Historic parks and gardens are highly significant heritage assets and an extremely important cultural heritage legacy dating back to mediaeval monastic gardens and the deer hunting parks and forests established by the Anglo Saxons and Normans. However the historic parks and gardens that were developed for leisure and visual delight have their origins within the Renaissance period from the time of Henry VIII in response to the sophisticated parks and gardens found on mainland Europe at this time. This tradition was to develop significantly in the following years and perhaps the most important and significant legacy dates from the 18th and 19th centuries under the influence of the Picturesque and Romantic cultural movements. Parks and gardens from these periods represent the majority of surviving historic parks and gardens in this country and indeed within the Bath and North East Somerset area.
Historic parks and gardens are important elements within the nation’s historic environment and cultural heritage and represent the tastes, intellectual concerns, sensibilities and sometimes moral outlook of the period in which they were created. For instance the creation of public parks from approximately the middle part of the 19th century was in response to society’s concerns regarding physical and moral health and the pathological problems arising from urban expansion.
Historic parks and gardens are an outstanding resource that offer visitors and scholars alike a rewarding intellectual and sensual experience and a place to enjoy leisure activities. They can include interesting buildings and landscape features which were often intentional and form part of the landscape composition and design such as the Palladian Bridge at Prior Park in Bath and temples and grottos, examples of which can be found in the public parks and gardens in Bath.
Bath and North East Somerset is proud to possess many historic parks and gardens in private and public ownership. The Council is responsible for the maintenance of a number including the Botanical Garden in Victoria Park, Sydney Gardens and Henrietta Gardens in Bath. Some private parks and gardens, such as those in the ownership of the National Trust, are open to members of the public either by membership subscription or paid entry, however many are in private ownership and there may be limited or no access opportunities other than views from public rights of way such as footpaths and bridleways.
Historic parks and gardens are normally recognised in two ways: either locally by inclusion on the Council’s Historic Environment Record (HER), of which there are 86 entries, or the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England, established in 1983 under the 1983 National Heritage Act, which is maintained by Historic England, of which there are 16 entries in Bath and North East Somerset. It is worth noting that some outstanding cemeteries are included on both the National Register and the HER. Inclusion on either local or national registers offers a degree of protection and is a material consideration in the planning process and when considering planning applications for development which would affect or impact on a registered park or garden. Historic parks and gardens on the National Register are given grades in the same way as listed buildings: grades II, II* and I and inclusion is in recognition of their national and, in some cases, international significance as cultural heritage assets.
Some of the most notable historic gardens in Bath and North East Somerset include: Prior Park and Iford Manor (of which a portion is within B&NES) are both Grade I and Abbey Cemetery, Newton Park Estate, St Catherine’s Court, Kelston Park and Brislington House Gardens are Grade II* and Crowe Hall, Widcombe Manor, Parade Gardens, Royal Victoria Park and Sydney Gardens are Grade II. A full list of registered parks and gardens included on the National Register and undesignated parks and gardens included on the Council’s Historic Environment Record is provided to the right, in the Documents section. Alternatively further information can be found at the web links provided below.
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