in Bristol. The Eltons have been at the manor since 1709. They made a few alterations to the house soon after they acquired it, but otherwise left the structure substantially intact. They also created the terraced gardens, by 1721 at the latest.

In the 19th century, the Elton family became known for their several literary friendships, which included Thackeray, Coleridge, Landor and Tennyson. Later in the 19th century, Sir Edmund Elton, an experimental chemist and potter, created ‘Elton ware' at the site.

The central area of the house is still the part built around 1320 and in the following decades. This has been added to, and substantial alterations were necessitated by a fire of 1882, but the core of the building has been retained.

The garden area was at one time a defensible enclosure. A ruined corner tower is still extant. However, the garden was terraced in the early 18th century. There are three terraces, with one stone retaining wall and one of brick. One of the terraces is grassed, with a herbaceous border. There is an early 18th-century octagonal gazebo at one end, and a stone seat in an arched recess at the other.

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

At the time of the Domesday survey, Clievdeon was held by Ildebert from Matthew de Moretania. The family changed their name to 'de Clivedon' shortly after, and it was Sir John de Clevedon who built Clevedon Court, the manor house of Clevedon in about 1320. He is thought to have added to and incorporated the mid-13th century tower, which forms the eastern end of the Court, the ancient battlement of which still forms the eastern boundary of the garden.

After the de Clevedon line died out, the estate descended by marriage to Thomas Wake of Blissworth, Northamptonshire, who died in 1459. This family remained Lords of the Manor of Clevedon until 1630 [the survey date is given in references as 1629], when they sold it to John Digby, first Earl of Bristol. The survey carried out at the time of the sale refers to 'two gardens, an orchard, a fayre court besides 60 acres of wood and coppice'.

In 1709 the estate was purchased by a successful Bristol merchant, Abraham Elton, who was made a baronet in 1717. His son, Sir Abraham Elton II, repaired the house, and created the present terraced gardens in part out of the pre-existing, defensive earthworks. His work was recorded in an anonymous oil painting of 1721, which now hangs in the Court.

After his death his son, Abraham III, inherited, but had little interest in the estate and after his death in 1761 his brother Abraham IV took over and was responsible for a good deal of work in the 1760s. His son, the Reverend Sir Abraham Elton V, who inherited in 1790, took little interest in the estate, although he was responsible for the enclosing of Clevedon (or possibly Court) Hill in 1803. His second wife, Mary Stewart (d 1849), was a noted and successful topographical artist, whose Panoramic Views of Edinburgh were engraved by Hullmandel. She recorded the house and garden in a number of drawings and lithographs, and she also designed picturesque woodland walks on the Hill (guidebook 1968).

The sixth baronet, Sir Charles Abraham Elton, succeeded in 1842. He was a scholar, poet and journalist who knew many of the figures in the literary world. By the marriage of his sister he was uncle to Arthur Hallam, the subject of Tennyson's In Memoriam, who was buried in the Elton vault in St Andrew's church. Tennyson stayed at the Court in 1850, when he visited the tomb, and William Makepeace Thackeray was also a regular visitor. Elton was a friend of Charles Lamb and the description of the old-fashioned terraced garden in one of the Essays of Elia, 'Blakesmore', written in 1824, is thought to have derived from a conversation between the two of them.

In about 1857, the area immediately north of the house was laid out as an extensive parterre, which remained in place until removed a century later. In the late Victorian period, a bedding arrangement was laid out on the central terrace which elicited the scorn of Gertrude Jekyll in Wall and Water Gardens (1901). J D Sedding, who was married to a cousin of Sir Edmund Elton, was a frequent visitor and refers to the 'hanging gardens' of Clevedon Court in Garden Craft Old and New (1892).

The estate continued to descend in the Elton family, but when Sir Arthur, the tenth baronet, succeeded his father in 1951, the family asked the Treasury to accept the house in part payment of death duties, and arrangements were made for it to be taken over by the National Trust (guidebook 1968). The woodland gardens to the north were leased to Avon Wildlife Trust, now The Wildlife Trust, in the 1990s.
 

Features

garden wall

Buttressed retaining wall.

summerhouse

Feature created: 1720

Octagonal summerhouse.

bowling green

gazebo

Feature created: 1800 to 1850

Built in the Gothic style.

lawn

There is a level lawn supported by earth on the south side. This is probably one of the earliest surviving features at Clevedon Court.