Compton Castle 8216

Yeovil, England, Somerset, South Somerset

Brief Description

The gardens are situated to the north, south and east of the Castle and are enclosed by the castellated curtain wall. The land east of the Castle is laid to lawn, with that to the south being a walled formal garden in Italianate style introduced in the early-20th century. At the heart of the landscaped garden is the grassed valley with the series of ornamental fish ponds. The mature woodland on the surrounding hills has been used to form a dramatic backdrop to the landscaped garden. The woods contain a number of informal walks and rides, probably laid out as part of the early-19th century layout, offering fine views of the valley below.


Compton Castle and its landscaped garden were constructed in around 1820-1825 by John Hubert Hunt (c1774-1830).

Detailed Description

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):

Summary of Garden

A landscaped garden in the Picturesque style laid out in circa 1820-5 by the first owner of Compton Castle, John Hubert Hunt (c1774-1830).


Compton Castle, a site covering circa 63ha, is situated in a rural area immediately to the south-east of the hamlet of Compton Pauncefoot. The landscaped garden is situated in a valley with a series of fish ponds which is enclosed by wooded hills some rising to over 100 meters in height. The north boundary of the site is defined by Hockley Lane and that to the south by Old Wood, just to the north of the parish boundary between Compton Pauncefoot and Charlton Morethorne. To the north- west the site is bounded by Old Road and to the east by the road along the former parish boundary between Compton Pauncefoot and Blackford (turnpiked in 1753).


The former main visitors' entrance to Compton Castle is situated at the far north-east corner of the site. It is marked by ornate gate piers and gate, flanked by Sherborne Lodge (both listed at Grade II). The entrance gives access to the west drive (now, 2013, tarmac). This leads southwards through the wooded Quarry Covert towards the north-side of the largest pond where it offers a fine, surprise view of the Castle, before it curves around in a south-westerly direction. At the east-front of the Castle a gate in a decorative sectioned curtain wall (listed at Grade II), forming a semi-circular shape, and embellished with six castellated turrets, gives access to a forecourt east of the Castle. From here the drive continues south-westwards, ending at Windsor Lodge (listed at Grade II), where an adjacent entrance allows access to the Castle from Old Road to the west (currently used as the main entrance). All the lodges and the curtain wall date from c1820-5 and are believed to have been designed by John Finden, the architect of the Castle.


Compton Castle (listed at Grade II*), was built in circa 1820-5 by John Hubert Hunt, and designed by the architect John Finden, with early-C20 alterations by C. Biddulph-Pinchard. The house stands on a promontory on the east shore of the large lake that lies at the heart of the designed landscape. The Gothick style house is built in Ham stone ashlar with a Welsh slate roof. It has an elaborate three-bay east garden front with castellated parapets, turrets and angled bay windows overlooking the landscape. To its north-east lies a stable block of the same date (listed at Grade II). Circa 200m north-east of the Castle stands a group of outbuildings, now much altered.


The gardens are situated to the north, south and east of the Castle and are enclosed by the castellated curtain wall (listed at Grade II, described above under the section Entrances and Approaches). The land east of the Castle is laid to lawn, with that to the south being a walled formal garden in Italianate style introduced in the early C20 (designer unknown, though the involvement of C. Biddulph-Pinchard is likely). It has a rectangular shaped sunken lawn with a central-cross shaped pond, surrounded by paved terraces decorated with contemporary stone seats and statuary, and bounded and punctuated by box hedges and topiary work. Steps from the sunken lawn lead to an early-C20 summerhouse by Biddulph-Pinchard (listed at Grade II), which was introduced as part of this garden, standing next to a former Apple Store (listed at Grade II), built in c1820-5. The much smaller formal garden north of the Castle, formerly known as the rose-bower garden, is less elaborate in its design. It has a sunken lawn with a central, circular stone fountain basin, decorated with carved shells. The lawn is surrounded by a ‘crazy' paved terrace and stone rubble pergolas, which were probably introduced in the mid-C20.


