Finchcocks 1323

Tunbridge Wells, England, Kent, Tunbridge Wells

Brief Description

The gardens of 6 hectares were presumably laid out in 1725 at the same time as the house was built by Edward Bathurst. The gardens are set in parkland and have been extensively restored to include wide lawns, shrub borders, a walled garden and an orchard. The house is baroque in style and since 1970 has housed a historical keyboard museum, collected by Richard Burnett.

History

The house was built in 1725 for Edward Bathurst. It was one of the finest baroque mansions in the country.

Visitor Facilities

The site is open between Easter and September. Please see: http://www.finchcocks.co.uk/opening.htm

Detailed Description

An 18th-century print shows the drive at the side of the house, and grass with deer and sheep extending up to the front face of the house. Now the gravel drive extends across the front of the house, but there are plans to revert to the previous layout.

In 1840 the bulk of the park was sold to the Husseys at neighbouring Scotney. Only 4 hectares of the park remain, with Sussex red cattle grazing. To the rear (west) of the house, the garden lawn is divided from the park by a double ha-ha which curves in a sinuous manner.

Remnants of Edwardian flower and kitchen gardens are to the south and west of the house. A depression in the lawn shows the site of a bowling green and a small pond.

A long herbaceous walk extending to the south of the house (known from 19th-century photographs), has been restored by the current owners.

The walled orchard contains a wild spring garden, crowded with primroses and daffodils. There is a small 19th-century gazebo at the end of a brick terrace in this garden, along the back wall of the kitchen garden. There are plans to have dance shows on the raised terraces here with a small orchestra in the gazebo. Behind these walled gardens is woodland with many exotic species.

The kitchen garden of about half a hectare has now been laid to lawn.

The square lawn to the rear of the house is bordered by lime avenues, very closely planted about 100 years ago and therefore rather spindly. Immediately flanking the house is a newly bricked terrace which leads on to the long herbaceous walk. A marquee has been made which fits over the terrace and concerts and garden parties can be held under cover.

The site is open several days per week when access to the gardens is free. Regular concerts are held and are increasing in popularity.

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

A formal compartmentalised garden laid out from the early C19 to the south-west of an early C18 Baroque mansion with surviving elements of an C18 ha-ha and parkland.

SITE DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Finchcocks stands on a slight natural prominence amid the low-lying land surrounding the hamlet of Riseden, close to the valley of the River Teise. It is approximately 1km north of Kilndown, 2km west of Goudhurst and 9km south-east of Royal Tunbridge Wells. The c.6h site is south of the A262 (Station Road) leading west from Goudhurst towards Lamberhurst, with the main Tunbridge Wells-Hastings road (A21) about 1.5km to the west. It is bordered tothe south by Rookery Wood (once part of Finchcocks estate), to the north by Finchcocks Farm (in separate ownership since 1919), to the west by hop gardens and to the east by pasture. The house is set back from the road and framed by ancient trees, with wide views west and east over the surrounding landscape.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Finchcocks is approached from the A262 via a narrow tarmacadum lane which winds for 1.6km in a south-westerly direction, fenced on both sides by post-and-wire from the surrounding pastureland. The frontage of Finchcocks mansion, framed by trees, comes into view to the south-east approximately 1.4km along the lane, which then continues 2km south-west to Little Scotney Farm and Scotney Castle. A service drive is 100m further along the lane and, 200m further, the entrance to Finchcocks Farm.

The main entrance to Finchcocks is through a five-bar gate and along a gravel drive, shown as a curving carriage drive in a print dated c.1830. This is the remains of an approach road, partially lined by chestnut trees, that by 1863 ran approximately 1km from a North Lodge due south to the mansion (Sales Particulars). From the mansion the road continued for another 0.5km to reach South Lodge to the south-east. An East Lodge was built due east from the mansion on the main A262 and now, replaced by a new building in 1913 (now in separate private ownership) marks the entrance to Finchcocks from that main road. South Lodge is also now in separate private ownership, but the other two lodges have been demolished. The entrance front to the mansion looks out over a large, open lawn bounded on its east side by a steep bank with a canalized stream at its foot. A 1769 map (Andrews, Dury and Herbert) and a series of 1829 prints by John Adams (Country Life, 31 May 1946) show that the house had an axial approach to its front from the east from a public main road running in a north-south direction. This main road, shown on the 1840 tithe map, can still (2009) be traced as a faint track running along a ditch approximately 180m east of the mansion.

