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Abbots Ripton Hall


Abbots Ripton Hall has pleasure grounds and ornamental gardens, extensively developed from the late-1950s, on the site of 19th-century and earlier features. The property covers about 22 hectares, with gardens of about 2.2 hectares, and a lake of approximately 2.2 hectares.


The ground is virtually flat and the Abbots Ripton Brook flows from north-west to south-east through the gardens.

The gardens are on the site of a medieval garden which contained an eel pond and mound, and a Victorian garden. Abbots Ripton Brook runs through the garden feeding ponds and a lake, with a Chinese pavilion on the far side. A brook crossed by a Chinese bridge leads to a lawn with a thatched Gothic summerhouse and is crossed again by a 1764 brick bridge.

A memorial urn to Humphrey Waterfield (died 1971) is adjacent to a canal and a fountain backed by a tall yew hedge near the Hall. Outstanding herbaceous borders about 92 metres long lead to a chestnut avenue, at whose mid-point is a gothic crossing in trellis. It was built in 1979 by Peter Foster (Surveyor of Westminster Abbey), to replace diseased elms. Silver-leaved plants border the north-west boundary wall, and a rectangular medieval pool is near a small mount at the south-west corner. There are kitchen gardens with plant houses.

Lanning Roper advised on the design and planting between 1960 and 1970, and the Chinese and Gothic timber buildings are by Peter Foster. Fine East Anglian elms survive and there is a new arboretum with a collection of oak trees, white flowering shrub borders and a circular rose garden. All lie within the bounds of a medieval deer park with Holland and Wennington Woods to the north in which mature cedars are still growing.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

Pleasure grounds and gardens with mid-18th century features, extensively developed from the late 1950s by Humphrey Waterfield and Lanning Roper, set in a mid-19th century park.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

The village of Abbots Ripton lies c 5km to the west of the A141 Chatteris to Huntingdon road, c 6km north of Huntingdon. The c 22ha site lies on the east side of the village, surrounded by a flat, open landscape of large fields. The B1090 forms the south-west boundary, screened from the park by a C20 plantation and a bund at the eastern end. To the north-west lies Hall Lane, divided from the garden partly by a hedge and a wall. To the north-east and south-east the park is bounded by hedges, beyond which lies farmland. Views into the park from the roads are screened by the plantations and the garden wall, the main views being internal ones, most notably that between the Hall and the lake. The ground is virtually flat and the Abbots Ripton Brook flows from north-west to south-east through the gardens, both the Brook and lake in the park being fed from run-off.

Entrances and Approaches

The principal entrance to the Hall is now (1999) off Hall Lane, through ornate late C20 wrought-iron gates flanked by pleached lime, and leads immediately onto the gravelled forecourt with its central urn. The mid C18 drive through the park enters midway along the southern boundary, past a single-storey cream brick and thatched lodge cottage. Simple black wrought-iron gates lead onto a grass drive which runs north-west over the red-brick, three-arch bridge, dated 1746 (listed grade II), that spans the Brook to arrive at the forecourt on the north-east front.

Principal Building

Abbots Ripton Hall (listed grade II) stands in the centre of the north-west boundary of the grounds, alongside Hall Lane. It is a red and gault brick two- and three-storey house built to a T-plan with the entrance front to the north-east and the garden front to the south-west. Attached to the western corner of the Hall, facing west over the gardens, is an enclosed swimming pool added in the 1970s. Beside the domestic and nursery quarters to the north stands a late C19 brick and thatch dove house. The present house was built at the beginning of the C18 for the Rooper family, was substantially altered by Anthony Salvin in the 1850s and given further alterations, including the addition of the Chinese loggia by Peter Foster, in the 1970s.

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

The gardens cover c 2.2ha and lie to the south-west, south and south-east of the Hall. Extensive lawns to the south-east are flanked by cherry trees lining a vista to the lake. To the east of this are shrubberies and to the south a series of axial paths cut through mixed borders, including double white borders framed by stone columns. Trees, shrubs, roses and herbaceous plants are combined in this area, which includes an enclosed circular rose garden.

The Abbots Ripton Brook enters the gardens under Hall Lane where it is crossed by a footbridge with Doric columns backed by a grotto (Christopher Thacker 1970). The Brook then widens into a 150m canal with central fountain which faces the south-west lawn and loggia. South of the canal, deep herbaceous borders aligned on the garden door run south-west for c 100m, and are enclosed by mature (possibly late C18) yew hedges. Part way along the borders is a crossing in gothic trellis-work (Peter Foster 1970s) and the walk is terminated by an elaborate wrought-iron gateway with a short red chestnut avenue beyond, leading up to the southern boundary. Between this main walk and the north-west boundary are further borders and enclosed gardens leading to a rose tunnel and pergola attached to the outer, south-east face of the kitchen garden wall, and a rectangular pond of possibly medieval origin with a small mount, surmounted by a mature oak, at the south-west end. Along the boundary wall is a deep grey and silver border designed by Humphrey Waterfield. Although the yew hedges defining the main walk are thought to be late C18 (Thacker 1979), the first map to record simple gardens here is the 1841 Tithe map, the formal structure of the long walk only appearing for the first time on the 1904 OS map. The detail of the planting has been added by Lady De Ramsey, Humphrey Waterfield and Lanning Roper since 1950.