The landscaped gardens cover the majority of the registered area. At its heart lies the grassed valley with the series of ornamental fish ponds, probably fed by a spring situated at the summit of Old Wood hill, in the south end of the site. Adjacent to this spring, is the site of Wood Cottage. This was situated at the south end of another, tear-shaped pond, and overlooked the valley stretching out below it. The cottage survived up to the early C20 (it is marked on the 2nd edition OS map), and may formerly have been the (site of the) Hermitage described in the rental papers of 1831.

The grassed valley, especially around the upper lakes, is planted with ornamental trees and shrubs, mostly introduced in the later C20, by the previous and current owner. Some mature trees survive and are likely to be identifiable on the first edition Ordnance Survey map published in 1887, which plots a scattering of individual trees.

The mature woodland on the surrounding hills, shown on the Tithe map of 1839, but probably pre-existing the landscaped garden, has been used to form a dramatic backdrop to it. They contain a number of informal walks and rides, probably laid out as part of the early-C19 layout, offering fine views of the valley below. A couple of footpaths cross the grass valley, and lead from the west lodge (Windsor Lodge) in a southerly direction along the west shore of the ponds, which are adorned with stone rubble cascades (at least one of which survives), creating a series of small waterfalls. The substantial early-C19 stone built cascade (listed at Grade II) at the south end of the last pond, includes a grotto with internal tunnels, steps, and chambers (one containing a plunge pool), offering surprise glimpses of the gardens. It is covered in moss and planted with ferns and ivy. The first edition OS map published in 1887 suggests this structure contained an extensive planting scheme.

The largest, heart-shaped pond at the centre of the landscaped gardens contains a number of small islands, with the one just off the western shore now accessible by a bridge, adorned by lamp posts, all introduced in the c1980s. At the other side of the pond stands a small circular stone temple, believed to have been brought in from elsewhere in the late C20 (none of the historic OS maps show a building in this location or elsewhere within the site). At the north-west corner of the pond stands a small Boat House originating from the mid- to late-C19 with later alterations.

Circa 100m north-east of the Castle on the lawn west of the Boat House stands a stone monument in the shape of a small Gothic-style spire resting on four columns, believed to have been introduced from elsewhere at a later date.


North of the stable block is a rectangular-shaped, walled garden, built in the early C19, and by the late C19 in use as an orchard (see first edition OS map). Another walled garden, of which now (2013) only a fragment of walling survives, was situated in the northern part of the site which is labelled on the modern OS map as the Sherborne Pheasantries. It appears to have had three outer walls with the east side bounded by the small stream that continues to run through this part of the site. The north-west corner contained an inner walled garden with a simple laid out of straight paths dividing it into four quarters.

Reasons for Designation

Compton Castle, Compton Pauncefoot, Somerset, is included on the national Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Degree of survival: dating from 1820-5 enough of the layout survives to reflect the original design, including the main house and much of its structural planting.

* Influence: it is a good, well-documented, and representative example of an early-C19 rural designed landscape in the Picturesque style, associated with an important historic country estate within the region.

* Use of natural topography: as a landscape laid out in the Picturesque style, its design, positioning and use of the natural topography of the area adds considerably to its interest: the site's dramatic contour levels and water source offered the opportunity to successfully create dramatic views and a series of lakes with waterfalls and a large scale cascade situated in a valley enclosed by wooded hills.

* Group value: together with the main house it serves (listed at Grade II*), and other significant (listed) buildings and garden structures within the site, it forms a coherent and important group.

