Restoration House, Rochester, England
Record Id: 9493
The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Medway:
OVERVIEW AND STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
Restoration House is a grade I listed mansion of medieval origin with an enclosed, interconnecting, walled and terraced garden which forms an integral part of the mansion's historic architecture. Significant surviving features, supported by archaeological evidence, pay testament to the garden's historic integrity, and these include the remains of rare, late medieval to early Tudor stone walls, and a late Tudor diaper-brick wall. Importantly, the presence of Kentish ragstone, knapped flint and the use of galleting in the construction of the earlier walls, is considered analogous to the build character of the C15 to C16 Prior's, Deanery and Chertsey Gates of Rochester Cathedral, and the early Tudor Shurland Hall on the Isle of Sheppey. Other walls which border and divide the garden survive intact, some of which date in part from the C17, C18 and C19. Documentary and cartographic evidence also supports many of these findings, but the potential exists for further archaeological investigations to add to the evidential value. The value of historic associations with royal and nationally-important figures is also significant, and these include King Charles II, Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens.
Since the end of the C20, the garden has undergone considerable restoration with appropriate planting designs reflecting various phases of its history. In 2009, historic boundaries were returned to Restoration House with the acquisition of land that includes a former Tudor garden. Major restoration work to this area is in progress including the recreation of a Renaissance-style water garden: in particular, the reinstatement of the medieval and Tudor walls will restore architectural unity between house and garden, adding even greater significance. Both the house and the garden have long been valued by the community as landmark sites within the city of Rochester, attracting large numbers of visitors from around the world each year.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Restoration House and its garden lie towards the southern end of Crow Lane, 0.45km south-east of Rochester Castle and 0.32km south-east of the cathedral, in an urban area mainly defined by Victorian buildings with some earlier, late C16, C17 and C18 buildings. The river Medway forms a boundary to the city to the east and to the north.
To the south, the c3.2ha garden boundary walls abut East Row and near the street's western end, skirt around the gardens of two detached, late-C20 houses (Pretty Seat Mews), the north garden fences of which sit immediately above the Tudor wall; to the east, the walls abut Victoria Street at its southern extremity and further north The Terrace; to the north, the walls border The Vines Church(United Reform) and its grounds and, further east, the back gardens of The Terrace. The garden's western boundary wall borders Crow Lane, on the opposite of which is The Vines public park. The ground rises to the south, and falls away to the east and to the north towards Rochester High Street and the River Medway beyond.
Restoration House (listed grade I) is built of red and brown brick, mainly in English bond (and variants), with Kent tile roofs. The central front part of the house has 5 bays with three of them, including the porch, breaking forward. Of medieval origin and described as a mansion house, it was formerly the political seat of the Clerke family. It was originally two buildings, at the north and south of the present site and which form the present north wing and part of the south wing (the remaining part of the south wing becoming part of Vines House next door). The south building has been dated to 1454, whereas the two-storey north building has been dated slightly later, between 1502 and 1522. In the late C16 and early C17, the south wing was extended to four storeys and a stair tower added. Further substantial changes were made between 1640 and 1660 when the two buildings were joined together, with the addition of the Great Hall, and first floor rooms above it, together with further building in the north wing. By 1670, the building was very much as it is now (2014), with the re-facing of the west facade, the provision of a porch and new stairs (at each end of the facade) to the upper rooms.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
There are five distinct areas of the garden: a small front garden to the west of the house; two interlinked walled areas immediately to the east of the house which together form the immediate rear garden; a walled area to the south of this, currently (2014) being laid out as an enclosed, late Renaissance-style water garden; a further walled area to the far east currently (2014) planned as a new orchard.
The enclosed c60 sq.m front garden is laid out with a central flagstone path, flanked by lawns, low box hedging and yew topiary. It leads to four ascending stone steps, and the main entrance of the house through to the gardens at the rear. A mature wisteria frames the front gate.
The c0.25ha rear garden, immediately east of the house, is defined mainly by fully enclosing and dividing red brick walls, clipped yew hedges, and terracing both west to east and south to north; a formal lily pond and box parterres provide focal points. It is divided into two on a west-east axis by a partly mid-C18 brick wall which runs the full length of the garden for c70 metres; each side is compartmentalised in a series of separate and distinct garden areas.