PRINCIPAL BUILDINGS

Finchcocks mansion (listed grade I), built by 1725, is a three-storey house seven window bays wide with an attic and basement and with curved and projecting two-storey wings possibly added at a later date (Country Life, 30 July 1921). Its red brickwork in Flemish bond with light red brick dressings, darker red brick parapet and tall chimneys with painted mouldings, has been described as in a ‘full blooded Baroque style' (listed building description). The northern wing contains the kitchen and offices with a small courtyard, formed largely of C19 single-storey buildings.

Five moulded steps provide access to the main, east-facing front door, its Tuscan surround surmounted by a large central triangular pediment containing the coats of arms of previous owners. Immediately below the pediment is a rubbed-brick niche containing a C17 statue of Queen Anne, thought to be from the Guildhall or Royal Exchange, but reportedly not placed in position until the late C19 (listed building description). Although it has been suggested that Finchcocks was constructed to a design by the London architect Thomas Archer (1668-1743), its vernacular features and similarity to other buildings in the area e.g. Matfield House, Goudhurst, point to the more likely involvement of a local architect/ builder (Oswald).

Forty metres to the north-west of the mansion is a two-storey red brick coachhouse (listed grade ll), now partly converted to accommodation and workshops. Built in the C18, but with a C20 two-storey rear extension, it has a tiled roof and lunette windows with brick surrounds. At a forty degree angle to the coachhouse is a converted C18 brick stable block with tiled roof and weather-boarded rear elevation (listed grade II). Immediately to the west and south-west of these buildings is Finchcocks Farm, its C16 timber frame barn and attached outhouses (listed grade II) now converted to private houses. Thirty-five metres to the north-west of the mansion is a C19 square brick dovecote with a tiled roof, now used an electricity sub-station.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The main formal compartments of the garden, first laid out from the C19, lie on the south and west sides of the mansion with a brick-walled kitchen garden to the south-west. The west garden front opens onto a large lawn with views over pastureland beyond. The lawn is surrounded by perimeter gravelled paths partly lined on the west and south sides by mature limes. They were reputedly planted in the mid-C19 to mask the view of the property from Scotney Castle (personal communication). The lawn is bounded at c.75m west from the mansion by a ha-ha (listed grade II), constructed in the C18 with a 1m high dressed sandstone wall. In the early C19, the ha-ha was extended in brick to reach its present length of over 100m north to south, with an inward (eastern) curve at each end. The brick wall was also raised above the level of the lawn to form a low enclosure and from the 1830s the ha-ha is shown filled with water (Tithe Map, mortgage documents, Sales Particulars). By 1905, a footbridge crossed the ha-ha a few metres north-west of the walled garden (3rd edn OS map), its position still being visible.

The current main access to the gardens is from the gravelled drive on the mansion's principal east front approximately 40m south of the front main door and via a blue-painted solid wood gate set in a 1m high brick wall. When in use as a private residence, access to the gardens was from the west front through a central door with a similar Tuscan surround to that on the east front. The drive's gravel surface continues through the garden gate into a small seating area immediately adjacent to the south end of the mansion.To its south is a lawn enclosed on its eastern side by a latticework fence with an herbaceous border below and on its west side by a 2m high yew hedge. Laid out on the site of a C19 rose walk, this lawn contains a brick-laid rectangular terrace (40m x 15m), and is now arranged with seating to accommodate visitors. The rose walk and yew hedges were added by at least 1897, as they are depicted in a painting by William Grylls Addison, and the terrace later featured an armillary sundial, now replaced by a modern sundial (4th edition OS map). An ancient yew, possibly from an earlier C18 gardening phase, forms a feature at the south-east corner of the terrace.

From the centre of the southern end of the lawn surrounding the terrace, a broad grass path leads due south between a 100m double mixed border backed by grass paths and a 1.5m-high yew hedge. Laid out from the mid-1980s, this replaced an early C20 walk to a woodland garden. In the C19, the walk had been lined with lime trees (Sales Particulars). A cross path approximately halfway down the border terminates at its west end in an arch cut in the hedge. This cross path leads to a slip garden, an area of young trees of mixed species in rough grass bordering the 2m high brick wall forming the east side of the walled kitchen garden. At the south end of the double border its eastern yew hedge curves westwards, continuing to run a few metres south of the south main entrance side of the walled garden. To the south of the yew hedge is a stream, the current property boundary, along which the earlier woodland garden has been reinstated by the current owners.

