AS ambitious plans to open Hestercombe House to the public edge closer, archivists have trawled to dig out old photos of the historic building.

The house, situated in the spectacular landscape of Hestercombe Gardens near Taunton, is thought to be worth around £900,000.

Last month, the County Gazette reported how Somerset County Council has handed the Grade II listed building to the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, meaning it could soon turn from office space into a national centre for landscape studies.

In 1872 architect Henry Hall, who worked primarily in Somerset and Dorset, was commissioned to make proposals 'for a first-class mansion.'

However, Hall was dismissed only to be reinstated soon after because his replacement died.

Hall's final proposal, dated 1876, transformed the north and west fronts of the building.

Notable features included a large porte-cochere with Tuscan columns and bold cornice, and a 100-foot high 'picturesquely placed' four-stage tower finished with a Mansard roof.