Courtlands 5749

Worthing, West Sussex, England, West Sussex, Worthing

Brief Description

Courtlands is now a garden surrounded by housing, providing the setting for a listed building. The gardens were still in good condition in 1986. The site later became neglected and much of the planting was lost. The site was purchased by Bond International Software in 1998. The buildings were restored and it is likely that the gardens have been improved as well.

History

The house was built around 1820 by a local family called Olliver. The next major phase of development was carried out by Paul Schweder around 1903 and onwards. During this period, the house was enlarged and the gardens were developed.

Detailed Description

The garden was greatly developed in the time of Paul Schweder, in tune with the enlargement of the house. Captain John Paul Schweder confirms that the summerhouse, the terrace balustrading, and pergola walk came from Lebanon House and some of the statuary may also have been obtained from there at the same time as the material from the burnt out house. They are excellent examples of garden architecture and every effort should be made to protect them.

The Trust has consulted John Davis, author of ‘Antique Garden Ornament' who is an acknowledged expert in the field of British garden statuary and ornament. His opinion is that the statues, balustrading and obelisks are of Bath stone, dating from around 1840 to1860, and that the statues in the formal garden are of great interest as it is unusual to find examples of statues in Bath stone. However, the erosion caused by the nature of the stone and the effects of salt from the nearby sea have seriously diminished any commercial value that they may have.

The architect and landscape designer Charles E Mallows (1864-1915) was commissioned to design the dining room of the house, and there is documentary evidence of this in the RIBA Drawings Collection in the form of a pen and watercolour drawing for a marble chimney piece (ref. No. W6/8).

It is understood that he was also involved with the design of the gardens, although no plans have been found to confirm this. However, a plan by Mallows in the RIBA Drawings Collections for alterations and extensions to a house and garden for Mrs Robert Fleming in Nettlebed in 1908 shows a formal garden laid out in a remarkably similar style to that of the walled garden at Courtlands. His design for the water in the formal garden equates to the changed shape of the lake at Courtlands.

One further link is that one of Mallows' pencil sketches shows a gateway with the piers surmounted with stone obelisks similar to those on the terrace at Courtlands. It would certainly have made sense for his services to have been obtained to plan the gardens, since he was well-respected for his skills as a landscape designer and would already have been working on designs for the house. A copy of his plan for a Lodge at Courtlands still exists.

The major remaining feature around the house is the terrace, which leads to a raised, paved walk, originally surmounted by a pergola, and thence to the summerhouse. The terrace itself is not in good repair although, in the main, only needs the stone slabs lifting and relaying and the removal of weeds and overgrown shrubs. There was a narrow brick-edged bed running along the base of the balustrade on the terrace, together with a strip of mown grass, before the paving commenced. There were also planting beds against the house, This structure could soon be uncovered if desired. The balustrading to the terrace is in good condition although there is some erosion to the five fine stone obelisks marking the steps to the lawn and the ends of the terrace.

The pergola walk leads from the east end of the terrace. The paving is relatively sound although there has been some unfortunate mismatching of replacement slabs which are uneven. The pergola no longer exists but was formed from stone columns placed on each plinth along the continuous balustrading, with a wooden open dome resting on the west end four columns and beams. This dome matched the shape of that surmounting the bow at the east end of the house. Climbing plants grew up from the bed at the base of the retaining wall.

From this walk, one reaches the summerhouse, a classical stone building with a semi¬circular fanlight above full length glass doors, the stone columns matching those of the pergola. The roof is of slate tiles. Circular windows are let into the side walls. No examination was made of the interior. To the north of the summerhouse is the sunken garden, little of which remains except the retaining walls and the steps. The grassed-over paths are clearly visible. The centre is marked with a statue base on top of which four courses of bricks have been attached. Again to the north is the fine sundial which stands perhaps two metres high, including its base. John Davis considers this sundial to be made up from various pieces and to be in the Scottish manner, dating from the turn of the century in its present form and possibly emanating from the firm of J P White of Bedford.