Attached to the exterior south-west corner of the walled garden is a single-storey brick summerhouse (2m x 2m) with pyramidal tiled roof with finial designed by the architects Gerard Wellesley and Trenwith Wills in the early C20 (listed grade II). There is a raised grass walkway with narrow flower beds beneath the south garden wall and wooden posts to support climbing plants. A rolled gravel path runs below the raised walk, turning northwards immediately beyond the summerhouse to continue between the west garden wall and the southern end of the ha-ha. The gravel path continues in a curve north-eastwards towards an early C19 single-storey brick cottage with a tiled hipped roof which stands a few metres west of the mansion (now, 2009, used for staff accommodation). Some 100m south of the mansion there is a large fish pond (approximately 40m x 20m), shown on the Tithe Map, but probably of earlier origin.

PARKLAND

The parkland to the east of the mansion's entrance front is managed as grazed pasture with a few trees and retains the picturesque appearance depicted in early C19 century paintings (Adams). In 1863 it was described as a park ‘studded with ornamental timber and forest trees of large growth in the most thriving and healthy condition'.

Approximately 10m south-east of the pond, set well back behind its sunken garden, is a C19 gamekeeper's lodge with wooden outbuildings, now in separate ownership. A few metres south-east of the outbuildings, a five-bar wooden gate marks the beginning of a horse chestnut avenue, part of the C19 approach from South Lodge, but replanted in the C20. The avenue extends to the south-east corner of the current (2008) Finchcocks estate, the row on the south now enclosed by a 1m post-and-wire fence within a paddock adjoining Rookery Wood on the south-east property boundary. In the late C19, both approach roads from North and South Lodges were lined with horse chestnut trees (Sales Particulars).

KITCHEN GARDEN

The early C19 brick-walled kitchen garden (listed grade II) lies 40m to the south-west of the mansion (Tithe Map). The 3m high walls with coping and plinth enclose an area c.40m x 40m with doorways in the centre of the east and south sides and two doorways on the north side. The doorway on the east side was constructed following collapse of the south-east wall (rebuilt in 2001 with the original bricks). The layout of the walled garden was redesigned in 1992 by students from Hadlow College with a central circle of young white beams and corner flower and shrub borders. In the 1860s it was shown divided into two sections with perimeter paths, a central water tank and building attached to the exterior north-west side (1st edn OS map). At that time it was described as ‘well stocked with fruit trees' and with a ‘lady's flower garden' (Sales Particulars). Glass houses were later added on the interior north-west wall and an additional building constructed on the exterior wall (2nd, 3rd and 4th edn OS maps). Only the foundations and wall markings now show their original positions.

REFERENCES

Books and articles

Edward Hasted, ‘Parishes: Goudhurst (part), The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7 (London, 1798), pp. 64-73.

Christopher Hussey, ‘Country Homes and Gardens Old & New: Finchcocks, Goudhurst, Kent. The residence of Captain A. W. J. Cecil', Country Life, vol. 50 (30 July 1921), pp. 132-37.

A. Oswald, Country Houses of Kent (London: Country Life, 1933).

Siegfried Sassoon, The Weald of Youth (London: Faber & Faber, 1942), quoted in Burnett (2003), p. 13.

Christopher Hussey, ‘Finchcocks, Goudhurst, Kent - I. The home of Mr F. D. Lycett Green', Country Life, vol. 99 (12 April 1946), pp.670-73; ‘The Home of Mr F. D. Lycett Green', (19 April 1946), pp.716-9; H. L. Bradfer-Lawrence, Finchcocks (31 May 1946), p. 1002.

John Newman, West Kent and the Weald (London: Yale University Press,1969). Pevsner architectural guides: The Buildings of England.

Katrina and Richard Burnett, Finchcocks Past and Present (Goudhurst: Finchcocks Press, 2003).

Maps

Christopher Saxton, Atlas of England and Wales, Kent. 1575

Philip Symonson, Map of Kent 1596.

J. Andrews, A. Dury and W. Herbert, A Topographical Map of the County of Kent in Twenty Five Sheets Sheet X. 1769

William Mudge, A New and Accurate Survey of Kent 1801

Tithe map (Goudhurst Parish) 1840 CKS ref IR30/17/153 (1)

Plan of Finchcocks Estate from Sales Particulars 1863.

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition 1870 (Sheet 69/4)

OS 25" to 1 mile: 2nd edition 1895 (Sheet 69/4)

OS 25" to 1 mile: Revised edition 1938 (Sheet 69/4)

Illustrations

John Adams, 12 bound coloured plans/ surveys of Finchcocks (1829) (referred to in CL99 (31 May 1946), p. 1002.

