Restoration House, Rochester, England
Record Id: 9493
The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Medway:
CHRONOLOGY OF THE HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT
The earliest recorded date of origin for Restoration House is 1454, but it was built substantially in several phases between the late C16 and the late C17 and during this time was known variously as Crolane, Crowland and Whites Place (Morgan, 1598 petition, 1847 conveyance).
Cumulative archaeological evidence (Rumley, Keevill) verifies that a late C15 or early C16 terraced garden, enclosed by inner and outer walls, once existed at Restoration House. Although its extent and design are not fully understood, significant remains of brick-base steps and Kentish ragstone terraced walling, built on two levels, have been dated to this period. During extensive archaeological excavations between April 2009 and April 2010, the remnants of a brick culvert, scientifically dated to between c1590 and c1647, were found trapped below a grade II listed, diaper-patterned wall, known as the Tudor wall. Previously, in 2008, following a limited archaeological survey, Compass Archaeology asserted that the Tudor wall was ‘probably' of C18 origin; these findings have since been superseded. The remains of the Tudor wall have now been scientifically dated by OSL, Oxford University, as c1590, together with the nib of a ragstone wall located immediately above and behind it. Late C16 to C18 brick retaining walls have also been discovered, built in phases on top of the earlier stone walls and increasing their height over a period of time.
One of the first recorded owners of Restoration House was a Peter Rowle, who in the late C16 bequeathed the house and all associated lands to his wife Elizabeth during her lifetime, and thereafter to his son, George Rowle. On 18th June 1598, a petition was laid before the High Court of Chancery to subpoena a Nicholas Morgan, a member of the Inner Temple, who was accused of taking unlawful possession of the house, and some 220 acres of associated land, from Elizabeth Rowle some seven years earlier. According to the petition, Morgan committed ‘great wastes and spoiles' on the premises, removing amongst other things, soil from the garden in order to utilize the land for the manufacture of bricks. Archaeological investigations conclude that a brick making factory may well have existed on the site of the garden during its early history, thus providing a link between the two. Morgan was also accused of pulling down two barns and a pigeon house (1598 petition). It appears that the case against Morgan was not proven however, as in 1607 he bequeathed the house and "several pieces of land in St. Margaret's neare the citty of Rochester" (Rye p.112) to his daughter, Grace, as part of an endowment on her marriage to a Henry Clerke (or Clarke). Clerke, of the Middle Temple, later became MP for Rochester in 1621-2 and 1626, and Recorder of Rochester between 1621- 8 (HER, Rye).Cartographic evidence of 1608-12, also indicates an early C17 garden. Although not to scale, the John Speed map clearly depicts a substantial building, probably Restoration House, together with its walled enclosed garden, situated outside Rochester's city walls directly north of Deanery House (Speed). The ‘Alnwick map' of 1633 also identifies the house itself, annotated as ‘Mr. Clarke's house' (Alnwick Castle map).
In 1652, ownership succeeded to Henry Clerke's son, Sir Francis Clerke (c1624-1686), MP for Rochester from 1661-79 and 1681-5. During this time, in the mid-C17, a major re-modelling of the house and its facade was undertaken (HER). Notably, the facade incorporated fashionable, Mannerist-style brickwork, still extant (2014). In May 1660, an overnight visit was made by Charles II, during his restoration to the English throne (Rye). Restoration House owes its name to the commemoration of the King's visit, but it was probably not known as such until the C19. On 30th June 1667, reference to the house and potentially the garden was made by the diarist Samuel Pepys who recalls walking in the nearby fields: "...then saw Sir Francis Clerke's house, which is a pretty seat, and... into the cherry garden..." (Pepys' Diary). A further reference to the garden occurs in 1681 when a David Jones (physician) was a tenant of the house and, according to Aveling, a William Belcher rented the garden at the same time, until 1693 (Aveling).
By 1693, ownership had passed from the Clerke family to a Captain William Bokenham (or Bockenham, d. 1702), MP for Rochester from 1701-2, and probably the same part of the garden to which Pepys referred was rented to a Roger Pilcher, whose family almost certainly remained tenants until at least 1757. In a title deed of 26th February 1693, this part of the garden is described as "and all that Orchard or little piece of ground, planted with fruit trees, containing by estimacion (sic) half an acre more or less lying by St Margaret aforesaid and adjoining or lying near to the yard and gardens belonging the said capital messuage and now or late in occupation of Roger Pilcher" (Rye, p.114).
