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Palladian Bridge in Grounds of Prior Park

A Grade I Listed Building in Widcombe, Bath and North East Somerset

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Latitude: 51.3685 / 51°22'6"N

Longitude: -2.345 / 2°20'42"W

OS Eastings: 376076

OS Northings: 163327

OS Grid: ST760633

Mapcode National: GBR 0QQ.1YB

Mapcode Global: VH96M.9VMS

Plus Code: 9C3V9M93+CX

Entry Name: Palladian Bridge in Grounds of Prior Park

Listing Date: 12 June 1950

Last Amended: 15 October 2010

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1394463

English Heritage Legacy ID: 509863

Location: Widcombe and Lyncombe, Bath and North East Somerset, BA2

County: Bath and North East Somerset

Electoral Ward/Division: Widcombe

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Tagged with: Footbridge

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This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 16/12/2015


Palladian Bridge in grounds of Prior Park


Ornamental bridge crossing waterworks. 1755.

MATERIALS: Limestone ashlar, slate roof. Bridge with wide central segmental arch flanked by smaller arches, and further arch under approach steps each side. Sub-structure with V-joint rustication has broad impost bands returned through arches, and plain keystones, but scrolled to centre arch. Weir formed by ashlar slab wall across all arches, and south, upstream side of bridge has square buttressing to section below water level. Rising from bold capping band roofed section, carried through to pediments either end, and cross-gabled to pedimented tribunes over arches either end, with moulded architraves and square responds, unfluted Ionic half-columns on pedestals at height of balustrades. Entablature with pulvinated frieze carried across set back centre section over four Ionic columns and responds, centre opening being slightly wider than others. Each end full width set of slow going steps with ramped balustrades returned to wider bottom landings, with square piers carrying bold ball finials.

HISTORY: The Palladian bridge, based on Palladio’s famous design which had previously been used as the basis for bridges at Wilton (Wilts. 1736-7), and at Stowe (Bucks. 1738), forms the principal visual accent in the dramatic Prior Park landscape (Grade I on Historic England’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest). Built in 1755 by Richard Jones, the bridge is first evidenced on Thomas Robins’ 1758 view of Prior Park.

In 1726 Ralph Allen purchased part of an estate between Widcombe and Combe Down. He was by then a leading citizen in Bath, with interests in the postal service and in the Bath stone quarries on Combe Down. He extended his estate in 1728. Later that year he commissioned designs for a new house from John Wood the Elder (1704-54), who was already leading the renaissance of Bath as a fashionable spa town. This, Prior Park, went up between c.1733 and c.1750.

Between 1734 and c.1740, with advice from Alexander Pope (1688-1744) as well as Wood, Allen developed a formal landscape north of and below the house and a rococo wilderness to the north-west, with a triangular lawn north of the house descending to a formal pond and a boundary wall. The design featured a grotto, the serpentine river with a sham bridge and cascade, a statue of Moses, and the green 'cabinet' at the foot of the cascade with arti-natural winding paths around it. Wood's employment ended in 1748 before the house was complete, and Richard Jones, Allen's clerk of works at Prior Park, took over. In a second phase of works in the 1750s, the landscape was extended northwards and the Palladian bridge and a central cascade were introduced. Finally, a third phase can be identified after c.1760-4 when Allen employed Lancelot Brown (1716-83), who removed the central cascade to make the whole of the combe a single sweep and further naturalized the planting. After Allen’s death 1764 the designed landscape was relatively little altered until its core was acquired by the National Trust in 1993.

SOURCES: The Buildings of England: Foyle A and Pevsner N: Somerset North and Bristol: London: 2011-: 200-203; Colvin H: A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1660-1840: London: 1978-: 474; Clarke G: Prior Park - A Compleat Landscape: Bath: 1987-: 53.

Listing NGR: ST7607663327

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