Byrkley Lodge and Park (also known as St George's Park)7000

Burton-upon-Trent, England, Staffordshire, East Staffordshire

Brief Description

The site contains the remains of 18th-century ponds and cascades. Part of the kitchen garden is now incorporated into a garden centre. In 2002/3 the entire landscape was cleared for a football stadium.

History

The site was originally the Royal Forest of Needwood with Byrkley Lodge being the residence of the Keeper. In 1777 the leasehold was acquired by the Marquess of Donegal who commissioned Capability Brown to landscape the area. In 1860, the estate lease was bought by the Bass family. In 1884 they bought the freehold and knocked down the old house and built an outstanding Victorian residence. This was demolished in 1953. In 2001 the Football Association purchased the remaining estate and built the England Football Training Centre.

Historical Events Time Line

1000BC Ayleswardesley Track - ancient salt road from Middlewich to the Trent crossing at Drakelow

800 - 1066 The forest became the hunting forest for the Kings of Mercia

1066 - 1777 Royal hunting forest and lodge

1777 - 1799 Marquess of Donegal acquired land and landscaped it to a Capability Brown design

1800 - 1868 Land owned by the Bass family

1952 - 2001 Land used for farming

2001 - current Football Association

Detailed Description

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE

Needwood forest or Needwood Chase was initially a Mercian Royal Hunting Forest. As such, the general public were excluded until recent times. The Marquess of Donegal acquired the site in 1777 and substantially improved the house. In particular, he landscaped the grounds to designs by Capability Brown. He also improved the local road infrastructure. In 1884, the Lodge was demolished by Hamar Alfred Bass and replaced by a Grand Victorian Residence. In 1953 the Victorian Residence was demolished.
In 2001 the estate was bought by the Football Association who built St George’s Park - the national football training centre.

CURRENT DESCRIPTION OF SITE

All of the Lodge buildings including the stables have now been demolished. There are elements of the main terrace outside the house plus some landscape features that still exist in a good state of preservation. The fishponds in existence in the Middle Ages, still exist with the weirs as built in the 1840s. The top lake weir that was part of the Capability Brown design is not used but still exists. The Ice House still exists although not accessible because of asbestos risk. The gas works and gasometer no longer exist. The power station no longer exists. The pump house exists but is not in a good state of repair. The easterly and northerly gatehouses exist although as private dwellings. The walled kitchen garden still exists as the Byrkley Park Garden Centre. The glass houses to the south collapsed in 1985 due to neglect. The Land Agent’s House and associated dwellings in Wilmore Lane exist as private dwellings. The Stud Farm exists as a private dwelling.

Maps from sales in 1913 and 1952 are attached.

Ancient trees in Byrkley Wood are in good condition.

Needwood Oaks as per the Capability Brown design to the north of the site are in good condition.

FEATURES

Fish ponds - Middle Ages

Landscape - Capability Brown 1780

Walled Kitchen Garden 1884

Stables 1884

Ice House 1884

Pump House 1884

Northerly and Easterly Gate Houses 1884

The Land Agent’s House (Wilmore House) 1884

The Stud House 1890

Photographs can be viewed on www.enterpriseknowledge.co.uk/... used for this site

Magic Attic - Swadlincote

Rangemore and Tatenhill History Society

County Records Office Stafford



Features

Soil Type

Clay

Underlying Geology

Geology -Gypsum Hill Terrain - Plateau on top of hills with valley and stream

  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: An extensive kitchen garden, part of which is now incorporated into a garden centre.
Pond, Cascade
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Tatenhill
History

Detailed History

A History of Byrkley Park

Needwood Forest was used for hunting, first by the Kings of Mercia, and later by the Kings of England, right up to the time of Charles I. In 1267 a hunting lodge was built on the site in the heart of the ancient Forest of Needwood.

The status of Royal Hunting Forest meant that common folk were not allowed to enter the area. The hunting lodge was usually the residence of the Keeper who was appointed by the King . It was also used on occasions by the monarch on hunting expeditions. The Forest Lodge hosted the 'Woodmote Court' which was the only local judicial body.

The obvious place to site a hunting lodge was in the centre of the forest where the ancient Ayleswardesley salt track crossed the Lin Brook on its way from Middlewich in Cheshire to ford the River Trent at Drakelow. This location provided existing access and was also the only source of water in the area.

