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ISLE OF WIGHT GARDENS TRUST

To mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83) this page brings together 18th and 19th century illustrations and descriptions of the only Isle of Wight parkland directly associated with the famous designer.


 

Appuldurcombe Park

some historic views and descriptions

1780-81   pleasantly situated

William Watts, Seats of the Nobility and Gentry, 1780


The Seat of the Right Honourable Sir RICHARD WORSLEY, Baronet


The house is pleasantly situated in the Park, about seven Miles South of the Town of Newport : It has four regular Fronts of the Corinthian Order, built of Freestone : The Pilasters, Cornices, and other ornamental Parts, of Portland. The principal Entrance is through a Hall of fifty-six Feet by twenty-four, divided by Scaliogli Columns of the Ionic Order in Imitation of Porphyry : This and the other Apartments on the Ground Floor are enriched with many valuable Portraits and other good Paintings.


Sir Richard Worsley, History of the Isle of Wight, 1781


Apppuldurcombe park


…is the chief seat of the Worsley family : the old priory house, was situated a small distance from the present mansion. It underwent a thorough repair in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and was taken down by Sir Robert Worsley, in the beginning of the present century.


The entrance into the park, which is well stocked with deer, is through an elegant gateway of the Ionic order. The soil is very rich, and affords excellent pasturage : beeches of uncommon magnitude, interspersed with venerable oaks for the back-ground above the house ; the different eminences command most extensive and grand prospects. On the east is seen St Helen’s road, Spithead, and Portsmouth ; on the west, the Cliffs at Freshwater, the Dorsetshire coast, and the Isle of Portland ; on the north, is a view of the New Forest and the channel, by which the island is separated from the other part of the country ; and on the south, is the British Channel. On the summit of the park is an obelisk of Cornish granite, near seventy feet in height, erected to the memory of Sir Robert Worsley ; and on a rocky cliff, about a mile from the park, is the ruin of an ancient castle, which serves as a point of view from the house.


   






Sir Richard Worsley

(1751-1805),

7th baronet, politician

and antiquarian




Sir Richard inherited both Appuldurcombe and his title in 1768.


After completing his education with two tours of Europe he returned to the Isle of Wight in 1772 to complete the house, remodelling the interior, and lay out a park at Appuldurcombe.


New features included the 1774 Obelisk in memory of his relative Sir Robert Worsley, a walled kitchen garden and an eye-catcher folly known as Cook’s Castle.


He obtained advice on the landscaping from Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who visited Appuldurcombe in 1779 and recorded in his account book that he made a ‘Plan for the alteration of the place’. Works included extending the park boundaries, a serpentine approach, and planting which exploited the dramatic topography of the downland setting.


Sir Richard also completed, and in 1781 published, a ‘History of the Isle of Wight’ which was a project begun by his grandfather, Sir James Worsley of Pylewell, and continued by his father, Sir Thomas Worsley. The book included a Peter Mazell engraving of Appuldurcombe taken from a view by artist Anthony Devis which was also used by other engravers.     


Anthony Devis

(1729-1816) landscape artist


Born in Preston into a family of artists, Anthony Devis is sometimes confused with his relatives. His older half-brother, Arthur Devis (1711-87) specialised in ‘conversation piece’ portraits and Arthur’s two sons, Thomas Anthony and Arthur William, were also artists.


Anthony Devis is best known for delicate-toned pen and ink landscapes tinted with watercolour. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1772 and 1781 when he was living in London. In 1880 he purchased Albury House, near Guildford where, unmarried, he spent his later years.


He visited ‘Sir Rich. Worsley’s Appuldercomb’ in June 1776. Three other landscapes in Worsley’s 1781 ‘History’, engraved by Thomas Vivares, were also from works by Devis: Carisbrooke Castle, the Village of St Lawrence and the Needles. His original view of Appuldurcombe has not been traced, but two paintings of the Needles can be viewed here and here.  




1781 Devis / Mazell

1781

1780 Devis / Watts

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The house.


is pleasantly situated about seven miles south of the town of Newport ; it has four regular fronts of the Corinthian order, built of free-stone ; the pilasters, cornices, balustrades and other ornamental parts, are of Portland stone : the roof is covered with Westmoreland slates. The grand entrance in the east front is through a hall fifty-four feet in length, by twenty-four in breadth, adorned with eight beautiful columns of the Ionic order, resembling Porphyry. On this floor are several handsome apartments, containing many valuable portraits, and other good paintings ; the offices are very commodious ; on the first and Attic stories are upwards of twenty bed chambers, with dressing rooms. The present house, was begun by Sir Robert Worsley, in the year one thousand seven hundred and ten, but left in a very unfinished state ; it has since been completed by Sir Richard Worsley, who has made considerable additions, and much improved upon the original design.

