Bedgebury Park 339

Goudhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England

Brief Description

Bedgebury Park comprises 129 hectares of parkland, and incorporates Bedgebury National Pinetum. The remains of the original 15th century house are now beneath one of the lakes on the site.

History

The original 15th century house was owned by the Culpeppers but its site is now beneath the lake. A later house was built further up the hill and elaborated into a French chateau style in the 1830s. In 1910, Bedgebury Pinetum took some of the land to the south-east.

Visitor Facilities

The site is open throughout the year. Please see: http://www.bedgeburypinetum.org.uk/

Detailed Description

The 9 hectare lake at the base of the slope is one of four in a series and was created when R. Tries dammed the stream in the 19th century. An elaborate system of hydraulic pumps and reservoirs exists to feed the fountains and equalise the lake water. Beyond the lake are 16 hectares of wood with many conifers and other exotic species. This has been badly affected by the 1987 storm and in July 1988 an extensive clearance operation was in progress.

There is parkland to the north and west of the mansion, where there is a drive with lime avenue. This has had 16 young trees replanted to replace those lost in the 1987 storm. There are some fine specimen trees here, Victorian specimens rather than earlier clumps. There are 16 hectares to the north of this area, divided into paddocks (Bedgebury Park riding centre). A further 30 hectares is rented out for sheep grazing. A fine copper beech avenue leads out from the main drive, to the south-west. However, institutional development has taken place in this area, with a headmaster's house, staff cottages and a car park.

Directly north of the mansion are 2 large wellingtonia specimens and weeping ash trees, set with a large lawn, terraced into tennis courts and surrounded by large banks of rhododendrons. This area slopes down to the rounded end of the lake.

To the east face of the mansion are elaborate terraced gardens, created in 1830. These consist of rose beds, (newly replanted), set in balustraded terraces and centred around a fountain.

A large central staircase flanked by 15 Irish yew pairs, descends from the rose garden to the lake, culminating in a semi-circular yew lined look-out to the lake. The lake is used for boating and nature studies.

A modern hall and covered swimming pool are situated on the slope below the house to the south of the yew flanked staircase, together with a new Art block built in 1989.

The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Tunbridge Wells Borough:

SITE DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Bedgebury Park lies in the valley of the River Teise within an undulating well-wooded landscape. It is situated approximately 3km east of Kilndown, 5km south of Goudhurst and 16km south-east of Royal Tunbridge Wells. The c.80h site is on the east side of Lady Oak Lane (B2079), which runs south from Goudhurst to join the A21 approximately 1km north-west of Flimwell. Bedgebury Park is bordered to the west by Lady Oak Lane and to the north and east by pastureland on the Teise valley slopes. The southern boundary adjoins the Bedgebury National Pinetum and other former Forestry Commission lands which, since 1965, have been the responsibility of the Forestry Authority.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Bedgebury Park is approached from the east side of the B2079 through an entrance framed by a small copse. A tarmacadum drive leads through a five-bar, white wooden gate with Kilndown Lodge immediately on its north side. The late C19 two-storey brick lodge house is now in private ownership. The undulating drive winds for approximately 750m in an easterly direction lined by young and mature lime trees. Some trees were planted in the late C20 but a few remain from a late nineteenth-century avenue planting (3rd edn OS map). The north side of the drive is enclosed by iron railings from the adjoining undulating pastureland dotted with mature oak trees (now in separate ownership). On the south side of the drive, the open parkland is now laid out as school sports fields.

Approximately 250m from Kilndown Lodge, as the drive ascends, Bedgebury mansion comes into view to the north-east across this pastureland. The drive then descends towards the north-west main front of the mansion to arrive on a rectangular gravelled forecourt. Adjoining the mansion's north-east side is a balustrade inset with a wrought iron gate which leads to a flight of stone steps that descend to the east, garden front. A 1769 map (Andrews, Drury and Herbert) shows the mansion with an axial approach from the west which terminated in a semi-oval forecourt on the north-west, main front. This was still in place in 1838 (Roos), but by 1870 had been replaced by a curving drive from Lady Oak Lane to the south-west. This drive then continued from the north side of the forecourt in a northerly direction for about 3km to Beresford Lodge, further north on Lady Oak Lane (1st edn OS map). Two additional lodges (Horsegate Lodge and Springwood Lodge) are sited further south along Lady Oak Lane as entrances for Home Farm, which is 400m to the south-west of the mansion. All four lodges are now in separate ownership.

