070216.Tucking Mill, Never Say Never

February 16, 2007 at 12:22 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bridges, Castles, Mansion, Overcast, Pevsner, somerset, Towers, Tucking Mill | 20 Comments

Copy of 070215.33.Somset.Tucking Mills.Gothik Midford Castle.dJohn Carter.1775
So has this ever happened to you: you get tired of working in your room and you say I need a walk. –After strolling around in circles a few times you end up 3 miles south of Bath and have no actual idea where you are since you’re in a heavily wooded area and the sun has been blocked by the perpetual overcast weather?
070215.38.Somset.Tucking Mills
No? Yes? Well, it happened to me yesterday. I was on a muddy dirt road in the middle of nowhere wilderness when all of a sudden I see a hidden tunnel, possibly abandoned,  with some pavement beneath! I’m suddenly again interested in my surroundings and decide to explore…where does the tunnel lead? Where am I now and why is there wilderness above the tunnel? Or even, how do I get down there? As I’m trying to get on that new path, I find this crazy “Gothik” castle, decked out like a supervillain headquarters with all these bizarre deck of cards’ “club” patterns on its walls–(or quatrefoils, but the plan was definately a club-shape). Either in Midford, itself, or nearby Tucking Mill, the fortress compound is complete with a deceptively-rickety old antenna capable of receiving signals from a satellite relay station. And then, as I’m staring at it, a plane seemingly takes off from nearby, but there’s no airport anywhere in this region! This had to be the lair of some James Bond nemesis—“Dr. Club,” or…(pick a better name.)
070215.28.Somset.Tucking Mills.Gothik Midford Castle.dJohn Carter.1775Copy of 070215.35.Somset.Tucking Mills.Gothik Midford Castle.dJohn Carter.1775
070215.39.Somset.Tucking Mills
More out of boredom than anything else, I go into secret agent mode, leave the road and jump from tree to tree for cover. I wind up coming to a “private property” sign that doesn’t clearly distinguish the private from the public footpath, so I continue. The place, in any event, looks abandoned. An old, junked railroad bridge, which may or may not according to the county belong to Wessex Water (according to an Internet search, its ownership isn’t so much in dispute as it is denied by all parties concerned), with a reservoir lake at the base. On the other thickly-wooded side, there is a series of large tanks and generator-looking devices…and uniformed workers marching around: yes, henchmen! I couldn’t photograph everything that was going on (because my camera makes an annoying chirping sound every time it’s turned on or takes a picture—still haven’t figured out how to turn that off) but as I went down the wooded hill toward the generators, a siren went off, and I had to make a fast getaway.
070215.42.Somset.Tucking Mill.Viaduct.Ownershipindoubt.Fisheries
070215.40.Somset.Tucking Mill.Viaduct.Ownershipindoubt

So here’s what it turned out to be…(but don’t be fooled, this Forysth could be in their employ…)
Midford Castle, Midford Rd. Beautifully placed in wooded grounds with a s view down to Cane Brook and Midford Brook, this is the most eccentric of the substantial villas that surround Bath. It was build for Henry Disney Roebuck, c. 1775, after a design by John Carter for “a Gothic Mansion,” published in Builder’s Magazine in 1774. It is tower-like, three-storeyed, on an ingenious trefoil plan with semicircular corners, raised on a large plinth containing the service accommodation. Each floor has a lozenge-shaped hall and three rooms giving off it with three-windowed ends. (A story, coined in 1899, said that the plan commemorates some prodigious gambling success of Henry Roebuck and represent the ace of clubs.) The two principal floors have pointed windows with ogee0hoods, the upper windows, straight hoods. To give the appearance of towers, the battlemented parapet projects upwards at in blind arches like eyebrows. The interior has charming light plasterwork, chiefly long branches with sparse leave, attributed to Thomas Stocking. The house is an early example of the unusual-shaped villas, mainly triangular and sometimes castlelated, that architects experimented with in the 1780s-90s. These include Carr’s Grimston Garth, Yorkshire (1781-6), Adam’s Walkinshaw House, Renfrewshire (1791), and Nash’s Castle House, Aberystwyth for Uvedale Price (c.1795).
“Castellated also, the early C19 gatehouse (four-centred head of the archway, quatrefoils in the spandrels) and the picturesque group of stables and tower of the former chapel. This has a tower with pinnacles (and a cupola as well). In the NE part of the grounds are the ruins of a summerhouse known as the priory. A two-storeyed circular tower with a higher circular stair-turret, embattled, with quatrefoil windows. Originally, this had a nave with an apse, with ogee-headed niches. This was presumably built at the same time as the castle as it is mentioned in Collinson’s History of Somerset, 1791. On the brow of a steep descent is a rustic hermitage, now restored. Collinson also mentions this.” —Michael Forsyth, Bath (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 288-289. Midford Castle was also apparently the estate of Charles Conolly….

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