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Prior Park (Prior Park Landscape Garden)

  • Built / Designed For: Ralph Allen

    House & Family History: When Prior Park was completed in 1740, it was the longest house in England. The east wing was finished by Richard Jones to different plans than John Wood's original designs. Alexander Pope was a good friend of Ralph Allen and a frequent visitor to Prior Park, where he would stay for months on end. In 1829 the house became a Catholic seminary and later a co-educational public (private) Catholic school, which it remains today. A fire in 1836 destroyed most of the interiors, which were rebuilt by H.E. Goodridge. In August of 1991 another fire ravaged the house, destroying much of the interior. At a cost of £3.5 million, Prior Park was restored by Ferguson Mann Architects between 1991 and 1995. Lynnewood Hall, an early 20th century Gilded Age mansion just outside Philadelphia (see "Images" section), may have been modeled on Prior Park.

    Comments: Nikolaus Pevsner called Prior Park "the most ambitious and most complete recreation of Palladio's villas on English soil." The landscape garden at Prior Park, today owned by the National Trust, is one of the most important survivals of 18th century landscape art.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The poet Alexander Pope and Capability Brown together served as consultants for Ralph Allen during the creation of the landscape garden in the 18th century. The garden features three lakes, Mrs. Allen's Grotto, the Gothic Temple, the Grass Cabinet, and the famous Palladian Bridge. Probably designed by Richard Jones, Allen's clerk of works, the bridge is very likely a direct copy of the earlier one at Wilton House (there were only five such bridges in the world: Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg, Russia; Wilton House, Wiltshire; Stowe House, Buckinghamshire; and Hagley Hall in Worcestershire (ruinous by the late 19th century and rebuilt in 2014). The National Trust took over ownership of the garden and grounds in 1993, when they were in an advanced state of decay (the house remains in separate ownership). The garden is set in a sweeping valley with magnificent views of Bath.

    Chapel & Church: St. Paul's Church, built circa 1863 by J.J. Scholes, was called "the most impressive church interior of its date in the county" by Pevsner. The west pavilion of the house was demolished in 1844 to make way for the church.

  • Architect: Lancelot Brown

    Date: 1740s
    Designed: Together with Pope, consulted on design of gardens.

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    Architect: Alexander Pope

    Date: 1740s
    Designed: Together with Brown, consulted on design of gardens.

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    Architect: Ralph Allen

    Date: 1740s
    Designed: Advised on design of landscape garden for himself

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    Architect: Richard Jones

    Designed: Completed East Wing to different design from Wood's original

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    Architect: Henry Edmund Goodridge

    Date: Post 1829
    Designed: Remodeled wings

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    Architect: Henry Edmund Goodridge

    Date: Post 1836
    Designed: Rebuilt interior after 1836 fire

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    Architect: Joseph John Scoles

    Date: Circa 1863
    Designed: Chapel (West Wing was demolished to make way for Chapel)

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    Architect: John Wood, Sr.

    Date: 1735-48
    Designed: House

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  • John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. II, p. 224, 1855.

  • Title: Destruction of the Country House, The
    Author: Strong, Roy; Binney, Marcus; Harris, John
    Year Published: 1974
    Reference: pg. 14
    Publisher: London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.
    ISBN: 0500270052X
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Best Buildings of England, The
    Author: Pevsner, Nikolaus
    Year Published: 1986
    Reference: pg. 184
    Publisher: London: Viking
    ISBN: 0670812838
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade I

  • "Buildings That Shaped Britain" (2006 - TV documentary series by Simon Thurley, episode 5, "Birth Of The Metropolis"). "Secrets of the Stately Garden" (2007 - TV documentary on the garden's water cascade restoration). "Poldark" (2015 - TV series).
  • Past Seat / Home of: Ralph Allen, 18th century. Bishop Baines, 19th century.

    Current Ownership Type: School

    Primary Current Ownership Use: School

    Ownership Details: The house is occupied by Prior Park College and is not open to the public; the National Trust owns the gardens, which are open to the public.

  • House Open to Public: Grounds Only

    Phone: 01225-833-422

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No