PRINCIPAL BUILDINGS

Bedgebury Park mansion (listed grade II*), built in 1688 but altered in the mid-C19, is a three-storey house thirteen window bays wide with two attic storeys (listed building description). The mansion is clad in sandstone ashlar with a slate Mansard roof. The north-east entrance front has projecting wings of three bays each and a shallow projecting centre piece of three bays with a projecting porch. The garden elevation is similarly disposed, but without a porch. The plain, pedimented, C18 red-brick core of the mansion was extended c.1838 and given an Italianate shell by the architect Alexander Roos. By 1855, a French-style roof had been added by architect R. C. Carpenter.

Attached to the south-west end of the mansion is a stable block (listed grade II*). A gravelled rectangular stable courtyard is entered from the west through 1.5m high double wrought iron gates hung on sandstone ashlar piers surmounted by urns. An ashlar building with bell tower surmounted by a spire forms the west wall of the stable block. These were added in the late 1850s by the architect Edward Slater. The north and east sides of the courtyard are formed by C18, two-storey ranges of red brick with stone plat band. These buildings were converted to classroom and office use in 2006.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The garden terraces (listed grade II*) and lakeside pleasure grounds lie to the north-east, east and south-east of the mansion. A central door on the mansion's south-east front opens onto a top terrace (20mx 10m) paved in stone flags inset with C20 rectangular glass blocks to provide light to a basement. The terrace is enclosed on the south, east and west sides by a stone balustrade 0.5m high with regular pedestals, urn finials and cast iron torch bearers supported by sphinxes at the base (listed building description). From the eastern edge of this terrace there are views down over a parterre garden on a lower terrace (40m x 50m) and beyond to 8ha Great Lake, approximately 100m further east, and pastureland on its far side. Similar balustrading features along each side of flights of ten stone steps that descend from the north and south ends of the top terrace to the lower terrace.

The lower terrace is also enclosed by a similar balustrade with urn finials and is simply laid out with a central 2m high fountain set within a stone basin and eight grass plats with planting areas, the whole set within wide, gravelled paths. The C19 white-painted, cast iron fountain was manufactured by the celebrated Coalbrookdale Company (Davis) (listed grade II). It has a scrolled base and baluster stem and incorporates two bowls with water jets and a gilded putto as its finial. From the centre of the eastern side of the lower terrace, an axial route descends towards Great Lake, first in a flight of 24 steps then as a gently-sloping gravel path flanked by 15 pairs of large yew balls. The descent terminates at an apparent copy of the Warwick Vase positioned in a man-made grassy hollow directly below the end of the path. The vase, probably of C19 origin and constructed in artificial limestone (Davis), is set on a C19 granite base (listed grade II, vase now, 2009, in poor condition). The path divides on each side of the hollow to descend further to the west shore of Great Lake.

An unattributed painting c.1830 shows the mansion, before the present terraces were constructed, set in a picturesque landscape garden viewed across Great Lake. The changes made by Roos are recorded in his paintings. They show an open parkland with mature trees as the setting for his enlarged mansion, with views from the present top terrace over the present lower terrace formally laid out with statuary, fountains and urns. Although an 1839 painting (also attributed to Roos) depicts only one, central, fountain and planted parterres, a contemporary guide book mentions that ‘the house, as well as the fountains, are supplied with water from a spring, one and a half miles away' (Colbran). Water for the fountains was also piped from a reservoir, fed from an hydraulic ram supplied by water from Great Lake (Batchelor).

An aviary is shown immediately east of the stables on the 1870 OS map, but is gone by 1929 (4th edn OS map). The 1897 Sales Particulars also listed ‘lake-side walks... shrubberies, tennis lawn... Rhododendrons and other beautiful plants ... well-grown evergreens ... geometrical flower beds and most delightful foliaged walks'. Photographs taken in the 1920s and 1930s (private collection) record a rose garden on the south side of the present parterre and parterre beds on either side of the clipped yew balls walk.

