|Bengough of The Ridge|
The Ridge, Wotton-under-Edge, GloucestershireThe Ridge estate, which in medieval times had belonged to Kingswood Abbey, passed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries to the Poyntz family and descended with their Newark Park estate until the 18th century. It then changed hands a number of times before being bought by Edward Sheppard, a clothier from Uley, in 1805. The early 19th century was a period of widespread, if cyclical, prosperity in the Gloucestershire clothing industry, and work on the creation of The Ridge and laying out the grounds may have taken place over an extended period as a result. Nothing seems to have happened until at least 1810, when Sheppard was assessed for rates only on a farm, but probably began about that time as Sheppard sought a footpath diversion order - suggesting he was beginning to layout a park - in 1811.
|The Ridge: sketch plan of (probably then unbuilt) mansion in 1811.|
The plan he submitted shows the footprint of a gentleman's house which already incorporates key elements (the long conservatory and the two bow fronts facing north-west) of the eventual design, but is not the same as the eventual layout. In 1814 the description of the property in the rating records changes from 'Ridge Farm' to 'House and Offices' so the shell of the building was probably then either complete or under construction. In 1816, a press report gives The Ridge as Edward Sheppard's address for the first time, so enough of the house must then have been complete for him to occupy it. Another footpath diversion order plan dated 1817, which shows only half the house, shows enough to make it clear that the layout was the same as that projected by 1811, but a lodge had been built and the environs had been transformed in a gentleman's park, with shelter belts and plantations of trees. It is thus pretty certain that a significant part of Sheppard's scheme was carried out in the 1810s. This is puzzling because since the publication of Delineations of Gloucestershire in 1825, the architect of Edward Sheppard's new house has been recorded as George Stanley Repton (1786-1858), son of the landscape gardener, Humphry Repton, who after many years as a pupil and assistant in the office of John Nash, finally set up on his own between 1818 and 1820. It would seem, therefore, that Sheppard, having begun by remodelling and extending the existing Ridge Farm or building a new house on its site, decided that it was not satisfactory, and turned to Repton to convert the - possibly incomplete - building into something grander. As early as 1810 Nash wrote to a client that he wanted to give Repton freedom to design “a Moiety of all Cottages farm houses & picturesque buildings” for which commissions might come to their office, but it seems unlikely that Nash would have allowed Repton to design a major new house as early as 1814. It was, however, not unusual for architects to pass on an important commission to favoured former pupils when they set up on their own, to help them establish their own practice, and it is possible that this is what happened at The Ridge. Another possibility is that Repton's elder brother John Adey Repton, who had a number of commissions in Gloucestershire at this time, was originally approached about work at The Ridge, and passed on the commission to a brother just starting to build an independent career.
|The Ridge: engraving of the house from the south-west, 1825, from Delineations of Gloucestershire.|
|The Ridge: garden front elevation from the sale particulars of 1837, showing the original arrangement, with pediments on the wings and |
over the ground floor windows. Image: Gloucestershire Archives RZ354.1
|The Ridge: ground floor plan of the house from the sale particulars of 1837. Image: Gloucestershire Archives RZ354.1.|
The size of The Ridge, and the grandeur of its bow‑ended dining room and lengthy conservatory announced Sheppard's wealth to the world; the book‑lined library and provision of a justice room signalled his politeness and his aspiration to the magistracy. But Sheppard's was a fortune founded on industrial wealth, and ultimately he proved vulnerable to the collapse in the clothing trade which took Paul Wathen, Daniel Lloyd and other local clothiers into bankruptcy. The Ridge was auctioned at the Old Bell Inn, Dursley, in 1837, and was bought by George Bengough (1794-1856), a Bristol solicitor. He added a second lodge and built a delightful cast-iron bridge in the grounds in 1840 and a chapel at The Ridings in 1841, and apparently also made some changes to the house. Later photographs of the garden front shows raised parapets in lieu of the pediments on the wings, and that the pediments on the ground floor windows had also been removed. There seem, however, to have been few other changes to Repton's design, at least externally.
|The Ridge: a photograph of the garden front, probably in the 1860s, showing how the pediments over the wings |
and ground-floor windows had been removed.
|The Ridge: unexecuted scheme for a replacement house designed by Peter Yiangou, 2009. Image: Peter Yiangou.|
Bengough family of The Ridge
|John Crosbie Bengough (1888-1916)|
|Nigel James Bengough (1895-1980)|
Location of archives
Coat of arms
Can you help?
- If anyone knows more about the will of Henry Bengough (1739-1818) than I have discovered, and especially about how far it benefited his nephew George and subsequent generations of the family, I should be very pleased to hear from them.
- Does anyone know why J.C. Bengough moved out of The Ridge in 1884 in favour of his eldest son?
- Can anyone provide portraits or photographs of the people whose names appear in bold above, for whom no image is currently shown?
- If anyone can offer further information or corrections to any part of this article I should be most grateful. I am always particularly pleased to hear from current owners or the descendants of families associated with a property who can supply information from their own research or personal knowledge for inclusion.