Selected Sources

Book Reference - Author: Colvin, H - Title: A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 - Date: 2008 - Page References: 375

Article Reference - Title: Advertisement to let - Date: 14 August 1831, issue 1228 - Journal Title: The Examiner (London, England)

Book Reference - Author: Phelps, W - Title: The History and Antiquities of Somersetshire Volume 1 - Date: 1836

Website Reference - Title: Victoria County History - Date: February 2013 - URL:

Map Reference - Title: Compton Pauncefoot Tithe Map - Date: 1839

Unpublished Title Reference - Author: English Heritage Assessment Team - Title: Report on Compton Castle - Date: 2013

Map Reference - Title: DD/BT/4/1/14 Map of Compton Pauncefoot - Date: 1800 - Source: Somerset Record Office

Map Reference - Title: DD/BT/5/6 Map of Compton Pauncefoot - Date: undated - Source: Somerset Record Office

Map Reference - Title: DD/BT/1/17 Map of Compton Pauncefoot - Date: 1856 - Source: Somerset Record Office

Map Reference - Title: OS 1st edition 1:2500 - Date: 1887 Other Reference - Description: Mid-C20 photographs of Compton Castle in English Heritage Archive

  • Country House (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:

Civil Parish

  • Compton

Detailed History

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):


Compton Castle and its landscaped garden were constructed in circa 1820-1825 by John Hubert Hunt (c1774-1830). Hunt's family appears to have had an estate in Compton Pauncefoot since at least the mid-C17, and Hunt inherited the estate from his father in 1807. Not much is known about John Hubert Hunt. He never married, and built the new house and landscaped gardens towards the end of his life. The Castle was designed by the London-based architect John Finden (c1782-1849), who was probably also responsible for the design of the lodges, and some of the other (garden) buildings. 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, in Picturesque style. It remains a possiblity, however, that another (as yet undocumented) designer was employed.

After Hunt's death in 1830, Compton Castle was let to a series of tenants, with a relatively frequent changeover. Throughout the tenancies the castle remained in the ownership of the Husey-Hunt family. An advertisement published in the Examiner on 14 August 1831, to let the house and over 2000 acres land, described the landscape as follows:

'its approach is very imposing, and gives promise of all that is shortly realised. It is embosomed amid its hanging woods, rising in majestic grandeur, and forming a panorama of woodland scenery. In the vale below are The Ornamental Waters with graceful swans and boats to vary both the scene and amusement. During the winter there are lots of wild fowl. Cascades and waterfalls are everywhere diversifying the scene, while rocks, which, in their outward form would indicate strong symptoms of antiquity, complete the delightful scene and render it so beautiful as really to be an Elysium. The plantations and shrubbery walks are of considerable extent, varied by the maze and wilderness, with the hermitage presiding over them'.

In 1836 the estate was described by William Phelps in his History of Somerset as consisting of 'a castellated mansion delightfully situated in a small amphitheatre of wood; with an enormous mass of artificial rock-work, erected at a great expense, which forms a striking object from the castle. [...] The approach to the castle from the turnpike road is by a drive through the plantation, and over the dam thrown across the valley, which keeps up the water of the lake. Here a good view of the castle presents itself. The grounds contain many striking features, and the whole may be designated as a picturesque and comfortable residence'. Phelps's description includes a small view of the south and west sides of the house, and the low castellated wall in the garden.

The landscaped garden and its features as described in the early C19, are shown on the 1839 Tithe Map of the Parish of Compton Pauncefoot, and subsequent historic Ordnance Survey maps indicate that the overall layout of the landscape has remained largely unchanged. During the 1850s, a member of the Husey-Hunt family, Bernard Husey Hunt, a solicitor in the firm of Hunt, Carey & Nicholson, lived at Compton Castle. After his death in 1894 he was succeeded by his brother the Rev James Senior (later Husey Hunt), who was Rector at Compton Pauncefoot. His son John Hubert Husey-Hunt inherited the estate in 1897. In 1911, Compton Castle and its landscaped garden were sold to William Peake Mason, later Lord Blackford, who commissioned the architect Charles Biddulph-Pinchard to make alterations to the house. After Lord Blackford's death in 1947, his wife continued to live at Compton Castle for some time, and during the 1950s she regularly opened the gardens to the public. She died in 1958. It is not know when the family sold the house, but the contents were dispersed in 1961.

Compton Castle remains in private ownership and is currently (2013) for sale.