On their north and south sides, the terraces are set within informal lawns with mature trees (including two Wellingtonias and a weeping ash) on ground descending to the chain of lakes. A scattering of trees runs for 100m from the mansion in a north-easterly direction to join woodland at the broadest part of the lake. Together they form an informal boundary between the designed gardens and the parkland west of the mansion. The west bank of the lake here has a number of mature oaks framing fine views to the east to rising pastureland on the far bank (in separate ownership) and north-east across the broad ‘head' of the lake, although the views are now (2009) partly obscured by self-sown trees on the eastern bank.

To the south-east of the mansion, the upper slopes of Great Lake and Lady's Lake to its south-west are partly occupied by school buildings built since 2001. The chain of lakes begins 600m south of the mansion, the stream feeding first Marshall's Lake (within Bedgebury Pinetum) then flowing north-west through Pine Lake, Lady's Lake and finally into Great Lake in a series of dams and waterfalls. Much of the edges of Pine Lake (used for bathing in the 1920s and 1930s, photographs in private collection) and Lady's Lake are now (2009) hidden in dense growth of self-seeded trees and undergrowth, as are the islands in the southern section of Great Lake and Lady's Lake (1st edn OS map). The dam and waterfall between Lady's Lake and Great Lake are similarly overgrown although the lower western slopes above Lady's Lake are currently (2009) being cleared of undergrowth and restored to pleasure ground lawns.

About 150m south-east of the mansion on the west bank of Lady's Lake is a chalybeate spring known as Lady's Well. It is housed in a late C18 or early C19 small, square building open on three sides and constructed of sandstone ashlar with a slate roof (listed grade II). A surrounding water garden was developed in 1964 as a memorial to Eileen Bickerstaff, headmistress of Bedgebury School.

PARKLAND

Parkland on the west, north-west and east of the mansion is managed as grazed pasture with specimen trees. There is woodland to the north of the mansion, along the route of the drive to Beresford Lodge, and on the eastern edges of Lady's Lake and Pine Lake. A second chalybeate spring is sited approximately 150m north of the mansion (1st edn OS map) on the western bank of Great Lake and, 200m further north-west on the north bank, the C19 hydraulic ram which fed the garden fountains (listed grade II). The 1870 OS map also records two ice houses in the woodland east of Lady's Lake, remnants of which apparently still survive (John Walker, Bedgebury archivist).

Four hundred metres to the south-west of the mansion is Home Farm, its C19 brick-and-tile farmhouse now converted for residential use (Garden Cottage, Stables Cottage and Home Farm Cottage). A few metres to the west a C19 barn has been converted to a school dining room. An area north of Home Farm extending to the drive from Kilndown Lodge is mown grass and forms part of the school sports ground. This includes six wire-fence-enclosed tennis courts sited approximately 200m south-west of the mansion at the crest of the rising land from the drive. Immediately to the west of the forecourt on the mansion's entrance front earthworks indicate the site of early C20 tennis courts (4th edn OS map).

KITCHEN GARDEN

A two-compartment brick-walled kitchen garden (listed grade II) lies 200m to the south-west of the mansion (1st edn OS map). Constructed in the late C18 and mid-C19 centuries, the two compartments, aligned on a north-south axis, are each approximately 50m x 50m. Each is enclosed by 2.5m high red-brick walls with plinth and coping, and buttresses at intervals (listed building description). The southern compartment (in separate ownership) is in agricultural use and the walls are in poor condition. The northern one is laid out as a training area for the riding school. An additional C19 walled area adjoins the kitchen garden's north-west end which, until 2008, was used for stables and offices.

In 1834, Sales Particulars listed ‘two ice houses and a walled kitchen garden with hot houses, a grapery and a green house' (Batchelor). During the 1840s the southern compartment of the walled garden was built and glasshouses constructed. By 1870, this compartment is shown divided into two sections with perimeter paths, a central water tank, a building attached to the exterior west side and a glass house in the north-east corner (1st edn OS map). The northern compartment was divided into quarters with perimeter and cross paths (some lined with trees), a central water tank and a number of glass houses and other buildings in the north-west corner. At the beginning of the C20, the frame yard attached to the north-west corner included seven hothouses and a peach house, fernery and two potting sheds (Drainage and Water Supply Plan). Photographs from the early 1920s confirm that at least some of these glass houses and associated buildings were still in productive use. In the mid-C19 walled orchard gardens were also constructed near Spring Lodge (1st edn OS map). These are now used as a works area and car park by Bedgebury Pinetum.

