Soldier, artist, architect, garden designer - on the 300th anniversary of his birth, we celebrate a man of many talents
John Bampfylde (1691-1750) succeeded to the Hestercombe Estate in December 1718, following his marriage to Margaret Warre (1694-1758), the only surviving child and heiress of Sir Francis Warre (1659-1718). They were married in the chapel on the Hestercombe estate.
Margaret Warre was born at Hestercombe on the 20th of January 1694, one of only two children (a brother, Francis, died in 1708) to Sir Frances Warre and his second wife, Margaret Harbin (1667-1719). On the 18th of October 1718, Margaret Warre married John Bampfylde of Warleigh, Devon, in the Warre family chapel near Hestercombe House. Bampfylde’s first wife, Elizabeth Basset of Heanton Court, Devon, had died childless, but Margaret Warre bore him nine children in quick succession, two sons and seven daughters. The first child and heir, Coplestone Warre Bampfylde (1720-1791), was followed by Margaret (1721), Margaretta (1722-93) Frances (1723-56), Francis Warre (1726), Elizabeth (1727-1802), Maria (1728-29), Anne (1729-42) and Charlotte (1732-42). Only Coplestone, Elizabeth, Frances, and Margaretta, survived into adulthood.
The future heir to the Hestercombe estate, Coplestone (‘Cop’) Warre Bampfylde, was born there on 28th February 1720 to parents who lav On 28th February 1723 , John Bampfylde gave the ringers of Kingston St. Mary church five shillings for announcing the youngster’s third birthday. The future heir was educated at some of the finest public schools in England, including Winchester College and at Oxford University.
Mary Knight (d.1806) was one of three daughters born to Edward Knight (1699-1780), well-to-do ironmaster of Wolverley House near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, and Elizabeth James, of Oulton End, Warwickshire. She married Coplestone Warre Bampfylde by special licence in her home village of Wolverley on 27th December 1755. Despite Mary Knight’s ‘good nature’ and ‘many amiable qualities’ (her husband’s words), the first 18 months of their marriage were difficult with Mary ‘having had scarce two days perfect health successively to boast of’. Unfortunately, Mary suffered from ill health for much of the rest of her life and never produced an heir. On Coplestone's death in 1791, Hestercombe passed to his nephew, John Tyndale (d.1819), who then assumed the name Warre.
Hestercombe House, which dates back to the 13th century, is one of a range of country houses that embrace the lower reaches of the Quantock Hills near Taunton. It was remodelled by Coplestone’s grandfather, Sir Francis Warre (1659-1718), in the late 17th century, and again by his father, John Bampfylde, in 1719-32. At a cost in excess of £1,200 (£265,703 in today’s money), John Bampfylde undertook a general rebuilding of the mansion, removing the substantial northwest wing and altering the main (west) front with a classical ordering of sash windows, diorite surrounds, and neatly coursed diorite to produce a Palladian facade. Coplestone Warre Bampfylde did not alter Hestercombe House to any great degree, despite his reputation as a competent amateur architect. The creation of the landscape garden in the valley to the south of the house taking precedence during his ownership (1750-91).
Coplestone Warre Bampfylde’s greatest achievement was the landscape garden he created in the wooded combe north of Hestercombe House between 1750, when he inherited the property, and 1791, when he died. The various elements of this 35-acre Arcadia - pools, cascades, summer houses, temples, seats, and urns - were carefully arranged in the best picturesque tradition, inspired by the idealised landscapes of 17th century landscape artists Claude Lorrain, Nicholas Poussin and others. Bampfylde emphasised wildness, drama, and irregularity in his garden, but also recognised the emerging taste for the smooth and finely finished. The latter was best epitomised by the flowing lines of and even sward surrounding the Pear Pond, the former by the enormity of the Great Cascade, whose dramatic fall and rock strewn lawn was painted by several artists, including Bampfylde himself.
