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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Divers find lake's 'lost village'
Bowood House lake
Legend says a church spire can be seen when the water is low
A team of divers who set out to solve the mystery of the drowned village of Bowood in Wiltshire has found the remains of buildings under a lake.

The lake at Bowood House was created 250 years ago by 'Capability' Brown when legend has it a village was sacrificed to make way for the design.

Diver Jon Dodsworth, 28, said old maps showed a community called Manning's Hill where the lake now stands.

The team discovered stone walls and the remains of two cottages under the lake.

A document entitled Wiltshire Community History mentions Manning's Hill as one of several communities which existed near Bowood in the 18th Century.

It continues: "The entrance to the park at Manning's Hill was drowned by the lake."

There's always been rumours about a drowned village - you hear about the church spire being seen in the summer when the water is low
Jon Dodsworth

Previous attempts to find the village included a dive by Bowood owner Lord Lansdowne, the 9th Marquis of Lansdowne, who donned his scuba gear 20 years ago. His attempt was unsuccessful.

After the recent find, he said: "I am thrilled that they appear to have found something in the Bowood lake and I congratulate them."

Mr Dodsworth, leader of the Calne Sub-Aqua Club, said: "There's always been rumours about a drowned village at Bowood - you hear about the church spire being seen in the summer when the water is low, although I've never spoken to anyone who has actually seen it.

"We pulled up stone with paint on it, and dry stone walls. It was localised rubble."

Dramatic centrepiece

Bowood House was built on the site of a hunting lodge in 1725 and has been the home of the Lansdowne family since 1754.

The first Marquis of Lansdowne, Prime Minister in 1782 and 1783, commissioned Brown to transform its 2,000 acres of gardens and wilderness into landscaped parklands during the 1760s.

It became one of Brown's finest works and the 45-acre lake - which he created from a pond after flooding a valley - was its dramatic centrepiece.

Mr Dodsworth said the use of sonar equipment during the three one-hour dives was crucial to the team's success, but that the group has no excavation equipment to investigate further.


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