At the south-east end of the canal the Brook is crossed by a Chinese Bridge leading to a thatched gothic summerhouse on the south bank (both by Peter Foster 1970s). From here the garden becomes less formal in structure. Some 200m further downstream the Brook is crossed again by the three-arch bridge carrying the south-east drive, beyond which it follows the line of the south bank of the lake, the area between being planted with mixed trees and shrubs. The path leads to a Chinese Fishing Pavilion (Peter Foster 1970s) at the eastern tip of the lake. This area has all been developed since the 1950s.


A small area of park, laid to grass, lies to the north of the lake and gardens. A few mature oaks stand in the open park, with large plane and pollarded ash along a ha-ha which divides the park from the gardens on the north-east side of the main drive, close to the Hall, and several mature Huntingdon elms surviving in the park and the pleasure ground (these are part of some 600 elms which survive in and around the village of Abbots Ripton). The c 4.5ha lake runs east/west through the eastern half of the park and was excavated for use as a reservoir in the 1970s. Spoil from the excavation has been used to create a long bund in the south-east corner of the park which has been planted with a variety of trees.

Kitchen Garden

The walled kitchen garden is situated in the south-west corner of the gardens, enclosed by high brick walls to the east and north and beech hedges to the south and west. The area is used as a works yard for the gardeners and for growing fruit and vegetables. Collections held in the temperate and subtropical houses have recently (1990s) been donated to the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. The kitchen garden and glasshouses are probably contemporary with the mid C19 Salvin period of work on the Hall.

Other Land

Beyond the northern boundary of the site here registered are two blocks of woodland: Holland Wood and Wennington Wood, both of which are shown on the 1776 estate map. Managed for game, these were cut through with rides during the mid C19 and lined with ornamental tree species, as an extension to the ornamental landscape.


  • Fellowes family estate map, 1776 (2068/MD13), (Huntingdon Record Office)
  • Tithe map for Abbots Ripton parish, 1841 (2196/36/1A), (Huntingdon Record Office)
  • OS 6" to 1 mile:
  • 1st edition published 1887
  • 2nd edition published 1900
  • 3rd edition published 1924
  • OS 25" to 1 mile:
  • 1st edition published 1886
  • 3rd edition published 1924

Description written: December 1999

Register Inspector: EMP

Edited: January 2001, February 2023

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

Extensive pleasure grounds and ornamental gardens, developed from the 1950s by Humphrey Waterfield, lie to the south and east of the 18th-century hall. The Hall was remodelled by Salvin in 1856.

The site of Abbots Ripton Hall is an old one although the house and the landscape which surround it are much more recent. The manor was mentioned in the Domesday Book and was held by the abbots of Ramsey Abbey until the Dissolution when it was granted by the Crown to Sir John St John. Although no gardens are recorded, it is known that the abbots dammed the eastern end of the Abbots Ripton Brook to provide a body of water in which to keep fish.

17th Century

The manor passed through the St John family to Oliver, Earl of Bolingbroke, who in 1640 conveyed the property to Hugh Awdley. The estate was divided on Hugh's death between his grandnephews Nicholas and Thomas Bonfoy. Thomas's daughter Susan married Sir Charles Caesar whose descendants continued to hold the manor until the mid 18th century when Julius Caesar sold it.

18th Century

The majority was acquired in 1760 by William Henry Fellowes, whose descendants, the lords De Ramseys, remained lords of the manor. The Hall and its grounds, however, remained with Nicholas Bonfoy's descendants, the Roopers, who almost entirely rebuilt the old manor house in about 1800.

19th Century

In the 1850s the De Ramseys purchased the remainder of the manor, commissioning the architect Anthony Salvin (1799-1881) to make substantial alterations to the Hall.

By the mid 19th century a small area of gardens, including a long canal, is show on the Tithe map of 1841, which records the Hall surrounded by pasture fields rather than a park landscape.

20th Century

By the beginning of the 20th century gardens were being developed to the south-west of the Hall, which remained a second home to the family who lived mainly at Ramsey Abbey until about 1936, when they moved permanently to Abbots Ripton.

During the First World War the Hall was used as a hospital, then in the 1960s and 1970s Lord and Lady De Ramsey commissioned Humphrey Waterfield and Lanning Roper to lay out gardens and pleasure grounds of about 2 hectares. The architect Peter Foster built garden follies, and Christopher Thacker, a grotto. The park was expanded and a lake created during the 1970s.

21st Century

The site remains in private ownership.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD1600
  • Grade: II


  • Trellis
  • Pavilion
  • Lake
  • Specimen Tree
  • Pond
  • Canal
  • Fountain
  • Pool
  • Lawn
  • Hedge
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Rose Garden
  • Avenue
  • Trellis
  • Ornamental Bridge
  • Pavilion
  • Summerhouse
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The old manor house was almost entirely re-built around 1800. Substantial alterations were made by Anthony Salvin in the 1850s.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Part: ground/below ground level remains



Open to the public


Civil Parish

Abbots Ripton