Edward Knight, Coplestone’s brother-in-law, visited Hestercombe in 1761 and described what he saw in his pocketbook:
View up the valley of Cascades
Water and Root house
Octagon Sumr.hse, Taunton Vale.
Terrace and Chinese Seat
View down the Water to Tn Vale
Rock - Lawn & Beeches -
Gothic seat views into the
Vales fm E to West
Witch or root House confined
View of Taunton & the Vale.
Tent open view of Taunton the
Vale etc. - Mausoleum 18ft
Piers 3ft each, between 12 feet.
Arch 7ft wide and 7 high. -
Piers 12ft high urns on the tops.
Knight’s account was the first detailed recording of the features that his brother-in-law had established in his new landscape garden. It was also the first recorded mention of the Gothic Alcove, Chinese Seat, Octagon Summerhouse, Mausoleum and Witch's House.
Visitors to Coplestone Warre Bampfylde’s landscape garden at Hestercombe were unanimous in their admiration of the Great Cascade. In 1787, the 2nd Viscount Palmerston wrote in his Tour in the West of England:
Thursday 23rd August 1787 . . . Mr B. has formed walks and disported seats with good Taste of Judgement. But the principle Beauty and striking Feature of the Place is a Cascade of a considerable height which falls abruptly down a Rock in the middle of a thick Wood. It is a most romantick and beautiful object from several parts of the Ground, and is on the whole one of the best Things of the Mind I have seen in the territory of any private Person.
Ever willing to advise his friends on their landscape improvements, Bampfylde had already helped to introduce a cascade at Stourhead. On 23 December 1765 its owner and long-time friend, Henry Hoare, wrote to Lord Bruce: “Messres Bampfield and Hoare [William Hoare of Bath] have made an ingenious model for the Cascade like Mr Bampfields. And as I have stone quarries on the Hill just above it, I hope to finish it soon in the summer.”
On 20 November 1762 the poet and country squire, William Shenstone, whose family seat The Leasowes near Halesowen in what was then Shropshire was widely admired for its landscape garden or ferme ornée, wrote to his close friend, writer and translator Richard Graves (1705-1804): ‘ . . . we have paid our devoirs to a good deal of genteel company; of which this season has afforded me at least an equal share with any that went before . . . Colonel Bampfylde, with Mr Knight’s family’. Graves later stated that it was probably after this visit to The Leasowes that Bampfylde, ‘having seen with what happy dexterity Mr. Shenstone conducted the Naiads through his groves’, built his own by waterfall at Hestercombe by conveying a supply of water from a pond higher up the combe and along a 300-metre-long stone and brick-built leat, reminiscent of William Kent’s famous artificial rills at Rousham.
In 1770 C. W. Bampfylde submitted plans for a new house to be built by Lord Arundell of Wardour Castle in Wiltshire; but his design for an austere Palladian style mansion was not successful and the commission went to architect, sculptor and artist, James Paine of London. Bampfylde also favoured Lord Arundel with a sketch plan of the Tuscan Doric style temple he had built to overlook his landscape garden at Hestercombe along with precise dimensions and notes on the materials that he recommended be used in its construction: 'This is measured exactly fm Mr Bampfylde's Building Novr 5 1777.' At a later date Bampfylde conveyed a number of smaller scale drawings to another friend, lawyer and Tory politician, Henry Fownes Luttrell (c.1722-80) of nearby Dunster Castle. These included a summerhouse, gothic window and Chinese gate.
In 1763 the Market House Society was formed to improve the market place at the centre of Taunton, then an area of idleness, filth and debauchery occupied by the Guildhall, an assembly-room, ‘and some old houses ; most, if not all, of which, to the number of 14, were occupied as public houses’. An Act of Parliament passed in 1768 formally recognised the trustees of the Society as the municipal authority of the town, empowering them to, amongst other things, demolish the old buildings and erect a new market house. Completed in 1772 to designs by C. W. Bampfylde, who was also a trustee.