The name Byrkley is derived from the De Berkeley family of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire. Thomas de Berkeley was keeper of the Tutbury ward and occasionally stayed at the lodge he built. In 1267 the daughter of William de Ferrers married Thomas de Berkeley.

Needwood Chase, as it was then known, had become the hunting preserve of the powerful Norman family de Ferrers, Earls of Derby, whose collective estates were known as the Honour of Tutbury.

Because the de Ferrers allied themselves with Simon de Montford in his rebellion against Henry Ill they were forced to forfeit their extensive estates to the crown. These subsequently became part of the Duchy of Lancaster and passed to the crown in 1399. It has broadly remained Duchy land since that time.

Edward IV, who was a particularly keen huntsman, spent lavishly on extensions and repairs to the lodge. King James I often visited his much loved lodge at Byrkley.

In 1754 Lord Townshend, whose wife Lady Charlotte Compton had inherited Tamworth Castle and succeeded to the Ferrers barony, acquired the leasehold of Byrkley Lodge as his hunting seat. Here he built a house more extensive and somewhat more elegant than the earlier lodge, where they could visit for a few months of the year.

Originally the forest was the preserve of the wolf, wild boar and wild fallow deer. However, the stock and dairy herds and the horses of the Earls and manorial lords soon flourished on the meadows and grasslands. Large numbers of Needwood oaks supplied acorns for pigs. Where oaks and timber trees were felled, underwood and thorn were planted to provide cover for game. Venison, fish from the ponds, and honey from Needwood supplied the Lancastrian households and provided rewards for their supporters and officials.

The 'Woodmote Court' was no longer necessary once the deforestation of the Needwood Forestwas accelerated by the land enclosure act in 1801. The forest was thus transformed to be used for timber and pasture.

Originally the forest was the preserve of the wolf, wild boar and wild fallow deer. However, thestock and dairy herds and the horses of the Earls and manorial lords soon flourished on themeadows and grasslands. Large numbers of Needwood oaks supplied acorns for pigs. Where oaks and timber trees were felled, underwood and thorn were planted to provide cover for game. Venison, fish from the ponds, and honey from Needwood supplied the Lancastrian householdsand provided rewards for their supporters and officials.

The 'Woodmote Court' was no longer necessary once the deforestation of the Needwood Forestwas accelerated by the land enclosure act in 1801. The forest was thus transformed to be used for timber and pasture.

In l 777, Arthur Chichester, the 1st Marquis of Donegal bought the lodge from Lord Townshend , including his collection of water colour paintings. He died in 1799. The site was probably landscaped from hunting land by the Marquess of Donegal of Fisherwick (Arthur Chichester) after he acquired the leasehold from the De Ferrers family (the traditional Keepers who were appointed by the King). There is an attribution of the parkland design to Lancelot Capability Brown reinforced by the fact that Brown had designed gardens for the Fisherwick properties owned by the Marquessand they had a good relationship. Lancelot Brown offered a number of possible different services to his clients

• he could provide a survey and plans for buildings and landscape. He would then leave his client to execute his proposal;

• he could provided a foreman to oversee the work, which would be carried out by labour recruited from the local estate.

• he could oversee and refine the work himself, usually by means of visits for a certain number of days each year.

When the Marquess of Donegal acquired Byrkley Lodge, Brown had already landscaped his estate at Fisherw ick - about 20 miles from Byrkley Park. The Marquess would therefore have had staff who were used to working with Brown's methods. It is highly likely that Brown would only have provided the landscape plans. It is also feasible that Brown would have invoiced the Marquess at his main address - Fisherwick. The attribution therefore becomes realistic. Brown died in 1783.

It is interesting that the time of the work coincided with building of the roads in the forest in 1786. The Marquess of Donegal must have been a major influence on developments in the area at the time. The Marqess died in 1799 and Richard Lovell Edgeworth (a relative) acquired the leasehold.

Around this time, Richard Lovell Edgeworth had acquired Yoxall Lodge. The second and third of his four wives were both sisters of Rear Admiral Edward Sneyd Clay. Through this association Byrkley lodge was eventually acquired by Sneyd, on whose death in 1846, it passed to his only daughter, Emma. Emma Sneyd had attended the wedding of her friend, Thomas Gisborne, who married Mary, the daughter of brewer Thomas Bass Sr. in 1850. Emma agreed to rent Byrkley Lodge to Mary's brother, Michael Thomas Bass Jr.. Sneyd placed stringent conditions within the lease for the upkeep of the grounds.

