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Earnshill House


Earnshill is a Country house in emparked grounds, built in 1725 by John Strachan for Henry Combe, a prominent Bristol merchant.


The present condition of park satisfactory - the original area still (mainly) grassed … trees though all in good condition; hedgerow planting gone (Dutch elm) renewal of various plantations continuing; little planting of specimen trees; The Grove being replanted but badly. General condition poor.

Mature specimen trees to south and west of walled garden poor - turn of century planting. Condition of walled garden generally poor - work done to keep walls upright but substantial works needed within 10 year span.. Christmas trees inside not helped. Owners immensely caring, knowledgeable but not able to set park into historical context. Future assured in immediate time/long term more hazardous.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

Somerset Gardens Trust Survey 1992:

Walled Garden

Walls listed but not in good condition; remains of slate overhang to protect fruit also a few old lead labels; underground cisterns with access for drawing water still exist. The subsequently demolished greenhouse dating from 1731 was heated with two lean to glass houses on either side; heated at that time it was subsequently altered (but extent of alterations difficult to establish) - the owner's grandfather was a keen gardener and much was done from 1880 to WW1 - some park plantings date from that time.

Melon ground still exists, now planted with herbaceous borders and some new glass; also remains of cold frames, heated with hot pipes; an orchid house was known to exist though two sites are possible. Some column bases removed from The Grove. In the centre of the walled garden lies a well stone surround pond - source of water maybe from house roof?

Originally the water supply from the house came from the river below Home Farm; pumped to tanks to east of house just outside wing; then tanks hidden by trees; from there gravity fed to walled garden cisterns and pumped into roof void of main house . This continued to be the case until WW2.

Along south side walled garden long walk known as Rose Walk because walls planted with roses (again 1880's) but also known as archery ground. 200 yards at extreme east end a topiary garden (same date) still clipped but shapes no longer distinct. 1970 West Country - Historic Houses and their Families Eric R Delderfield mentions 'numerous animals and birds including seal, tortoise, peacock, quirrel'. Adjacent to the topiary area, lies a small lawn, with a very fine Cedar. However, maps show this area taken in hand around the turn of the century.

Entrances and Approaches

This name is given on the earliest maps; the path system is almost exactly as laid out when The Grove was planted. Very few changes appear to have taken place. Lines of yew indicate the remains of hedges?, plenty of overgrown box; some huge bamboo clumps indicate 1880's planting. There are some curious heaps of brick and dressed stone, I suspect much cannibalised; a drainage map of 1883 in the house shows a circle on the extreme northern boundary - allied to column bases? No other maps pick this detail up and as drainage maps on balance don't give accurate details for anything other than drainage.

Small rebuilt rustic hut (recently) is known as Witches' Hut.... on a map of 1880's it is possible to postulate two seats/alcoves appearing opposite.... walk known as Ladies Walk... and a servants' walk which reaches a footpath terminating at the back of the public house (footpath no longer in existence - vanished by early 1900's).

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

South Front

Wings to either side of central block planted with

Magnolia grandiflora: planting believed to be much older than 1900's originally just in spandrels of blind arches on wings but infilled by owners' grandfather at turn of century. Views across croquet lawn, some fine oaks (if not original certainly only second planting) and small rustic hut dating from 1937-39 and built to keep owner's pram in! Trees hiding water tanks felled but stumps remain.

North Lawn

Steps from North front lead down onto mounded area (apparently cellars underneath and then to lawn of semi-circular shape formerly brick haha but now rebuilt in Breeze blocks (bricks used throughout came from Bridgwater) terminating path from steps curious architectural feature in stone; initials/date 1856 originate from Cholmondley family and came from Wem in Shropshire (Edstiston) this feature erected in 1957 and believed originally to come from Payne Townsend family. Lawn planted with pear trees (kept low) in 1850's.

Below topiary garden to north of Cedar lies an area now planted with trees; formerly lawn it contains a fine weeping ash with a contraption based on something older which was covered by canvas in the summer : the drainage ditch adjacent has been enlarged and deepened (for waterlilies) and known as South Pond (more like canal) this area outside original 18C layout.

Additional research

Brick, Ham stone dressings, hipped slate roofs, mostly Turnerised, brick stacks. Palladian style, centre enriched, with plain flanking pavilions. Two storeys and attics, centre with basement, 2:1:3:1:2 bays, sash windows with glazing bars removed, centre 3 project under triangular pediment, outer bays set back, cornices; central door opening piano Nobile reached by 2 incurved flights of steps, paired glazed doors; doorcase. Below these staircases a further door opening with a semi-circular arch head.

Large flanking wings, sash windows, project to enclose forecourt area; at rear of these stables and service buildings. Interior of the house not seen but believed good with fine contemporary features. (Country Life, October 13 and 20, 1960).

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


R T Combe (1992)


Somerset Gardens Trust Survey 1992:

18th Century

The house was built on a new site in 1731; the layout has remained substantially unchanged since then. To the east of the house on a slope lies a walled garden of approximately three acres; behind it to the north lies what is still known as The Grove; most of the paths laid out originally remain and are kept mown; many of the original plantings have died or been felled (huge stumps remain) and some insensitive new planting has taken place.

Valuation of 1751 approx. mentions 'the gardens are enclosed with very high brick walls stocked with all sorts of the best wall fruit' and 'there are very pleasant Groves, planted round the house and garden, for ornament and pleasure, of now 20 years growth and very flourishing'.

19th Century

At the south front lies a croquet lawn especially drained and levelled between 1870 and 1900. It was used as the basis for the first tennis court (lawn tennis invented in 1888 by a cousin of the owner and was known to have been played there while being refined prior to the first game in Wales).

NOTE: WENTWORTH, George patented the game of lawn tennis in 1874, first cousin of Combe family.

Historical Use


18th Century

Features & Designations





    • Palladian Bridge
    • River, Clump
    • Drive, Ditch, Camellia House
    • Topiary, Steps, Gate Piers, Wall, Greenhouse, Garden Seat, Wilderness, Yew Hedges
    • Orchid House
    Key Information




    18th Century



    Civil Parish

    Hambridge and




    • Recorder: Mrs E J Wrightson for Somerset Gardens Trust March to June 1992