Coplestone Warre Bampfylde’s collaboration with Henry Hoare to design a cascade for Stourhead was not his only effort in the area of hydraulics and on 12 September 1788 Lieutenant Colonel William Dansey (d. 1793) of the 33rd Regiment of Foot, which was then based in Taunton, wrote excitedly to Bampfylde from Camp Windsor Forest: ‘I have been much flattered by what I brought here from Hestercombe. His majesty was pleased to say he would have a Penstock or sluice made for the Virginia Cascade [Virginia Water] after the Model I had shown him of yours.’ This was a period of great activity in the construction of the cascade at Virginia Water and by 7 October 1788, Thomas Courtney could write to inform John Robinson, The Surveyor General of Woods and Forests, that ‘I am to send Two teams of our horses to the Carpenters yard at the lodge tomorrow Morning at 6 o’clock to bring the Penstock here to put down as soon as it arrives.’ Bampfylde’s sluice was already in use at Hestercombe where it had been supplying a cascade from the early 1770s.
In November 1758, Bampfylde was made a Major in the First Battalion of the Somerset Militia and a year later he was posted to Plymouth. It was by now halfway through the Seven Years War with France and the British were blockading the French transport ships in Quiberon Bay. Tired of the posting and unlikely to get away to Wolverley to see his wife, Bampfylde wrote despairingly to his father-in-law, Edward Knight, in October 1759; ‘ . . . this post of Honour with which I am endowed hangs too heavy about me that I can’t well shi[ft] under it, and like an old suit of armour, we wonder how our forefathers could support themselves and walk about in it.’
Despite such early misgivings, Bampfylde persevered in his duties as an officer and achieved great success, being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in December 1761, and Colonel on 2nd June 1767 (the Gainsborough was later overpainted to update the wig and uniform).
Later in life Coplestone Warre Bampfylde discovered a new interest in illustrating books, starting in 1776 when he prepared five humorous drawings for An Election Ball by Bath-based poet and good friend, Christopher Anstey (1724-1805). His sense of humour and ability to caricature were no doubt shaped by the large collection of prints by Hogarth, including a fine bound set that were to be found in his library. Bampfylde and his wife, Mary, often spent the winter months in Bath where the fortnightly literary contests at Batheaston, the home of Lady Anna Miller (1741-81), were a must, spending at least one season there in rented accommodation on the Queen’s Parade.
C. W. Bampfylde continued to illustrate books into the last years of his life, most notably contributing a drawing of Hestercombe for John Collinson’s History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset (1791) and two plates of Taunton Castle and Hammet Street for Joshua Toulmin’s History of Taunton (1791).
As well as executing drawings for Christopher Anstey, Bampfylde was also providing drawings for the Revd. Richard Graves who was equally well known in the literary circles of Bath, the Oxford educated writer and translator counting Anthony Whistler and Richard Jago among his friends. Bampfylde illustrated Euphrosyne in 1776 and Columella in 1779 as well as supplying the frontispieces for Eugenius, or, Anecdotes of the Golden Vale published in two volumes in 1785. The frontispiece of the first volume of Columella depicts a man driving pigs past two other men in a grand classical garden landscape, possibly Stourhead, where Bampfylde was a visitor from an early age. The illustration facing the title page of the second volume is much more familiar: the Great Cascade at Hestercombe.
Although Henry Hoare was fifteen years his senior, he and Coplestone Warre Bampfylde became life-long friends. Bampfylde’s frequent visits to Stourhead, which could last up to a fortnight or more, were typically spent copying pictures from Hoare’s large art collection, an indulgence made possible by his friend’s success as a senior partner in the long held family business, Hoare’s Bank (est. 1672). But Bampfylde also enjoyed painting and drawing views of the garden and surrounding countryside, producing into the bargain the most accurate record that exists of the Stourhead landscape during the period 1760-80. His superb panoramas in the Victoria & Albert Museum collection, used to such good effect in Kenneth Woodbridge’s book The Stourhead Landscape (1971), render the scenes with topographical exactness and yet still convey the seamless quality of the landscape. The earliest picture by Bampfylde of a view at Stourhead is that of the Temple of Flora (now in the British Museum) dated 1753.
