Bentham Project


Bentham Project Visit to Forde Abbey

Bentham's Country Retreat 1814-181

Members of the Bentham Project visited Forde Abbey, near Chard in Somerset2 on 25 August 2003. Jeremy Bentham began leasing the property as a summer residence in July 1814 and lived and worked there for considerable periods of each of the following four years.3 Visitors during the summer, autumn, and winter months of 1814-15 included included James Mill and family, Joseph Hume, Francis Horner, Thomas Northmore, David Ricardo, and Jean-Baptiste Say. Later vistors included Sir Samuel and Lady Romilly and their family and Etienne Dumont.

While at Forde Abbey Bentham worked on the following: 'Essay on Logic', Chrestomathia, Papers Relative to Codification and Public Instruction and its Supplement, Plan of Parliamentary Reform, A Table of the Springs of Action, Church-of Englandism, Not Paul, but Jesus and the two articles 'Defence of Economy Against the Late Mr. Burke' and 'Defence of Economy Against the Right Hon. George Rose', which appeared in The Pamphleteer in 1817.

Members of the Bentham Project by the Long Pond. From left to right: Catherine Fuller, Deborah McVea, Daisuke Arie (visiting from Japan), Philip Schofield, Catherine Pease-Watkin and Irena Nicoll. Photograph by Andrew Lewis.

In a letter4 to his brother Samuel he described his new residence as:

... this odd and venerable place: a various mixture of antiquity of various ages with modern elegance ... Salloon, 60 feet long or thereabouts with copies of five of Raphael's Cartoons in Tapestry:a a printed book about them, but though I have seen the Gobelin Tapestry,:b I never saw any in which to my unlearned eye the figures seemed more like human. Glazed Cloister, they say 400 feet. Hall 50 or 60, and of a loftiness more than in proportion. Gravel walk running parallel to the front of the House, half the length of the Mall at least--say ¼ of a mile: breadth 28 or 30 feet: all the way, either the front of the house or water, stationary or running: some of it making a noise in little waterfalls running over rocky stones or artificial steps bowling green with slope over slope rising above it. Statues and pictures every thing of this kind indifferent or execrable: of the furniture the antique part mostly in tatters, but not the less curious: in several of the rooms, old tapestry. Large trees a moderate sprinkling. In a Park of no more than 50 Acres, 130 head of deer, but the grass still luxuriant. There will, I suppose, be a buck to kill when you come: but at any rate you will not starve.

 The Organ

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In his correspondence from Forde Abbey Bentham twice refers to an organ which is still to be seen and heard in the chapel.. In a letter to Sir Samuel Bentham, dated August 1814, Jeremy says that a sister-in-law of his landlord's attorney will be welcome 'to play upon a good organ which is here.'5 In 1816 he informed John Herbert Koe that:

The Organ has been taken to pieces and I hope put to rights, by assistance from a sort of Gentleman-Malster 5 miles off an acquaintance of the Gardener's. The fault which is now discovered being clearly out of the Carpenter's power to end. The whole busines is the result of a special providence, but too multifarious to be detailed here.6

Given his great fondness for music it is certain that Bentham played the organ..

 Bentham's Country Retreat 1814-18


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Front elevation of Forde Abbey


Rear elevation of Forde Abbey


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The Long Pond and Gardens