   


1793   a deficiency of wood

Henry Penruddocke Wyndham, A Picture of the Isle of Wight Delineated Upon the Spot in the Year 1793


We are now arrived at the park-gate of Appuldurcombe, which we entered through a well proportioned arch of Portland stone. The park is of great extent, but though there are some large groves of timber near the house, yet the naked parts are so prevalent, that we could not but regret the deficiency of wood. The house… …is situated at some distance from the road, within the park, and being built from the quarries of Portland, and unincumbered with adjoining offices, offers a magnificent object to the high road and to the hills above it, particularly, when the rays of the sun are reflected from its beautiful stone.


The architecture of the mansion cannot be commended, though its singularity and magnitude will, perhaps, appear pleasing to those, who have not the taste to prefer the chaste simplicity of the ancient architects, the style of whom is now adopted by, and contributes to the chief merit of our present builders…


We left the park of Appludurcombe at the garden gate, and followed a good level road, surrounded by large fertile farms, till we came to a spot, called Princelet Shoot. On our way hither, the artificial ruins, of a Gothic castle, raised themselves from the high brink of a woody precipice: they were principally erected as an object from Appuldurcombe house, but they also serve for a distinguished mark, from all the low lands, between the north and the south downs. Sir Richard Worsley has given the name of Cook’s Castle to the building: there is no direct road to it, and those, who may be desirous of inspecting the ruins, will be obliged to trespass, through pathless corn-fields, before their wishes can be gratified. However, neither the plan of this object, nor the designs upon which it was constructed, deserve such excertions ; for the parts of it are as regular as the front of a house, and the ruined wings correspond so precisely, that the builder was, probably, apprehensive lest the artifice might be forgotten, and his curious work be mistaken for the operation of Time.

 



  






1794 Devis / Fittler

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Henry Penruddocke Wyndham

(1736-1819) topographer and author


Wyndham was born in Salisbury, educated at Eton and Wadham College Oxford and was a friend of the artist  J M W Turner.


His book, ‘A Picture of the Isle of Wight’ published in 1794, is dedicated to his patron the Marchioness of Clanricarde whom he accompanied on tours of the Island.


On an earlier tour of Europe he found much to criticise, finding Versailles ‘quite disgusting’ and the cathedral of Siena ‘rather gawdy’, but enjoyed seeing the colourful and eccentric politician John Wilkes in Dijon.


Wilkes, who lived on the Isle of Wight at his ‘Villakin’ in Sandown (described quite kindly in Wyndam’s book), from 1788 to 1797 was a friend of Sir Richard Worsley. Whether Wyndam and Sir Richard were acquainted has not been established.  

1798    uniformly grand

William Gilpin, Observations on the Western Parts of England..  ..to which are added a few remarks on the Picturesque Beauties of the Isle of Wight 1798


From Steephill we visited a scene of a very different kind, Sir Richard Worsley’s seat at Appuldurcomb. Here every thing was uniformly grand. The house is magnificent and it is magnificently furnished…


The grounds too, which were more the objects of our curiosity, are laid out in a style of greatness equal to the mansion. A woody scene rising behind, is a beautiful back-ground to the house, as well as an excellent shelter from the north. In front is spread a magnificent lawn, or rather a park (for it was furnished with deer,) well varied, and not ill-planted, stretching far and wide. Its boundary, in one part, is confined, at the distance of about two miles, by a hill running out like a promontory; the whole continuous horizontal ridge might hurt the eye, if it were not crowned with a castle. This object seems well executed, and is certainly well placed. Views of the sea, and various parts of the island, are judiciously opened from all the higher grounds about the house.



1790 - 1810 Nixon

1795 Turner

J M W Turner

(1775-1851) artist


In 1795 the twenty year old Joseph Mallord William Turner visited the Isle of Wight to produce a number of views commissioned by engraver John Landseer.


One of these was a view of Appuldurcombe. For some unknown reason Landseer abandoned his proposed publication ‘Views of the Isle of Wight’ and it seems that no watercolour or engraving of was ever produced from Turner’s Appuldurcombe sketch.


Turner’s ‘Isle of Wight Sketchbook’ is now held by Tate London and can be viewed by clicking here to open the Tate website in a new window.