North of the dividing wall and closest to the house is the area known as Yew Court Garden. It is situated on two levels, mainly laid to lawn, and defined by specimen yew topiary. On its north side lies a narrow 3m-wide Mediterranean Garden enclosed by part of the north boundary wall and by a c0.3m-high flint wall, with c2m-high clipped yew hedging above. Approached through a gap in the hedge and two stone steps, the garden comprises paving and a meandering pathway with seating and a variety of potted plants. The north boundary wall runs for c85m down the full length of both the garden and courtyard area to the north. In 1994, the present owners doubled the height of this wall to c4m along c73m of its length. Yew Court and the Mediterranean Garden are intersected by a 1.2m-wide York stone path which runs parallel to the north boundary wall for 25 metres.
Immediately to the east of Yew Court, a sunken path of geometric-patterned brick, 1.2 m-wide, runs on a north-south axis for c14m, separating Yew Court from the formal c11m-long lily pond. Reflecting a Queen Anne style, the pond is edged with Portland stone and surrounded by lawn. Decorative elements are provided by stone urns, antique statuary and interlaced gothic arches set into the dividing brick wall, which spans the pond to the south. Clipped yew hedging, c2.5m-high by c12m-long, forms an enclosure to the east. To the north of, and overlooking the pond, a c10 sq.m, York stone, sunken courtyard provides a seating area. It is bordered by a section of the north boundary wall, into which is set an ornamental panel (constructed by the present owners) decorated with mid-C18 Delft tiles. A bench stands immediately below and, on either side, lie raised herbaceous borders punctuated with lollipop-shaped bay trees.
Further east, beyond the sunken courtyard, a descending stone ramp leads to a c1.2m-wide, herringbone-patterned, brick path, which runs parallel to the north boundary wall for c15m. The wall here is dressed by espaliered fruit trees which are protected by a frost gulley of granite setts running beneath; the wall also runs parallel to a 2m-wide herbaceous border. Towards the north-east corner and set into the wall stands a summer house (listed grade II) of C17 origin, although it was substantially re-built in the early C20 using contemporary materials.
Immediately beyond the summer house stands a greenhouse, constructed since 1994 by the present owners from a mid-C19 cast-iron frame found locally and timber-framed glazing. Further east, beyond the greenhouse, an arched oak door set into the wall once led to another garden to the north, which belonged to Restoration House until the mid-C19 and is now (2014) the site of The Vines Church and a car park. Two robinias and a mature field maple form the backdrop to this area of the garden.
On the south side of the herringbone-patterned brick path, on a raised, lawned terrace, lie the c0.3ha Cutting and Mulberry Gardens. The c60 sq.m Cutting Garden is divided into four by narrow brick paths and enclosed by c2m-high wooden trellising supported by wooden poles, linked together by rope swags. The Mulberry Garden lies immediately east of the Cutting Garden, its oval-shaped c100 square metres containing a Mulberry tree under-planted with seasonal bulbs, including muscari and cyclamen: immediately to the south, and flanking the Mulberry Garden, lie two L-shaped salad beds.
South of the Mulberry and Cutting Garden lies the partly-C18, c2.8m-high, brick dividing wall. At its eastern and western extremities, there are sections constructed mainly of ragstone and flint, possibly indicating the former site of two gazebos (personal communication). The wall has been restored by the present owners, incorporating a recess for a second green house and three separate archways, allowing access to the southern area of the rear garden at intermittent intervals along the wall. Each archway provides unexpected vistas of the garden beyond. The first archway, found between the Cutting Garden and the Mulberry Garden, provides access via four c1m-wide rising brick steps supported on each side by 1m-high brick walls; the second, located between the Cutting Garden and the lily pond, provides access via a gently-rising stone ramp and the third, located between the pond and Yew Court, via 1.2m-wide brick steps.
South of the dividing wall, the c0.2ha lawned and terraced Upper Garden lies immediately to the east of the south wing of the house. A c100 sq.m area of lawn is flanked by a 1.2m-wide brick path to the north, which runs for c17m parallel to a 3m herbaceous border adjacent to the dividing wall. The path terminates with four steep ragstone steps with supporting bronze railings, flanked at the top by yew topiary, which descend to a courtyard below. To the south of the lawn, a curved box hedge encloses a timber, open-framed wood store set against the southern wall and a shrubbery beyond. A mature magnolia grows in the south-west corner, and on the eastern edge of the terrace, a raised grassy mound is crowned by a holly tree.