The walled garden has some spectacular features and its close relationship to the house is well-documented. The structure is still present, although the pond has been filled in. There is good photographic evidence as to how the gardens were planted and it is even possible to establish the nature of the oak gate into the garden from the main lawn. Each of the rectangular beds was edged with box (Buxus sempervirens) and six Irish yews (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata') were planted to give height. The beds were mainly filled with spring bulbs and planted with annuals.

The range of glasshouses against the west and north walls of the formal gardens were still extant in 1952, and their bases and roof lines can be clearly seen today. In the walled garden are some locally historic millstones, used as part of the design of the paths and under the statue bases, which were taken from Heene Windmill which stood in Mill Road, Goring, between numbers 33 and 37.

The three classically designed gateways to the walled garden are more formal than the brick and flint walls, those in the south and west walls being similar in design. The eastern gateway is in truth somewhat out of scale with the rest of this area and it can therefore be supposed that this was brought from elsewhere and erected by Paul Schweder around 1903. There is still an attractive wrought iron gate in place in the southern entrance which is in urgent need of attention.

From the house, the lawns sweep down to the lake with its island. The original lake is shown on the Parish Tithe map of 1840. However, the shape of the lake on the 20th century Ordnance Survey maps shows that this was later changed into the more defined shape that exists today. Either the lake is leaking or the water table has dropped as it is far below the level that it was intended to be. The planting around the lake is extremely overgrown and most of the trees are either self-seeded and weak or well past their best. A clearance plan and new tree planting scheme should to be put into action.

A house of the size and architecture of Courtlands needs a suitable setting otherwise a part of its raison d'etre is lost. It is not known to the Trust whether or not the owners of the house are intending to revitalise the gardens but it is important that anything that can be done to encourage this is put in place as soon as possible.

There are clear guidelines published by the Department of the Environment as to how the planning authorities should consider the effect of development upon the setting of listed houses in towns. PPG 15 paragraphs 2.16 and 2.17 state that special regard should be taken by local authorities to preserve the setting of a listed building situated in a town.

Courtlands is a case in point where, despite the best efforts of the Planning Department and a clear statement in the Council's 1994 Local Plan, the cohesion of the garden is at risk since the site was sold into divided ownership.

Over the years, with changing ownership, the estate has been eroded and now stands at less than seven acres. Although the grounds are in poor condition and most of the planting lost, many of the best features are still in place. However, the recent sale of the stable block and the formal walled garden into separate ownership from the main house and grounds threatens the cohesion of the gardens. The walled garden has been shown to be part of the estate prior to 1840 and should remain so.

Courtlands is an excellent garden, with a well-documented local history of great interest. It has fallen prey to pressure of residential development as Goring has grown around it. The part that gardens have to play in the setting of the house and as an amenity for local residents is very much more respected than it was and therefore the situation may in time be resolved. We understand that the Planning Department at Worthing Borough Council are working to protect the garden from further dereliction and loss. It may only be when sufficient public interest is awakened and the residents of Worthing and Goring realise how their local history may be eroded that action will be possible.