REFERENCES

Books and articles

Edward Hasted, ‘The hundred of West or Little Barnefield: The parish of Goudhurst (part)', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7 (1798), pp. 73-88.

G. Virtue, Picturesque Beauties of Great Britain: Kent (1829), p. 114.

James Colbran, A New Guide to Tunbridge Wells (1839).

H. S. Cowper, ‘A Wealden Charter of A. D. 814', Archaeologica Cantiana Vol. 31(1915), p. 203.S.

A. Clarke, A History of Bedgebury (private publication, 1949), cited in David Huskisson report, p. 2.

John Newman, West Kent and the Weald. Pevsner's Buildings of England series (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), pp.354-55. 1st published 1969.

John Davis, Antique Garden Ornament. 300 years of creativity: artists, manufacturers & materials (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1991), pp. 198-209, 252-57, 269-72.

Michael Leslie, ‘An English Landscape Garden before "The English Landscape Garden"?', Journal of Garden History (1993).

Gordon W. Batchelor, The Beresfords of Bedgebury Park (Goudhurst: Musgrave,1996).

Maps

Philip Symonson, Map of Kent 1596.

J. Andrews, A. Dury and W. Herbert, A Topographical Map of the County of Kent ....2" to 1 mile 1769.

William Mudge, A New and Accurate Survey of Kent 1801

1840 Tithe map

The Home Farm and Garden Buildings. Bedgebury Park, Goudhurst, Kent. Plan of Drainage and Water Supply. July 1903. T. H. Smith Architect (private collection)

1st edn 25" OS map 1870 Sheets 70/5, 70/9

2nd edn 25" OS map 1896 Sheets 70/5, 70/9

3rd edn 25" OS map 1907 Sheets 70/5, 70/9

4th edn 25" OS map 1929 Sheets 70/5, 70/9

Modern Mastermap 1:2,500

Illustrations

Bedgbury. The seat of Francis Law c.1830. Painting of Bedgebury House from across the water. Reproduced in Batchelor p. 15.

Bedgebury c.1838. Four watercolours by Alexander Roos. Yale Centre for British Art. Reproduced in Batchelor pp. 13, 15.

Bedgebury c.1839. Watercolour attributed to Alexander Roos. Yale Centre for British Art. Reproduced in Batchelor p. 16.

F. M. Lord Beresford's Bedgebury House 1849 painting included in Sales Particulars. Albums of photographs of Bedgebury School 1920s onwards (private collection).

2 photographs of (a) fountain and terrace and (b) urn near lake. County Planning Department 1981/2

Aerial photograph 2003

Archival items

Advertisement for the sale of Bedgebury Park, Maidstone and Kentish Journal (20May 1834), cited in Batchelor p. 1.

The Bedgebury Estate Sales Particulars 1897 (with estate map and two illustrations), reproduced in Batchelor pp. 208-24.

Bedgebury Park Ledger. Garden and Orchard Accounts February 1920 - July 1955 (private collection)

Bedgebury. English Heritage Listed Buildings entries undated.

Kent Compendium entry and notes 1996.

David Huskisson Associates (2001), Bedgebury School. A Review of the Historic Landscape. Vols 1 & 2. Report prepared in connection with Planning Permission TW/97/00958/FUI/RCC

Bedgebury Pinetum. English Heritage Register Entry 2002.

