History

The Otterhead Estate was developed in Victorian times from 1817 and by the 1890’s it included over 1700 acres of land within the Somerset parishes of Churchstanton and Otterford (though in the 1890’s Churchstanton was in Devon).

Otterhead House

The Estate was developed on what was originally Week and Martin’s Farms, 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.

Otterhead House 1919

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 of 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 1880’s 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 7 lakes of various sizes, ponds and 2 leats. The family also bought some additional farmland. Otterhead House itself and the surrounding land was let to a succession of tenants and the last one was Sir William Goschen and his 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.

Coach House (still exists)

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 specimen ornamental species were sold for timber in the 1940’s and by the mid 1970’s only 2 of the Otterhead original lakes remained. The only remaining buildings are the coach house, 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 2021