Towards the south-east corner of the Upper Garden, five ragstone steps descend in a spiral and lead to the lawned area of a sunken garden, known as Time Court: a stone-columned sun dial stands at the centre. The garden is enclosed on three sides: to the south and east by c1.5m-high, terraced, ragstone retaining walls and to the west, by a further ragstone retaining wall which runs on a north-south axis, curving and rising to c2m, and flanked by both sets of steps. South of Time Court, above the south stone terrace, an area of lawn slopes steeply upwards to the southern wall, against which a mature fig tree stands.
On its north side, Time Court merges into the c32 sq.m, stone-paved courtyard, where the southern tip of the lily pond emerges through the interlacing arches of the dividing wall. A Renaissance-style balustrade with Portland stone coping surrounds this area of the pond. Further east, a stone ramp leads to the principal visual focus of this section of the garden, the c200 sq.m Parterre Garden. The design of the two c1m-high box parterres replicates the Jacobean design of the front and rear doors of the house. The parterres are interspersed with lawn and flanked to north and south by 1.2m-wide grass paths; a decorative, stone pedestal-vase stands centrally between the parterres. To the north of the parterres, c1m-high box hedging encloses a 3m-wide mixed herbaceous border, adjacent to the dividing wall. The border planting includes jasmine, hibiscus, salvia, delphiniums and euphorbia. To the south of the parterres, at the base of the southern wall and also enclosed by box hedging, lies a c3m-wide mixed shrubbery, including hydrangeas and holly, under-planted with spring-flowering hellebores and aquilegia.
Beyond the parterres, at the summit of a steeply sloping bank, the eastern boundary of the garden is formed by a c3m-high and c2m-wide lawned terrace, known as the Eminence. The terrace is approached, in the north-east corner of the Parterre Garden, by nine ascending brick steps; to the south of the steps, a timber- framed arbour, clad with ivy, leads down to the entrance door of an underground tunnel dug into the bank. During the First World War, the tunnel was used as an air-raid shelter. Further south, a mature Catalpa grows out of the bank.
The Eminence terrace extends southwards on the same level into the walled fourth and fifth areas of the garden which are approached through the wall from the Eminence terrace via a recently-installed (2014) wrought-iron gate hung on c3m-high brick piers hand-sculpted by local C21 craftsmen to reflect a late-Renaissance, Mannerist style.
The extended c2m-wide and c3m-high east terrace lies at the eastern end of the fourth garden. It is laid to lawn, and is enclosed on its eastern side by a c1.5m-high newly-constructed (2014) brick wall, which runs on a north-south axis and divides the fourth and fifth areas of the garden. The fifth garden area, lying to the east of the new wall and extending some 103m south to Victoria Street, is the derelict c0.3ha site of the former early C18 orchard, waterworks and Troy Town Brewery. The remaining Victorian brewery building stands in the far south-eastern corner. The whole of this site will become the new orchard, largely cherry, intended to reflect the garden's historic association with Samuel Pepys.The extended east terrace overlooks the fourth area of the garden giving commanding views of the former Tudor garden below to the west, currently (2014) undergoing major restoration. This c0.1ha area is defined by inner and outer terraced walls in various states of survival, repair and reinstatement. Since 2009, the garden has undergone extensive investigative and scientific analysis of its archaeology, concluding, in 2014, that the physical remains of stone walls, brick walls and flights of steps are evidence of the existence of a walled and terraced garden begun during the late C15 or early C16, with phased additions up to the C18. There appears to be no surviving evidence of the planting design for this period, though the existence of a formal, terraced garden is clearly shown on the 1866 OS map which reflects both the Rumley and Keevil archaeological survey data.