Between 1702 and 1798, possession of Restoration House passed through several ownerships, namely: Henry and Anne Bokenham, Henry May, Thomas Knight MP (formerly known as Thomas Brodnax and Thomas May) of Godmersham (c 1701-1781) and Thomas Knight (the Younger) MP (1735-1794) the adoptive father of Edward Austen, brother of Jane Austen (Norcock, Burke). The extent of the gardens and grounds associated with Restoration House during this period is uncertain. However, C18 cartographic evidence, supported by later evidence from mid-C19 tithe maps and related apportionments, suggests that the gardens covered all of the area lying between Crow Lane (formerly Maidstone Road) to the west, Victoria Street (formerly Victoria Place) to the east, East Row to the south and the St Margaret parish boundary to the north, together with an adjacent c0.3ha area further north, in the parish of St Nicholas. The evidence includes plans of the River Medway by Desmaretz dating from 1724 and 1768 which show orchards and compartmentalised gardens dissected by axial pathways.
This period also saw the gradual encroachment on the extent of the garden of Restoration House as it was then. Between 1700 and 1732, part of the garden immediately to the south became the site of Vines House. Vines House itself was formed from part of the south wing of Restoration House and was later divided to become ‘Vines Croft' (formerly 23 Maidstone Road and much renewed in the C19) and ‘The Vines' (formerly 21 Maidstone Road), now (2014) listed grade II and grade II*. Evidence also suggests that part of the garden, in the south-east corner, formerly orchards, became the site of the Rochester Waterworks, providing piped water to the city from 1710. Later, in 1750, it also became the site of Troy Town Brewery (Desmaretz, HER, Smith).
In the mid-C18, Restoration House itself was divided into two to create two separate tenancies: in 1757 it is believed that the tenants (a Jane Baynard and a Mr Wilkes) "likewise divided Pilcher's garden" (Aveling p.121). This is substantiated by later, physical evidence which identifies a partially extant, central, C18 wall running east, immediately to the rear of the house and dividing the garden north to south (Hall).
In 1759, after protracted negotiations, Thomas Knight (the Younger) sold the house for £700 to a John Baynard who bequeathed it to Elizabeth Holworthy who, in 1793, sold to her son, the Rev. Charles Holworthy (Rye, Aveling, Norcock). In 1799, ownership passed to a Walter Prentis who paid land tax in respect of "a messuage or tenement divided into and used as two messuages one in the occupation of Sarah Balderson and the other late in the occupation of Elizabeth Baynard with the outbuilding, yards, gardens and appurtenances" (Redemption of land tax September 1799). The Baker map of 1772 and the Sale map of 1816 show little detail of the garden, but clearly identify the waterworks towards the far south-east corner, together with what may be compartmentalised gardens, but more likely to be three filtration beds. South of the house, the maps also show the Tudor wall running west to east, and beyond the wall to the south, a reservoir (Baker, Sale, Rumley).
By 1845, the Tithe map and related apportionment verify that Walter's heir, Stephen Prentis (b.1800), had taken possession of Restoration House together with at least 2ha of gardens and orchards extending to the boundaries of East Row, Victoria Street and Crow Lane, within the parish of St Margaret. Similar evidence shows that Prentis also owned c0.3ha of market gardens adjacent to and lying north of Restoration House within the parish of St. Nicholas (Tithe maps and apportionments, 1841, 1845).
Restoration House and its associated gardens and land remained in the possession of the Prentis family until 26th June 1847, when ownership was formerly transferred to the last surviving trustee of the Prentis estate, a John Vinson. The conveyance for this sale included a substantial area of land and outbuildings: "the capital messuage, together with the barns, stables, outhouses, buildings, courtyards, backsides, gardens, orchards, ponds, appurtenances...lying in the parish of St Margaret... formerly in the tenure of Roger Pilcher". On the same day, Vinson sold off the ‘capital messuage' and the first of two lots to a brewer and wealthy landowner, Richard Berridge (d.1887). This c0.65ha area of land lay to the east and south of the house and included "all buildings, ways, commons, waters, watercourses, sewers, drains, fences, trees, easements, rights, members and appurtenances" (Conveyances and site plan 26th June 1847). Archival evidence suggests that the ‘buildings' and ‘appurtenances' referred to included the "...building known as the Water Works, machinery, a cottage with an adjoining garden and a covered reservoir or tank" (Berridge estate papers).
On 8th July 1847, Vinson sold lot 2 to a Richard Shirley. This c0.25ha of land, situated to the north of the house and extending into St Nicholas parish included "all that piece of land formerly belonging to Restoration House including the foundations and pathways formerly the barn and that piece of land lying to the south-west formerly tenanted by Roger Pilcher and planted with fruit trees" (Conveyance, and site plan 8th July 1847).