Coplestone Warre Bampfylde’s other great friend was Sir Charles Tynte (1710-85) of nearby Halswell Park, Goathurst. Entries in the latter’s diary confirm Tynte’s frequent stopovers at Hestercombe, his journeys with Bampfylde to Blundell’s School, Tiverton (where both men were Governors), and their sometimes extended evenings of socialising at Halswell: ‘My Bampfylde did not leave us tile near twelve it being a fine moon shine night’ (16 July 1756). Their shared anxiety, regarding the difficulties being experienced in the construction of the new Taunton hospital are discussed at length in letters that survive from Bampfylde, as is the design of Tynte’s 450-acre Great Park at Halswell: ‘I am doubtful if the Stream will at any time answer the End proposed of making a good Cascade: for this reason I can not help thinking ye upper pond is in every respect an Eye sore.’ (c.1782) Bampfylde expressed his close bonds with Tynte and Henry Hoare most eloquently when following their deaths in 1786 he erected an urn in his landscape garden to honour their friendship.
Many of Coplestone Warre Bampfylde's oil paintings are of idealized classical landscapes in the manner of Salvator Rosa (1615–1673) and Gaspard Dughet (1615–1675), two leading Neapolitan artists of the 17th century who were then very much in vogue with British collectors. When he painted this picture Bampfylde was aged 32 and travelling to London regularly, possibly to take lessons in painting while there from noted landscape and scene painter, George Lambert, whose studio was at the top of Covent Garden theatre. That the two men knew each other well is apparent, not only from their joint production of prints - five views of, and from, Mount Edgcumbe, Plymouth, were co-produced by Lambert, Samuel Scott, and Bampfylde for publication in 1755 - but also because Lambert, who frequented the countryside to sketch houses and views, is known to have visited Hestercombe. The sale of pictures from his studio in 1765 included one depicting A View of Hestercomb.
Bampfylde redrew a series of five pictures, depicting the celebrated scenery of Mount Edgcumbe, from paintings by George Lambert and Samuel Scott which were engraved by James Mason and Pierre Canot and published in 1755. Advertised by Lambert for two pounds a set, the engravings were entitled ‘Views at Mount Edgcumbe’ and comprised, in addition to A View Of Hamoze And Plymouth Dock From Mount Edgecumbe: A View Of Mount Edgcumbe, A View Of Mount Edgcumbe Taken From St. Nicholas's Island, A View Of Plymouth Fort And St Nicholas's Island From Mount Edgcumbe, and A View Of Mount Edgecumbe From The Block-House.
Despite the 19th century dispersal of Coplestone Warre Bampyfylde’s pictures, which largely occurred in two sales held at Hestercombe 1819 and 1872, the Hestercombe Gardens Trust Archive has been able to trace over 200 of his original artworks, acquiring 81 of them outright. Included in the latter is a complete set of the popular ‘Views at Mount Edgecumbe’ series.
This Coplestone Warre Bampfylde painting is of a scene from the highly successful comic opera, Maid in the Mill. First performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, on 31 January 1765, the three act opera featured music arranged and composed by Samuel Arnold with text by Isacc Bickerstaffe and scenery by John Inigo Richards, a pupil of George Lambert and friend of Bampfylde. The sale of Bampfylde’s print collection in 1820 included five engravings of scenes by Richards from the Maid in the Mill, which were engraved by William Woollett and published on 15 January 1768. Bampfylde was himself inspired to paint a classical backdrop for Taunton’s first permanent concert venue, ‘a small but neat theatre’ begun 1786. (Joshua Toulmin, The History of the Town of Taunton [Taunton: T. Norris, 1791], p. 54.)
