Built / Designed For: Thomas Strangeways Horner
House & Family History: In 1724 Thomas Strangeways Horner (died 1741) built Park House (today Mells Park) in the recently enclosed Mells Park. Thomas's daughter, Elizabeth, inspired Thomas Hardy's short story, "The First Countess of Wessex," which appeared in his book "A Group of Noble Dames." In the story the Horners appear as the Dornell family and Mells Park is Falls Park. The House was altered for Thomas Horner in 1763 by Daniel Hague, who added East and West Wings and canted bays, with much of the stone coming from the demolition of the North Wing of Mells Manor House. A new wing was added to the House circa 1794. Colonel Thomas Strangeways Horner (died 1840) employed James Spiller to design additions to Mells Park; however, after a disagreement between client and architect, Spiller gave up the commission and was replaced by John Soane, who completed the work to Horner's designs in 1824. In 1917 the House burned and was rebuilt 1922-25 on a more modest scale by Edwin Lutyens for Reginald McKenna, chairman of Midland Bank. Today's ashlar house is two stories and seven by four bays, with giant Doric pilasters and a hipped roof. Mells Park was sold to the Trotter family in 1939 and became the property of Amey Roadstone Corporation in 1977. In 2001 the House returned to private ownership.
Comments: In 1900 Mells Park was described by Raymond Asquith as "a typically comfortable English country house in an Elizabethan park full of magnificent trees."
Garden & Outbuildings: The principal entrance to the Park is guarded by an early 19th century one-story Gate Lodge. The Grade II-listed Duckery of 1775 is extant, as is the stone cottage orné (built on the site of Wraggs Mill and formerly linked to the Park by a Chinese bridge). Tor Rock is a natural outcrop that was made into a feature of the northern gardens in 1787 by the addition of a Gothick archway built onto it, with steps leading down to an artificial cave. Also in the Park are the Grade II-listed Gothick-style Lilybatch Lodge of 1784 and the Finger Lodge, also in the Gothick style (designed by George Underwood in 1824). There are also the remains of the 1750s Keeper's Lodge. William Gilpin designed a major enlargement of the pleasure grounds between 1825 and 1832. The Stables and Coach House (both 1761 and probably designed by John Wood the Younger) replaced earlier stables erected north of the old house prior to 1741.
Architect: Nathaniel IresonDate: 1724
Architect: Edwin Landseer LutyensDate: 1922-25
Architect: William Sawrey GilpinDate: 1825-32
Architect: Gertrude JekyllDate: 1920s
Architect: John Wood, Jr.Date: 1761
Architect: Daniel HagueDate: 1763
Architect: John SoaneDate: 1807-24
Country Life: XCIII, 748, 1943.
Title: Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol, The
Author: Pevsner, Nikolaus
Year Published: 1958
Reference: pg. 226
Publisher: London: Penguine Books
Book Type: Hardback
Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
Author: Colvin, Howard
Year Published: 1995
Reference: pg. 910
Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
Book Type: Softback
House Listed: Grade II*
Park Listed: Grade II
Past Seat / Home of: Thomas Strangeways Horner, 18th century; Col. Thomas Horner, 18th century; Horner family here until 1927. Reginald McKenna, early 20th century. Trotter family, 1939-?.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home
Ownership Details: Available for pheasant drives and shoots