In 1858, a subsequent memorandum to the 1847 indenture confirmed that the c0.1ha piece of land to the south of the house, adjacent to the Tudor wall, and now (2014) known as the Tudor Garden, did not in fact form part of the 1847 sale, as it was in the ‘rightful possession' of a George Bingham, the then owner of the neighbouring Vines House. The memorandum stated amongst other things: "a piece of Garden Ground situated in the parish of St Margarets (sic), Rochester aforesaid formerly belonging to Restoration House containing in width on the north-west side including walls 100 feet 6 inches, on the south-east side 103 feet, on the north-east side 156 feet 6 inches, and the south-west side 152 feet, part of the within mentioned hereditaments was conveyed and assured unto and to the use of George William Powlett Bingham, his heirs and assigns for ever; discharged from the within mortgage and all demands in respect thereof" (Memorandum 1858).
Notwithstanding changes of ownership, the house clearly had achieved and retained its landmark status when in 1861 it appeared as Satis House, the reclusive home of Miss Havisham in the Dickens novel Great Expectations.
In 1866, detailed cartographic evidence shows mature, formal, compartmentalised and terraced gardens lying to the east and south of the house, divided and enclosed by internal and external boundary walls. These gardens, although now separated and in different ownership, also indicate contemporary elements common to both, including raised, terraced walkways and flights of steps. The land sold to Richard Shirley to the north is also depicted, showing the Vines Congregational Chapel built in 1854, now (2014) divided and known as The Vines Church and King's Hall (1866 OS map, Rumley).
On 21st March 1877, ownership of Restoration House and its remaining associated gardens and land passed to an industrialist and antiquarian Stephen Thomas Aveling (c1837-1916) (Declaration, Indenture and site plan). Almost immediately, on 24th March 1877, Aveling leased part of the house for a period of ten years to the Misses Maclean, allowing them to use the premises as a day or boarding school (1877 lease and indenture).
On 21st April 1902, ownership of a property adjacent to the Vines Congregational Chapel, known as 13, Maidstone Road, formerly Vines Cottage, passed from R.C. Pope to F.C. Boucher: the indenture indicates that the land and gardens were also formerly in the possession of Stephen Aveling (conveyance, April 1902). On 29th February 1916, Aveling died and on 6th July 1921 the trustees of his estate conveyed the land and gardens associated with Restoration House (and Vines Cottage) to Canon and Mrs Robins (conveyance and site plan of 1921). The sales particulars state that: " At the back is an Old- World garden disposed in lawn with flower beds and borders, gravel walks and shrubberies, ancient summer house, apple, pear, fig, peach and cherry trees"(sales particulars 1921).On 28 September 1932, ownership of Restoration House passed from Mrs Annie Robins to a Claude William Mackey and an Ernest Gordon Paterson, and through various trusteeships remained in the possession of the Mackey family until 1972. The plan attached to the conveyance verifies that the gardens, including outbuildings were by this date limited to c0.25ha lying immediately to the east of the house (conveyance and site plan).
In 1969, the Mackey family were awarded a £3000 maintenance grant by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, because Restoration House was considered to be of outstanding historic and architectural interest. The Ministry stipulated to the county planning department that any "planning proposals which affect this building or its surroundings, including any proposals for roads, [should] take into account the fact that the Minister considers it to be in the public interest that the building and its setting should be preserved." (Letter 4th July 1969)
In 1994, the present owners took possession and began a programme of restoration to the c0.25ha neglected garden, resulting in two interlinked walled gardens on several levels, reflecting various phases of its history.
The land to the south and east, within the curtilage of Restoration House until the mid-C19, was subject to considerable change in the C20 and C21. Cartographic evidence shows that the water works to the east (still shown in 1866) had been demolished by c1909 though the reservoir to the west still remained, with a small building, possibly a pump house, added by 1938 (OS 2nd and 3rd editions). By the 1960s, a retaining wall between the water works and the reservoir was partially demolished, and a tarmac car park was built on the garden area north of the Tudor wall. By the 1980s, the reservoir was replaced by two detached houses, Pretty Seat Mews.
In 2007, the remainder of this land to the south and east suffered unauthorised intrusive house-building activity by the developers, Future Homes Limited, resulting in the demolition of c12m of the c38m listed Tudor wall, together with the destruction of 20m of a parallel c1600 lower, inner terrace wall (Rumley). The developers later went into receivership, and in October 2009, the current owners of Restoration House purchased the site; subsequently, the partially-built housing to the east (on the site of the former waterworks, Troy Town Brewery and walled garden, sold off in the C19) was demolished. The current owners of Restoration House are (2014) re-creating the walled garden to become a Renaissance-style water garden: the part of the former waterworks land further to the east, is planned as an orchard (Rumley, Tucker).
In 2014, the current owners further purchased the listed grade II* Vines House, together with its adjacent c60 sq.m of garden to the east. Restoration House and its associated gardens remain in private ownership.
Detailed history added 09/09/2015