John Colley Nixon

(c1755-1818) merchant and amateur artist


Nixon was both a wealthy merchant and notable amateur topographical and satirical artist, who spent much of his life in London and later years on the Island where he died at Ryde. He was a frequent honorary exhibitor at the Royal Academy between 1781 and 1815.


Carisbrooke Castle Museum hold a collection of his Isle of Wight watercolours and sketches which can be viewed by clicking here to open the Museum website in a new window.

William Gilpin

(1724-1804)

clergyman and author


Gilpin travelled to various parts of the country in search of picturesque natural scenery, publishing his findings.


He defined ‘picturesque’ as ‘that kind of beauty which would look well in a picture’ noting that ‘neither grounds laid out by art, nor improved by agriculture, are of this kind’. He also advised: ‘instead of making the whole smooth, make it rough; and you make it also picturesque’.


He was rather disappointed by the Isle of Wight and it is doubtful that his assessment of Appuldurcombe as uniformly grand was meant as entirely complimentary.  

 

1799-1801   melancholy magnificence

Sir Henry Charles Englefield, A Description of the Principal Picturesque Beauties.. ..of the Isle of Wight 1816


The house has been entirely rebuilt of stone, within the last century ; but was at a very great expense, enlarged and decorated by the late baronet.

The park was laid out by Brown, and of course the house stands like a mushroom on the open lawn, without any accompaniment or comfort in sight. The woods, probably from being thinned at that time, are in many parts eaten up with canker and moss, so as to have, even in the midst of summer, a dead and wintry appearance. An air of melancholy magnificence, pervades the whole. It is, however, well worth a visit, on account of the collection of marbles placed there by Sir Richard Worsley, the late owner.





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1808 Cooke

William Bernard Cooke

(1778-1855) engraver, artist and author


W B Cooke was the first prominent member of a family of engravers, artists and publishers and he had business dealings with both J M W Turner and John Constable.


He was author, artist and engraver of ‘A New Picture of the Isle of Wight’ , published in 1808. The book, with many fine engravings, ran to several editions.



  

 

Sir Henry Charles Englefield

(c1752-1822) seventh baronet,  antiquary, scientist and author


Englefield never married and devoted his life to study with his scholarship leading to election to most of the learned societies in London.


His book on the Isle of Wight was his chief topographical work and although published in 1816, it is based on observations made on the Island in between 1799 and 1801. William Bernard Cooke and his brother George were chosen as engravers for the book’s illustrations (which did not include Appuldurcombe) due to their truth to the original drawings and absence of invention.

1831   ornamented with shrubs

John Albin, A Companion to the Isle of Wight 12th edition 1831


On this route the principal object is Appuldurcombe house and park, the residence of the late Sir Richard Worsley, but now of Lord Yarborough, who married Miss Simpson, niece and heiress of Sir Richard. From Godshill, the entrance into the park is by way of a gate-way of the Ionic order, well executed.

This mansion, which is large and beautiful, is built of freestone, having four regular fronts of the Corinthian order : the principal one is adorned with two wings, and has a lawn before it. A stone colonnade has been added to the southern front, and the ground before it recently ornamented with shrubs, a fountain etc.




1834   magnificent foliage and little parterres

Thomas Barber, Picturesque illustrations of the Isle of Wight 1834


The noble mansion and domain styled APPULDURCOMBE.. ..are now the property of the Right Hon. Lord Yarborough. The visitor of the Island may reckon his time not wholly misspent, if he has only seen Appuldurcombe… The spacious park is approached, from Godshill, by a hansome Ionic gateway : having passed which, the noble swells and magnificent foliage of the grounds, arrest attention before it is fixed on the mansion itself…  …The grand entrance is in the east front. In rear rises one of the lofty downs, from which the park is partly formed ; its summit crowned by an obelisk of Cornish granite.. ..By these downs the view is encircled on two sides ; but the magnitude of their forms, and the size of the trees dispersed through an area so extensive, render that circumstance an addition rather than otherwise, to the general effect.. ..the irregular-shaped little parterres in the lawn in front.. ..are appropriate neither to the grand character of the house, nor to the large features of the surrounding scenery.

 

c 1825 Brannon

1825 Brannon

1826 Ackermann

1830 Bonner

1834 Barber

1834 Brannon

1837 Calvert / Roberts

1839 Brannon

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1860   well deserves a visit

Edmund Venables, A Guide to the Isle of Wight 1860


The estate passed by marriage from the Worsleys, at the death of Sir Richard, the last of the name, to the Yarborough family, and was sold by the present earl. The present owner of the mansion and park is Wynn Williams, Esq.