Emma Sneyd owned the leasehold of Byrkley Lodge up to her death in the 1860s. Michael Thomas Bass leased the property up to 1859 when he bought Rangemore Hall. When Emma died in the 1860s, Michael Thomas bought the leasehold to Byrkley Lodge as well. The purchase solved the inheritance problem as elder son Michael Arthur would inherit Rangemore Hall and younger son Hamar Alfred would inherit Byrkley Lodge . In 1884 the Bass family bought the freehold of their lands from the Duchy of Lancaster

On Michael Thomas Bass's death, the Byrkley Lodge estate passed to his son Hamar Alfred Basswho rebuilt the main house between 1887 and 1891. The original grand design was never completed. However, it was a technologically advanced design. The estate was designed as a complete entity for its community and cricket and football pitches were provided. Hamar died in 1898.

The Redeveloped Lodge had:

• The Outer Hall

• The Paneled Lounge Hall

• The Chestnut Paneled Dining Room

• The Study

• The Boudoir

• Two Drawing Rooms

• The Walnut Paneled Library

• The Oak Paneled Ballroom

• 41 bed and dressing rooms

• 11 bathrooms

• Ample domestic service accommodation

• Domestic Offices

It also had an extensive stables block.

Hamar Alfred founded a racing horse stud within the extensive grounds near to Home Farm in Wilmore lane. The Byrkley Stud produced and trained "Love Wisely" which won the Ascot Gold Cup in 1896. Hamar Bass was master of the Meynell Hunt for 12 years. The hounds were kept in buildings near to the small top lake. Hamar Alfred died in 1898 and his estate passed to Sir William Arthur Hamar Bass also known as Billy.

Sir William Arthur Hamar Bass (1879 - 1952) was the son of Hamar Alfr ed Bass who built the Victorian Byrkley Lodge Buildings and improved the Estate. Sir William inherited a baronetcy on the death of his uncle Michael Arthur Bass. Sir William had a passion for horses and built the stud and stables in Wilmore Lane. He was also an inveterate gambler and this brought financial difficulties. In 1913 he had to put up his estate for auction to balance his books. Only 500+ acres of the 1,626 acres were actually sold. Sir William married Lady Noreen Hastings, second daughter of the 14th Earl of Huntingdon , in 1903. He died, aged 72, without having children and left his fortune to his wife's nephew, the trainer Peter Hastings (d. 1964). Peter's eldest son William Edward Robin Hood Hastings-Bass (b. 1948) is the present and 17th Earl of Huntingdon.

Sir William married Lady Noreen Hastings, second daughter of the 14th Earl of Huntingdon, in1903. He died, aged 72, without having children and left his fortune to his wife's nephew, the trainer Peter Hastings (d. 1964).

After Billy Bass died childless in 1952, his estate was put up for sale. Byrkley Lodge was put up for sale as a separate lot. The auct ion price was much lower than the valuation and a London dealer, Richard Ashton and Sons, bought the lodge for its fixtures and fittings which were shipped to the USA (where it is rumoured they are still in crates). The building was demolished in 1953 only 60 years after it was built and the land on which it stood was sold to the Thompstone family on the condition that the stables were not demolished. The remaining estate land was mostly bought by the Thompstone family although Lady Burton bought Needwood House and estate for her own residence.

Household water came from the lower of the estate's three lakes. This was pumped by a hydraulic ram to the house after passing through three filter beds, then up to a 16,000- gallon tank. The rest of the estate, including the houses in the stables, had water pumped electrically from the well. Foul drainage was gravity fed via a pipe (at times on an embankment) to a sewage farm downstream from the lakes which was manually controlled using a series of sluice gates.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were various proposals for the development of Byrkley Park, theland associated with Byrkley Lodge. The most prominent was for the development of a golfcourse plus hotel complex. None of the proposals came to fruition although Forte, one of the big hotel chains did buy the land for that purpose in 1992. It was at this stage that mains water was brought to the area.

The ice house was built of blue bricks and concrete. There are indications that the constructionwas mod ifi ed during the second world war for airfield defense reasons. People are not allowedin the icehouse because of asbestos. Next to the ice house there is a pump house which housedan electric powered water pump. It was the only source of well water for the lodge and as suchwas needed for the stables and associated houses. There was a gas works near to the ice housejust north of the stables which supplied gas to the house , the kitchen garden, Wilmore Lane home farm and the stud farm. There was a gasometer used to store the gas which can be seenas the circle next to the gas works. There was an electricity generating plant located nearby as well.