Work in progress (2014) to re-create the Tudor garden includes the repair of the surrounding walls, the reinstatement of the two-tier terracing and the creation of an enclosed Renaissance-style water garden, complete with parterre de broderie. The southern enclosing wall of the former Tudor garden comprises the surviving 26 metres of the chalk, flint and diaper wall - the Tudor wall - and a newly-constructed (2014) matching section to replace the 12 metres demolished in 2007. This wall, standing c3m high (from the foundation course), is the retaining wall for the upper terrace and forms a distinctive backdrop to the garden. During the garden's early history, this upper terrace, c4.5m-high from the ground, would have afforded extensive views of the castle and the cathedral to the west, and the river Medway to the north. This exemplifies an important principle in Tudor garden design, whereby a raised walkway provides a viewing platform, both to the garden below as well as the surrounding landscape.
Approximately 1.5m south of the Tudor wall, at its eastern end, archaeological excavations (Rumley) have revealed the nib of a further c1590 retaining ragstone wall, which once stood above the Tudor wall and formed the southern boundary of the upper terrace. This part of the wall is currently (2014) being reinstated to form a viewing platform. To the north of the Tudor wall, in further excavations, archaeologists also discovered the 16.1m-long remains of the south, inner terrace brick wall, dated to c1600. This wall, which would have extended for a further 20 metres, but was destroyed by the developers, is also currently (2014) being reinstated.
The c30m-long, west, retaining, terraced wall was built in several phases; the lower surviving course, dating to the late medieval or early Tudor period, once stood at least 1.25m above ground. This part of the wall is built mainly of Kentish ragstone and dressed flint nodules with occasional brick pieces. According to Keevill, galleting (the use of small pieces of flint or stone in the joints between the blocks) is much in evidence. Keevill compares the materials used, and the structural form of the lower part of the west wall, to various gates at Rochester Cathedral, and the early Tudor Shurland Hall on the Isle of Sheppey. The remaining parts of the wall, were built on top of the lower course, in four phases, from the C17 to the C21, using a variety of materials including brick and concrete. In 2014, the instability of the wall led to the removal of a 1990s oak carport (formerly belonging to The Vines) that stood above it. The entire wall is undergoing (2014) repair and restoration.
The north wall of the garden, which also forms the southern boundary of the rear garden, stands c4m high; it extends the length of the garden for c70m, and remains intact. The lower course is considered by Keevil to be contemporaneous with the lower course of the west wall (late C15 or early C16) and consists of Kentish ragstone and knapped flint nodules, with galleting; the brick wall, built on top of the lower course, dates from the C17 to the C18. Importantly, the measurements of all four walls correlate with the dimensions of the garden specified in the 1858 memorandum to the 1847 conveyance.
Within the walls are various flights of steps which once led to and from the upper and lower terraces, all in varying states of repair. The 1866 OS map clearly depicts steps in the north-west, south-west, and north-east corners. Archaeological investigations (Keevil) revealed the base of the steps in the north-west corner to have a stone plinth, with brick steps above, both likely to date from the early C19. The steps in the south-west corner recently (2014) uncovered and not dated, would have led to the upper, south terrace. The 1.7m-wide, brick-base remains of the steps in the north-east corner are of c1600 origin (and protruded into the garden, not ‘raking back' as shown on OS map of 1866); these have recently (2014) been reinstated, together with supporting brick piers and an inner, c1m-high retaining east wall.