Features
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: In the early-20th century, Paul Schweder purchased the estate and in 1906 almost completely rebuilt the house by purchasing material from Lebanon House at Twickenham, a masterpiece by Robert Adam which had burnt down. The remains of Lebabnon House were used to rebuild the interior of Courtlands and replicas were made for features that had been destroyed by fire. Other material was obtained from the Cordwainers Hall in London and from a building next to the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The result was a considerably enlarged and very much grander house, a full storey higher than before.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Summerhouse
  • Description: This feature came from Lebanon House. It is a classical stone building with a semi?circular fanlight above full length glass doors, the stone columns matching those of the pergola. The roof is of slate tiles. Circular windows are let into the side walls.
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: The major remaining feature around the house is the terrace, which leads to a raised, paved walk, originally surmounted by a pergola, and thence to the summerhouse. The terrace itself is not in good repair although, in the main, only needs the stone slabs lifting and relaying and the removal of weeds and overgrown shrubs.
  • Balustrade
  • Description: Bath stone. This feature came from Lebanon House.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Walk
  • Description: Pergola walk. This feature came from Lebanon House. The pergola walk leads from the east end of the terrace. The paving is relatively sound although there has been some unfortunate mismatching of replacement slabs which are uneven. The pergola no longer exists but was formed from stone columns placed on each plinth along the continuous balustrading.
  • Statue
  • Description: The statues in the formal garden are of great interest as it is unusual to find examples of statues in Bath stone. These features came from Lebanon House.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Planting
  • Description: To the north of the summerhouse is the sunken garden, little of which remains except the retaining walls and the steps. The grassed-over paths are clearly visible.
  • Sundial
  • Description: The fine sundial stands perhaps two metres high, including its base. John Davis considers this sundial to be made up from various pieces and to be in the Scottish manner, dating from the turn of the century in its present form and possibly emanating from the firm of J P White of Bedford.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Planting
  • Description: The walled garden has some spectacular features and its close relationship to the house is well-documented. The structure is still present, although the pond has been filled in. There is good photographic evidence as to how the gardens were planted and it is even possible to establish the nature of the oak gate into the garden from the main lawn. Each of the rectangular beds was edged with box (Buxus sempervirens) and six Irish yews (Taxus baccata `Fastigiata?) were planted to give height. The beds were mainly filled with spring bulbs and planted with annuals.
  • Lake
  • Description: From the house, the lawns sweep down to the lake with its island. The original lake is shown on the Parish Tithe map of 1840. However, the shape of the lake on the 20th century Ordnance Survey maps shows that this was later changed into the more defined shape that exists today.
History

Detailed History

The house at Courtlands is listed Grade II and is a fine example of a large country house suitable for an estate. The original house was built in 1520 by the Ollivers, an important local family with memorials in Goring Church. In the early-20th century, Paul Schweder purchased the estate and in 1903 almost completely rebuilt the house by purchasing material from Lebanon House at Twickenham, a masterpiece by Robert Adam which had burnt down in 1909.

The remains of Lebabnon House were used to rebuild the interior of Courtlands and replicas were made for features that had been destroyed by fire. Other material was obtained from the Cordwainers Hall in London and from a building next to the Ritz Hotel in Paris. The result was a considerably enlarged and very much grander house, a full storey higher than before with large and ornate reception rooms and a fine garden with lawns sweeping down to a lake.

The original layout of the gardens in the 19th century show a Regency house with grounds laid out in the accepted style of the time. It should be noted that there is what appears to be a glasshouse immediately to the west of the house and glasshouses have remained in this part of the garden until recently. The grandson of Paul Schweder, Captain John Paul Schweder, visited in 1990 and they were still there.

The walls of the formal walled garden, known as the Dutch Garden, are shown on the Parish Tithe Map of 1840 and the Ordnance Survey map of 1875. The existing brick and flint walls appear to be very much older than the gate surrounds and can be taken as forming part of the original estate. Care should be taken to protect these walls and further research carried out as to their age.

Paul Schweder died in 1936 and residential development had already taken place on the east side of the estate. The fine lime avenue was lost to residential development by this time. Various schemes were considered for the house and in 1945 the Worthing Hospital Board of Management Committee decided to purchase Courtlands to provide additional bed space and so relieve pressure on the hospital. Work on conversion took place but it was not until 1950 that patients occupied beds there. The then Princess Elizabeth visited Worthing and Courtlands in 1951. Two of Mr Schweder's sons were introduced to the Princess during her visit.

Mr Schweder's daughter was still alive and living at West Chiltington in 1960 and she confirmed some of the details in Mr Smail's book when commenting on the reported work of Mr Arthur Humphrey, a well-known mason, who had worked on the building of Courtlands. A later published photograph dated 1986 shows that the gardens were still well-maintained.

When the evidence from the photographs, which may be assumed to have been taken at the time of the publication of Henfrey Small's book in 1952, is compared with the present state of the gardens as a whole, and particularly the area around the lake and the formal walled garden, it is clear that a strategy needs to be established to bring the garden back to something of its former condition.

Associated People

Just one person associated to Courtlands

Contact

Telephone

01793 445050

Official Website

Click Here

Owners

  • Bond International Software (U K) Ltd.

References

References

Contributors

  • Sally Walker

    1

  • Sussex Gardens Trust