The Park

well deserves a visit ; it is extensive, and the ground is very much diversified, and there are noble views over wide glades. It was laid out by “Capability Brown,” and “possesses in an eminent degree the defects common to most of the works of that once celebrated artist.”  The woods, which are well arranged, though too much thinned of late, clothe the sides of the rising hills, and shelter the mansion. There are some stately oaks, elms, and beeches, covered with a profusion of lichens nourished by the moist south-west winds.


The Worsley Obelisk.

On the summit of the down behind the house, immediately above a bold mural cliff of firestone known as Gatcliff, stands an obelisk of Cornish granite, erected in 1774 by Sir Richard Worsley in memory of his kinsman Sir Robert. It was originally 70 feet high, but was struck by lightening in 1831, and lost several feet of its elevation. The displaced stones lie scattered about the base. The view from this point is very beautiful, though hardly equal to that already mentioned above Span Farm.


The Mansion

The present house is a square Corinthian building of Portland stone with low projecting wings, heavy, but with a certain amount of stateliness…

 


1861   a splendid park…a monster hotel… bankruptcy

Illustrated Times 24 August 1861


Appuldurcombe House.. ..stands in a splendid park at the foot of a Lofty, conical down, and in the midst of wide stretches of meadow and arable land, broken up here and there by picturesque clumps of trees, a running stream, a cluster of modest cottages, and an ancient spire.. ..It once possessed an admirable collection of pictures and sculptures, chiefly formed by Sir Richard Worsley.. ..In 1855 the collection was sold and the house dismantled by the present Earl, who, however, reserved for his own admirable gallery some of the finest paintings. The house and park then passed into the hands of Mr Wynne Williams, and was afterwards purchased by a joint stock company, who converted it into a monster hotel with what success may be gathered from the fact that the company made its appearance in the Bankruptcy Court during the present week, when the solicitor announced that all its capital was lost. And that its effects were about to be dispersed by the hammer of the auctioneer.



 


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1861 J J Hardwick

1860 Brannon

c1855 Dean & Son

John Albin  Fl. 1792-1831

map maker, topographer and author


Ablin’s ‘Companion’ was first published in 1799 and proved very popular reaching a 12th revised edition in 1831. In the preface Albin noted that an Island residency of nearly fifty years qualified him ‘to accomplish, with accuracy and fidelity, that which is of the most especial importance to the visitor – an efficient guide through all parts..’


In 1792 John Albin was recorded as a printer and druggist of Pyke Street, Newport. He was also a landlord, possibly acted as an estate agent and by 1831 was living at Fairlee Cottage, Newport

 

George Brannon

(1784-1860) artist, engraver and publisher


Brannon was a prolific self-taught artist-engraver. Born in Ireland, he moved to the Island from London at the age of 25 and published the first edition of Vectis Scenery, his best-known book, in 1821.


His views of Appuldurcombe have a certain similarity with the same aspect of the house in each. The detail in his c.1825 pencil drawing make it particularly interesting. No engraving of this complete composition has been identified. The last of his Appuldurcombe engravings dates from 1860, the same year that he died at Wootton, Isle of Wight.


  


 



Endnote    school…monastery…war damage…2016 celebrations

Following the hotel bankruptcy Appuldurcombe was used as a boarding school and then a Benedictine monastery before, apart from wartime use, remaining unoccupied after 1909. The house was damaged by a landmine in 1943 and is now a conserved ruin under the guardianship of English Heritage. The site is grade II on the national Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. The recently re-written Register description includes detailed information on the history and layout and can be accessed here.   


In 2016 IWGT celebrated the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and his involvement with Appuldurcombe with guided walks and a Festival with specialist speakers - further information and links to their presentations can be found on the Project Page of this website.     

Edmund Venables

(1819-1895) clergyman and antiquary


Venables was born in London where his father was lord mayor in 1826. From 1853 to 1855 Edmund was curate at Bonchurch, Isle of Wight and continued to live there for some years tutoring pupils. He subsequently moved to Lincoln where he later died.  


Largely based on his 1860 ‘A Guide to the Isle of Wight’, in 1867 he published ‘A Guide to the Undercliff of the Isle of Wight’. Other works included a life of John Bunyan in 1888.

 



The Isle of Wight Gardens Trust wishes to thank all those who have contributed to this webpage and in particular Carisbrooke Castle Museum, Lee Hawkes, Ian Murdock and Mark Saunders.


Helen Thomas, editor@iowgardenstrust.co.uk


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