Books and articles
Nicholas Morgan, Perfection of Horsemanship drawing from Nature, Arte and Practise etc E. White, London 1609 (held by British Library)
Peter T J Rumley, Archaeological Evaluation Report, Terraced Garden, Restoration House, December 2013
Graham Keevill, Archaeological Recording of a Garden Wall at 21, Crow Lane (The Vines), Rochester, 4 February 2014
William B Rye, Restoration House, Rochester, Archaeologia Cantiana, Volume XV, page 111, Kent Archaeological Society 1883
Samuel Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 30th June 1667, website version Phil Gyford
Stephen T Aveling, History of Restoration House, Rochester, Archaeologia Cantiana, Volume XV, page 117, Kent Archaeological Society 1883
John Burke, A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain, Volume 1, Henry Colburn, London, 1826
Elizabeth Hall, Restoration House Gardens: Some Historical Notes, 1994
Compass Archaeology, Century Buildings: Land to the rear of 22/26 Victoria Street, Rochester, Kent - An Archaeological Evaluation, December 2008
Edward Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume IV (1797-1801)
F.F. Smith, A History of Rochester, Hallewell 1928
Robert Tucker Restoration House, Guide Book (5th Edition 2012)
Robert Tucker, Restoration House website, 2014
Rochester, John Speed, 1608-12 (private collection)
Map of the River Medway at Rochester and Chatham, drawn by Richard Smith for the Lords of the Admiralty, May 1633 (original held by the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle, copy at Guildhall Museum, Rochester)
A Plan of the River Medway from Rochester Bridge to Sharpness Point, together with the Marshes and up lands adjacent, surveyed in 1724, J.P. Desmaretz (MALSC, National Archives MPHH 1/50)
A Plan of Part of River Medway from Hooness Battery - Rochester Bridge Surveyed in 1724 with further changes in 1756 and 1768 (MALSC)
A Plan of the City of Rochester in the County of Kent, F. Baker, 1772 (MALSC)
A Plan of the City of Rochester in the County of Kent, R. Sale, 1816 (MALSC)
Tithe map and apportionment, Parish of St Nicholas, Rochester 1841 (MALSC)
Tithe map and apportionment, Parish of St Margaret, Rochester 1845 (MALSC)
City of Rochester, 1:6 large-scale OS map, 1866, (County of Kent, Sheet XIX 6.10 MALSC)
City of Rochester Plan, showing city estates 1897, William Banks, city surveyor (MALSC, RCA C53 01/02)
Ordnance Survey map: 25" to 1 mile:
1st edition (1862-75)
2nd edition (1897-1900)
3rd edition (1907-1923)
4th edition (1929- 1952)
Couchman Collection (MALSC ref. DE402/9)
Medway images, (MALSC)
Site survey photographs (May and August 2014)
Petition laid before Sir Thomas Egerton ‘Lord keeper of the great seale of England' on 18th. June 1598 against Nicholas Morgan and Richard Lea (National Archives: C2/Eliz/R1/57)
Historic Environment Record - Kent County Council website
Title deeds to Restoration House and site plans, 1799-1930s (MALSC ref. 06a - DE series 1001 1200/DE1078):
i. Walter Prentis, Redemption of land tax, September 1799
ii. Conveyances to John Vinson and from John Vinson to Richard Berridge, with site plan, 26th June 1847
iii. Conveyance, John Vinson to Richard Shirley, 8th July 1847
iv. Indenture, 30th October 1847 and site plan
v. Memorandum to 26th June 1847 conveyance, dated 23rd July 1858
vi. Conveyance, with site plan, to Stephen Thomas Aveling, dated 21st March 1877 and Declaration dated 24th March 1877
vii. Lease and indenture dated 24th March 1877 between S T Aveling and the Misses Maclean
viii.Conveyance, R C Pope to F C Boucher, 21st April 1902
ix. Conveyance, Trustees of Stephen Aveling to Canon and Mrs Robins, with site plan, 6th July 1921
x. Conveyance, Mrs Robins to Claude William Mackey and Ernest Gordon Paterson, with site plan, 28th September 1932xi. Letter from Col. and Mrs P Norcock to Rod Hull (undated - 1990s)
Sales particulars, Hampton and Sons, Tuesday 26th April 1921
Papers concerning the executorship of Charles Tompkins and the estate of Richard Berridge of Bloomsbury, 1847-1923 (London Metropolitan Archives ref. ACC/1406)
Letter from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to the County Planning Department, County Hall, Maidstone, conveying instructions to be followed when considering future planning applications relating to Restoration House and its surroundings. 4th July 1969 (KHLC C/PL-2/AH1 21/41)
Medway Council, Planning Committee, Century Buildings Site Rochester - Planning Position, 31st March 2010, includes findings of the judicial review hearing in the High Court on 15th March 2010.
Beverley and Paul Howarth
Virginia Hinze (Editor)
Detailed description added 09/09/2015
Restoration House (listed grade I) is built of red and brown brick, mainly in English bond (and variants), with Kent tile roofs. The central front part of the house has 5 bays with three of them, including the porch, breaking forward.
Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Grade I
External web site link: http://www.restorationhouse.co.uk/
External web site link: http://www.hha.org.uk/Property/806/Restoration-House
External web site link: http://www.kentgardenstrust.org.uk/what_we_do/research/projects/Medway/Restoration%20House.pdf