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Switchback Tunnel at Downton Castle

A Grade II Listed Building in Burrington, County of Herefordshire

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Latitude: 52.3613 / 52°21'40"N

Longitude: -2.8238 / 2°49'25"W

OS Eastings: 343997

OS Northings: 274007

OS Grid: SO439740

Mapcode National: GBR BF.S9H5

Mapcode Global: VH76M.0XJ7

Entry Name: Switchback Tunnel at Downton Castle

Listing Date: 3 September 2008

Last Amended: 9 March 2010

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1392843

English Heritage Legacy ID: 504873

Location: Burrington, County of Herefordshire, SY8

County: County of Herefordshire

Civil Parish: Burrington

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Wigmore Abbey

Church of England Diocese: Hereford

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Switchback Tunnel at Downton Castle
(Formerly listed as: DOWNTON CASTLE TUNNEL)


A rustic style switch-back tunnel dating from the mid-1780s, built by Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824) as a feature in his Picturesque landscape at Downton Castle(qv) in order to offer the visitor an unexpected view of it. The tunnel is constructed in stone rubble with some stone dressings remaining, and spans a path on the steep southern cliff side of Downton Gorge. It has a V-shaped plan, with slightly irregular entrance arches, with integral steps at its south-west end leading up the cliff path.

HISTORY: Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824) was an art collector and writer, most famous for his influential role within the Picturesque Movement, and for his didactic poem The Landscape. The tunnel was introduced as a feature along one of a series of walks within the Picturesque landscape he created in the dramatic Downton Gorge (then known as Downton Vale), which carries the River Teme situated to the south-west of the Castle. The landscape included several other features, some now no longer, or only partly extant, including rustic bridges over the River Teme, and a Cold Bath (qv). The tunnel is designed to lead the visitor from one view of the landscape to another. These dramatic views are recorded on a series of paintings by Thomas Hearne, commissioned by Richard Payne Knight in the mid-1780s, when his landscape was near completion.

SOURCES: The entry for Downton Castle as included on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.
S Daniels and C Watkins, The Picturesque Landscape (1994), pp 49-60.
Richard Payne Knight, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-7)
Historic Ordnance Survey series.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The tunnel in Downton Gorge at Downton Castle is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* It is a good example of a late-C18 garden feature in the rustic Picturesque style.
* Its design, a switch-back tunnel with a V-shaped plan, guides the visitor up a steep cliff path, and offers unexpected views of Downton Gorge which are recorded in a series of paintings of the mid-1780s by Thomas Hearne.
* It has a strong historic association with Richard Payne Knight (1751-1824), most famous for his influential role within the Picturesque Movement.
* It forms an important feature within the registered grade II* landscape at Downton as created by Richard Payne Knight at Downton in the 1780s.
* It makes an important contribution to the understanding of the historic development of the designed landscape at Downton and to the understanding of the Picturesque landscape movement in general.

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