At Byrkley Lodge, horses, and later cars, went under the archway topped by a clock tower to access the stable block. Around the yard were 22 horse boxes and 22 stalls, three harness rooms, and hay and straw lofts, with electric hoists. As cars became the norm , a motor garage was created with ampl e room for four cars. Facilities included an inspection pit, electric light, telephone, and hot and cold running water. The groom's house was located next to the arch .There was also a house next to the Laundry Room. Tony and May Hudson first lived in LaundryCottage and then moved to the Groom's house where they were the last residents. Electric power generation at Byrkley Lodge was from two 70 horse-power Siemens steam engines driving Buxton and Thornley generators, through two boilers. The power station was located by the ice house and gas works. The power station charged the batteries located near to the stables. The Lodge must therefore have had a D.C. electricity system. The stables were finally demolished in 1992 when Forte bought Byrkley Park to develop a golfing complex.

The main entrance to Byrkley Lodge was the lane from the crossroads at Rangemore going past East Lodge. It passed through some of the last Needwood Forest style vegetation. During the Second World War and on into the 1950s, the government placed enormous pressureto turn such land into farmed land to maximise food production. One of the things that had tohappen was the elimination of a huge rabbit population. It was rumoured that in the meadow down the hill from the Lodge, when a shot was fired into the air, the whole area would appear to move.The Needwood Rabbit Clearance Society was formed and this added to the protein diet available locally.

The walled seven-acre Byrkley Lodge kitchen garden had fruit trees. Orchids grew in glasshouses. The head gardener had a three-bedroom brick cottage and drew drinking water from a well. The glass houses were located on the south side of the southern perimeter wall. They collapsed due to rotten wood in 1985 during the development of the Garden Centre, bringing down much of the southern wall with it. The site was developed and opened by the Thompstonesin 1986 as the Byrkley Park Garden Centre. It was opened by Phil Drabble, a TV countrysidepresenter of the time.

The Thompstones farmed Byrkley Park after the second world war. They raised sheep and beef cattle together with pigs that were kept in the stables. On 1 Jan 1968. there was a major disaster when Foot and Mouth Disease struck and 733 animals were slaughtered. The area was isolated and not near to any known source of the disease. It was this that finally proved that Foot and Mouth was an air borne disease. The big problem was that the Thompstones, who farmed at Anslow as well, were not allowed to access the livestock at Byrkley Park.

The Byrkley Lodge Home Farm was in Wilmore Lane. The Estate's Land Agent, Col. Hetherington lived in Wilmore House. He moved to the Stud Farm which he had rented and then bought when the estate was sold. Home Farm was bought by the Adshead family. They converted many of the buildings into stables in the 1950s. In the 1990s, the buildings in Wilmore Lane were developed into a series of private dwellings. The land in the area was developed into paddocks and a number of small private stables were constructed.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were various proposals for the development of Byrkley Park, theland associated with Byrkley Lodge. The most prominent was for the development of a golfcourse plus hotel complex. None of the proposals came to fruition although Forte, one of the bighotel chains did buy the land for that purpose in 1992.

Mains water was only brought to the site when the FA started to build St George's Park. A gassupply, new electricity supply and broadband internet facilities were also provided . A mobile phone mast was added but the location meant that it did not improve mobile phone services in Rangemore Village.

Byrkley Park estate comprised the parkland around the the house plus a considerable acreage of agricultural land. The Football Association bought the 350-acre parkland site for £2 million in 2001. At that time the FA was also rebuilding Wembley Stadium. Huge cost over-runs on the stadium meant that the development of St George's Park had to be put on hold. The centre was finally opened at the end of 2012. Various measures indicate that it has been commercially very successful.

The Football Association has also developed much of the estate not used for sporting activities to support wild life. Brickley Wood contains many ancient oaks that may extend to times before the Royal Forest of Needwood. Newt ponds have been created near the lakes and the banks of the lakes have been preserved for the enhancement of wild fowl and other species.

Members of the public are encouraged to walk round the nature areas but dogs are discouraged because they have a tendency to disturb the wildlife. Foot access from Rangemore can be achieved by walking past the garden centre entrance and over the fields.

It is astonishing that two nationally important landscapes, generally unrecognised (Byrkley Lodge by Capability Brown and Rangemore Hall by Sir Joseph Paxton), exist next to each other.

Period

  • Late 18th Century
References

Contributors

  • Staffordshire Gardens and Parks Trust