The Otterhead Estate was developed in Victorian times from 1817 and by the 1890s it included over 1700 acres of land within the Somerset parishes of Churchstanton and Otterford (though in the 1890s Churchstanton was in Devon).
The Estate was developed on what was originally Week Farm and Martin’s Farm, owned by William and Mary Oliver of Kingston St Mary. It was their son-in-law, William Beadon, who developed and enlarged the Otterhead Estate by acquiring newly enclosed land on what is now the B3170 road and Otterhead Church Farm. William Beadon was a surgeon, inventor and a radical politician.
The Beadons originally lived at Gotton House, near Hestercombe, and it is thought that the designed landscape and the water features at Hestercombe were the inspiration for Otterhead.
The original Week Farmhouse was extended and was incorporated into Otterhead House, which was designed in an early English architectural style with a castellated portico and a bell turret. The house in its final form comprised 4 reception rooms, 11 bedrooms and servants’ accommodation. William Beadon died in 1864 and the estate was acquired by John Mellor of Culmhead. During the 1880s the two original lakes were enlarged and were named Otterford Middle Lakes, with additional lakes being reconstructed upstream and downstream.
In 1893, the Otterhead Estate was taken over by the Lewis Lloyd family of Radnorshire. By this time the site consisted of a garden with a chain of seven lakes of various sizes, plus ponds and watercourses. The family also bought some additional farmland. Otterhead House itself and the surrounding land was let to a succession of tenants. The last one was Sir William Goschen, whose lease ended in 1938. Taunton Corporation then acquired the property from the Lewis Lloyd family for use as a water catchment and it has been owned by successive water undertakings since then up to its present owners, Wessex Water.
Otterhead House was used for storage purposes during the Second World War but fell into disrepair along with the gardens, and the house was demolished between 1951 and 1952. Many of the Otterhead trees, including some rare ornamental species, were sold for timber in the 1940s. By the mid 1970s, only two of the Otterhead original lakes still existed. The only remaining building is the coach house, including the harness room and stables, now used by the Forest School. The higher parts of the valley are currently leased to the Forestry Commission and the lower parts were leased to the Somerset Wildlife Trust, but this lease was passed to the Otterhead Estate Trust in 2008. The Otterhead Estate Trust manage the site as a nature reserve whilst also conserving and, where possible, restoring the important historical features.
Learn more about the Lost Gardens of Otterhead
© Otterhead Estate Trust Ltd 2022