Erle Stoke Park, 1798

August 21, 2013 at 9:49 pm (books, estates, history, places, research) (, , , , )


“I was very sorry not to go to Stoke the first Year of my Marriage.”
Mamma Smith, 1798 diary

The Wiltshire Council’s online copy of The Beauties of Wiltshire, Vol. 2, by John Britton. 1801 (also available at Books.google) includes a fabulous description of the house at Stoke Park, as well as this etching which dates from the period of 1798!

stoke park

“The view accompanying this description, was taken in 1798 from the opposite side of the road, where this sandy broken bank makes a good and bold fore-ground.”

The book puts the estate “about seven miles south-west” of the town Devizes (Joshua Smith’s constituency). “The turnpike road from Devizes to Westbury, passes within a hundred yards of the front of the house; but being hollowed out of the sand to a considerable depth, it is not to be seen from the windows; nor is it in the least incommodious to the appearance or effect of the lawn.”

“The house, the pleasure-grounds, with extensive plantations, and an ornamental village, have all sprung into existence, and acquired beauty and utility, under the present proprietor {Joshua Smith}.” To stay in the gardens for a while, we are transported back in time (and place) in order to imagine that “The north front commands a view, not only of its own grounds and plantations, but also a beautiful expanse of country, in which the village of Seend forms a pleasing and conspicuous feature. …The sides and summit of this hill have been thickly planted with wood…”

“The park abounds with many fine large elm trees, and is enriched with a sheet of water. This rises under the ridge of Salisbury Plain… After forming seven different cascades in its progress, it is collected into a lake of considerable dimensions.”

Mrs Norman wrote about “Papa making water” (which, at first, I thought meant something totally different…) in a letter to Mamma Smith the following year (November 1799), as she passed on to Augusta news of everyone in the house:

Mama [Sarah Smith] is charming well & Walking
Emma [sister of Augusta; my Emma not born till 1801] painting sweetly
Papa: making Water
we all send love….

“In visiting the pleasure-ground, we are conducted over the above hollow-way by an arch that admits waggons, carts, &c. to pass under it  This spot of beautifully decorated ground, abounds with a choice collection of botanical plants, and is pleasingly diversified with a variety of indigenous and exotic trees and shrubs. It is situated in a secluded dingle, through the centre of which runs the murmuring stream.”

The writer moves to the “village of Stoke” – so we will stop here, and let him walk around the “humble cottages”. When he returns, we’ll move inside the manor house, to see where Maria, Eliza, Augusta and Emma once roamed.

 

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