Hestercombe Gardens get a new Edwardian-style punt

Lyme Regis boatbuilders The Beautiful Boat Company have constructed a punt for the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, based on old photographs from 1904 of the boat being used on the garden’s Pear Pond. The launch was a few days ago, and I’d guess the folks involved had some fun recreating the most striking of the old photos. See old black and white and new colour photos in the gallery above.

I’m quite sure the The Beautiful Boat Company would be very happy to work to more commissions based on old photographs!

Hestercombe combines three gardens covering three centuries of garden history and design, including a Edwardian formal garden designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and planted by Gertrude Jekyll between 1904-1908, a Victorian shrubbery and terrace originally laid out by the 1st Viscount Portman between 1873-77, and an 18th century landscape garden designed by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde between 1750 and 1791.

The punt project began when Hestercombe Gardens Trust chief executive Philip White found six photographs of a punt from about 1904. The photos show a slightly unusual punt shorter and deeper than most estate or lake punts, and finely built in the Thames style.

The discover sparked an ambition to see a punt back on Pear Pond again; Philip suspects the original was sold at an estate sale in 1951.

Evidence from a boat house in the grounds suggested the punt was up to about 18 feet. A chance meeting between Philip and Simon Olszowski of The Beautiful Boat Company and graduate of the Lyme Regis’ Boat Building Academy, led to the punt commission.

It is built from a mix of timbers including iroko and sapele, and also teak reclaimed from East Reach Hospital in Taunton, where the Portman ward was sponsored by Hestercombe’s last private owners, and is named Constance after the lady of the house at the time it was built.

Yard news from HJ Mears: a new Beer lugger completed and a 16ft launch started


Alex Mears writes to say that November saw the completion of a new Beer lugger by Seaton company HJ Mears Boatbuilders.

She’s built in larch on oak, and has over 7ft beam on her 16ft length – so she’s very broad.

Alex says: ‘All of our boats are beamy because they are beach boats. To make the task of beach launching easier you want fairly flat bottomed, beamy boats with substantial bilge keels. Hence all of our boats fit this spec for the beaches around here – namely Beer, Seaton, Sidmouth, Branscombe and further afield.’

He reckons The red top strake on the new boat will help distinguish her during the close racing at Beer.


I asked whether she will win in the racing… ‘Well there are carvel boats, with larger sail sizes that in addition have a longer waterline length – so she could win, but only in handicap races. The Beer luggers are actually quite a wide ranging collection of boats and people, and Hannah will fit in happily somewhere amongt the fleet.’

‘It’s great to be adding to the fleet of Beer luggers and continuing the traditional boatbuilding in a traditional craft. We are lucky to have appreciative customers who ultimately keep the tradition going by paying our wages!

‘She will be moored at Lyme Regis and compete with the Beer Luggers on Monday nights during the summer.

‘The owner is someone who has followed our work for many years and previously owned a Ron Lavis built clinker boat. Ronb was an Exmouth boatbuilder who trained with my grandfather.

‘The appeal of the Beer lugger for this particular owner is the flexibility- he can sail her, he can fish from her, he can go potting for lobsters with her, or go for picnics on the beach, etc. She is multi purpose and the history of these boats has proved that strongly.’

The third boat is of the latest mahogany on oak Mears 16ft launch after ribbing. As Alex remarks, she’ll need a lot of riveting, but the ribbing was fun, as it always is.

PS – HJ Mears recently had a visit from local photographer Matt Austin, who took some stunning shots. If you’re on Facebook, check them out!