Located at the northwest corner of Hestercombe House, The Drawing Room with its heavily decorated walls by Bampfylde was demolished by Edward Berkeley Portman (1799-1888), 1st Viscount Portman, during an extensive remodelling of Hestercombe House that followed his purchase of the estate in 1872.
Bampfylde’s skill as an artist emerged with unmistakable confidence in this remarkable life size equestrian self-portrait jointly painted with artist Richard Phelps (b. 1718) and signed and dated by them both in 1746. Phelps was a pupil, together with Sir Joshua Reynolds, of Sir Thomas Hudson, the portraitist. Originally hung in the Great hall at Hestercombe House, the painting was recovered from a loft in Came House, Dorset, in 1992, before being extensively restored. It had apparently lain there since being sold at auction at Hestercombe in 1872, following the death of the last of the Warres, Miss Elizabeth Maria Tyndale Warre (1791-1872).
At least two other versions of The Storm, which was exhibited by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde at the Royal Academy, London, in 1774, are known to exist, although it is uncertain if either is actually by Bampfylde. In this picture the turbulent and violent power of nature is vividly expressed, a clear reference to the ‘sublime’ aesthetic in landscape painting, as popularised by Salvator Rosa and others in the 17th century.
On 12 March 1778 the Bath Chronicle announced the dissolution of the partnership between, Messers [William] Day and Larch, local land surveyors, who from about 1775 had jointly undertaken to produce a map of the county of Somerset on a subscription basis. C. W. Bampfylde (Treasurer of the Committee), Rev. Dr. Camplin and Mr. Thomas Charter arbitrated the dispute, with the result that William Day (d. 1798), was directed to finish the survey alone. Based at Blagdon, Pitminster, Day completed the project four years later with the skilled assistance of his Bath born apprentice, Charles Harcourt Masters.
Engraved by Thomas Bonner in London, the elaborate title cartouche that Bampfylde drew for the completed map celebrated some of Somerset's most recognised associations, for example the county’s strong link with the Western sea (Neptune), the vital role of mariner’s in bringing prosperity to the city of Bristol (merchant ships), and the healthful properties of the Bath springs (woman offering a cup to a cripple). The female figure was likely a portrayal of the goddess Silus Minerva whose cult was centred at Bath.
Coplestone Warre Bampfylde died at Hestercombe: ‘at a quarter past 4 o’clock in the morning on August 23, 1791. He was buried in the Family Vault at Kingston at 7 o’clock on August 30. The Funeral moved at 5. Aged 72 years next February 28, 1792’. This declaration was signed by John Tyndale Warre, Bampfylde’s nephew, son of Margaretta, his oldest sister, and George Tyndale of Bathford and Bristol. As Bampfylde and his wife Mary (Knight) had no children, the estate was left to John Tyndale on condition that he took the family name, Warre. John Tyndale Warre later erected a monument in the south aisle at Kingston church to remember his benefactor. Overlooking the magnificent Warre family tomb, it was inscribed thus:
He was for many years an active Magistrate and Colonel of the Somerset Militia, the duties of which he respectively discharged with probity and ability. To a distinguished taste for the fine arts, genuine wit and a sound judgement were happily united, an amiable simplicity of manners, cheerfulness of temper and generosity of soul. The benevolent exertion of these qualities justly endeared him to his family and his extensive circle of friends who deplore his loss.
The estate that J. T. Warre succeeded to was 900 acres in extent with a yearly income of £1,600, but C. W. Bampfylde also bequeathed to his nephew considerable lands in the parishes, villages and hamlets of Kingston St. Mary, Cothelstone, West Monkton, Overton, Broomfield, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Gotton, Creech St. Michael, Riston, Henlade, Charlton, Northend, Ham Longaller, Walford and Middlezoy.