Research by Liz Walker

Description written by Barbara Simms

Edited by Virginia Hinze

January 2009

Features
  • Lake
  • Description: The 9 hectare lake at the base of the slope is one of four in a series and was created when R. Tries dammed the stream in the 19th century.
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The house was elaborated into a French chateau style in the 1830s.
  • Latest Date:
  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: Lime avenue.
  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: Copper beech avenue.
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: To the east face of the mansion are elaborate terraced gardens, created in 1830. These consist of rose beds, (newly replanted), set in balustraded terraces and centred around a fountain.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Steps
  • Description: A large central staircase flanked by 15 Irish yew pairs, descends from the rose garden to the lake.
Fountain
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The site is open throughout the year. Please see: http://www.bedgeburypinetum.org.uk/

Directions

The site is in the Tunbridge Wells Borough, 3 miles south of Goudhurst. It can be reached from junction 5 of the M25. http://www.bedgeburypinetum.org.uk/planning_your_visit.htm
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Goudhurst
History

Detailed History

The original 15th century house was owned by the Culpeppers but its site is now beneath the lake. A later house was built further up the hill and elaborated into a French chateau style in the 1830s. In 1910, Bedgebury Pinetum took some of the land to the south-east.

The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Tunbridge Wells Borough:

CHRONOLOGY OF THE HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

The site of Bedgebury Park is first mentioned in the Wealden Charter of 814 as Begcgebyra (Cowper) and was probably a wooded area used for pig grazing. It was perhaps part of a larger estate, as later developed by the Begebesi family, who owned it until the late C13 (Huskisson). During the C14 and early C15, John de Bedgebury and his descendants owned what became known as the manor of Bedgebury, the estate passing through marriage to the Colepeper family in 1424. During the Colepepers's occupancy the family and estate flourished and an iron industry was developed there (Symonson 1596). Elizabeth I visited the seat with its ‘extensive park' on her progresses through Kent in 1573 (Hasted). In the late C17, the estate was bought by a Sir James Hayes, who in 1688 ‘rebuilt this seat, at a small distance from the antient [sic] mansion', on higher land.

By the early C18 Bedgebury Park was owned by an Edward Stephenson, passing on his death to his nephew, also Edward. In the 1780s it was owned for a short time by a Miss Peach, who sold to a Sir John Cartier in 1789, who by 1798 had ‘made great improvements to the house and lands adjoining' (Hasted). These included extending an existing water body to create a chain of lakes (Great Lake, Lady's Lake, Pine Lake and Marshall's Lake) on the east and north-east of the property (Mudge). On Cartier's death, his nephew Francis Law inherited the estate, which he retained until 1834, when it was advertised as a ‘Gentleman's Residence' of 931ha (2300 acres), including 486ha (1200 acres) of woodland, having spacious pleasure grounds [and] a lake of twenty acres' (Batchelor).

In 1836 it was bought by William Carr, Field Marshall Viscount Beresford, and his wife Louisa, who commissioned an Italian architect Alexander Roos to enlarge the mansion (Roos). Alexander, Louisa's youngest son by her first marriage, inherited in 1854, taking the name of Alexander Beresford Beresford Hope under the terms of Carr's will. He commissioned further extensions to the mansion and adjoining stableblock from architects Richard Cromwell Carpenter and Edward Slater. Beresford Hope died in 1887 leaving his son Philip a ‘beautifully wooded and undulating property' of 1795ha (4436 acres), with four entrance lodges (Sales Particulars). From 1893-5 the property was leased to a Mr and Mrs H. A. Campbell. In 1899, to offset his financial difficulties, Philip Beresford-Hope sold Bedgebury Park to a Mr Isaac Lewis, a city financier. When Lewis sold the estate twenty years later, the Forestry Commission bought the woodlands (Bedgebury Forest) with Marshall's Lake, later developing a National Pinetum in the northern part in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

In 1920, the mansion and remaining 81ha of land north of Bedgebury Forest was bought by the Church Education Corporation for development as a girls' boarding school. From the Second World War, a number of new school buildings were erected in the grounds between the mansion and Home Farm. Bedgebury School operated successfully until 2006, when the mansion and grounds were sold to the Bell Educational Trust to be used as an international school and language centre. The stables and walled gardens, leased until 2008 to a riding school, are the property ofthe Bedgebury (School) Foundation. The property remains in multiple corporate ownership.

Contact

Telephone

0131 334 0303

Official Website

Click Here

Other websites

Owners

  • Forestry Commission

References

References

Contributors

  • Kent Gardens Trust