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Historic Background
A large character area situated on the upper reaches of the Eastern Cleddau within the parish of Slebech, once part of the Barony of Daugleddau. The estates, gardens and parkland of Picton Castle and Slebech Mansion and take up the majority of this area. Picton estate is the is the successor of the Manor of Picton. The manor was once part of the larger Manor of Wiston, but had became a separate holding, replacing Wiston Castle as the caput of Daugleddau, by the 13th century. This occurred under the local Wogan family. Picton Castle began as a motte castle established (probably by an unknown follower of Wizo, Lord of Daugleddau) before 1130 when a chapel at ‘Piketon’ was granted to Worcester Cathedral. The castle was reconstructed in stone under the Wogans during the 13th century in a new location 700 metres west of the motte. Its surrounding curtain wall no longer existed by 1720. The manor passed to the Philipps family in the 15th century. All features associated with the settlement and landscapes accompanying the castle had been effaced when Picton Park was created. A formal park was first created in the later 17th century, in the Renaissance manner, but was extensively remodelled in the Romantic tradition under the Philipp family in the 18th century and 19th century, when a belvedere was established on the old motte. This landscape still survives, and part of the castle is now a museum. Slebech Park developed from estates belonging to the Knights Hospitaller and their Commandery at Slebech Church. This was also granted to Worcester Cathedral by Wizo, before 1130 but was acquired by the Hospitallers between 1148 and 1176. The Commandery also possessed two mills and a quay on the Eastern Cleddau. After the dissolution Roger Barlow, an emerging member of the ‘squirearchy’, acquired the holding. The Barlows built Slebech Mansion on or near the site of the Commandery, and established Slebech Park. The estate remained in Barlow hands until the late 18th century when it was acquired by the de Rutzen family. Again, all earlier landscape features appear to have been erased by the creation of the park.

Base map reproduced from the OS map with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Crown Copyright 2001.
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Description and essential historic landscape components
This historic landscape character area lies on the northern bank of the Eastern Cleddau. It includes the foreshore of mud, marsh and rocks as well as the rolling hills that rise steadily up to 80m above sea level at the A40 on the northern fringes of the area. A large proportion of the area is taken up by Picton Castle and Slebech Mansion and their surrounding gardens, parkland, woodland and estate farms. Picton Castle has been in continuous occupation since its construction in about 1300. Although there are 18th century elements to the gardens, much of the planting was carried out in a Romantic picturesque style in about 1800 and has been modified by much recent planting. The imposing three storey ‘castle-wise’ Slebech Mansion dates to 1773. Formal gardens, including terraces overlooking the river, and parkland were also laid out at about the same time. The mansion is though to include part of the Commandery of the Knight’s Hospitallers, but only the ruins of the church are certainly medieval. Other structures associated with the big houses such as stable blocks, lodges and walled gardens are prominent and distinctive features of the landscape. Strong estate architectural signatures to this area are maintained by the two home farms and by The Rhos village. Picton Home farm comprises a large stone-built farmhouse in the Georgian tradition and buildings set around a courtyard and The Rhos village consists of a terrace of 19th century ‘pattern book’ houses, other dwellings and an old school. Farmhouses, such as Cressborough, a mid 19th century ‘gothic’ structure, also emphasise the estate character of the area. There are other buildings in this area, including Ferry Cottages, a few 20th century dwellings and the massive, now redundant, 19th century church of St John the Baptist (a replacement for the medieval church at Slebech) on the A40. There is a total of 25 listed buildings. The estate character of the landscape is also maintained by other landscape components. There is much deciduous woodland, and long shelterbelts/screens have been planted alongside the approach roads to the two big houses. Clumps of trees planted in fields and distinctive trees in many hedgerows contribute to the estate/parkland character. Fields are large and regular and are divided by earth banks topped with hedges. Hedges are generally well maintained, though a number are overgrown and some are derelict and supplemented by wire fences. Mortared stonewalls form the boundary to some fields and the estate at Slebech. Agriculture land-use is improved pasture with a small proportion of arable. Although there are several important archaeological sites, other those mentioned above, such as three iron age forts, limekilns on the foreshore, and sites of mills, they are not strong components of this area.

Clearly to the south against the river the boundary of this area is well defined. To the west, east and north boundary definition is not so clear-cut, despite the very strong characteristics of this area. Therefore a zone of change, rather than a hard boundary lies between Picton and Slebech character area and its neighbours.

Sources: Cadw/ICOMOS n.d; Charles 1948; Davies 1946; Green 1913; Ludlow and Ramsey 1994; NLW PICTON CASTLE VOL.1; Slebech, Minwere and Newton Parishes tithe map 1847; Toorians 1990