Finchcocks: the seat of Richard Springett, Esq print c.1830 in Burnett (2003), p.11.

Grylls Addison, The Rose Walk at Finchcocks c1897, reproduced in Burnett (2003), p. 22.

Nathaniel Lloyd, 10 black-and-white photographs of views of the house 1 X 1921 English Heritage NMR ref BB008539;9 X 1927 English Heritage NMR ref.CC000798-800, CC000851-55, CC002631.

Garden photographs (black and white) 1940s. Private collection.

Photograph of house front late C19 in Burnett (2003), p. 13.

Photograph of house and the hall from Oswald (1933), figs. 188, 190.

Photographs of mansion and herbaceous walks (1981/2). KCC.

Hugh Shirreff, 6 photo transparencies (35mm) of house from Slides of historic houses in Great Britain series (undated but post 1980?). Historic Houses Association.

Aerial photograph (2003). KCC.

Modern photographs. Private collection. Two in Burnett (2003), p. 23.

Archival Items

Notes from Hussey papers 1742-1919. CKS refs U1006 T46 (bundle 2).

Trade Directory (Bagshaw & Kelly) entries 1847-1930.

Mortgage documents 1849 with estate map. CKS ref U1006 T46 (bundle 6).

Finchcocks Estate Sales Particulars 1863 with estate map. CKS ref U363 Z26.

Kent Compendium entry (and notes) 1996.

Parks&GardensUK entry.

Research by Hugh Vaux

Description written by Barbara Simms

Edited by Virginia Hinze

December 2008

Features
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The house was built in 1725 for Edward Bathurst.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Drive
  • Description: An 18th-century print shows the drive at the side of the house, and grass with deer and sheep extending up to the front face of the house. Now the gravel drive extends across the front of the house, but there are plans to revert to the previous layout.
  • Ha-ha
  • Description: To the rear (west) of the house, the garden lawn is divided from the park by a double ha-ha which curves in a sinuous manner.
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: Remnants of Edwardian flower and kitchen gardens are to the south and west of the house.
  • Bowling Green
  • Description: A depression in the lawn shows the site of a bowling green and a small pond.
  • Pond
  • Description: A depression in the lawn shows the site of a bowling green and a small pond.
  • Walk
  • Description: A long herbaceous walk extending to the south of the house (known from 19th-century photographs), has been restored by the current owners.
  • Orchard
  • Description: The walled orchard contains a wild spring garden, crowded with primroses and daffodils.
  • Gazebo
  • Description: There is a small 19th-century gazebo at the end of a brick terrace.
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: There are plans to have dance shows on the raised terraces with a small orchestra in the gazebo.
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The kitchen garden of about half a hectare has now been laid to lawn.
  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: The square lawn to the rear of the house is bordered by lime avenues, very closely planted about 100 years ago and therefore rather spindly.
Lawn
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The site is open between Easter and September. Please see: http://www.finchcocks.co.uk/opening.htm

Directions

The site is 1 mile south of the A262, 2 miles west of Goudhurst.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Goudhurst
History

Detailed History

The house was built in 1725 for Edward Bathurst. It was one of the finest baroque mansions in the country. Many of the park trees are of this age.

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

CHRONOLOGY OF THE HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

Finchcocks, in the hundred of Marden, takes its name from the family who built a farm house on the site in 1256 (Hasted). Ownership had passed to the Horden family by the early C15. On his death in the 1560s, Edward Horden, Clerk of the Green Cloth to Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, left the property to his daughter Elizabeth, who married a Paul Bathurst of Nordiam. Finchcocks remained in the Bathurst family until 1796, Paul's great grandson Edward, who inherited the estate in 1718, building the present mansion by 1725, possibly to a design by the architect Thomas Archer (date on the rainwater pipes). Edward resided there until his death in 1772, before which he conveyed the estate of ‘New Finchcocks with gardens, orchards, closes etc. 210 acres [85ha] in the parishes of Goudhurst, Horsmonden and Lamberhurst' (1765 lease) to Charles, son of his second marriage. Charles died in 1767 and Finchcocks passed to his brother, the Revd Richard Bathurst of Rochester, who sold it to Robert Springett of Hawkhurst in 1796.

In 1863, when Richard Springett sold the property to his neighbour Edward Hussey of Scotney Castle, it comprised 184ha, including a farm, cottages, lodge houses and ‘344 acres [139ha] of arable, pasture, hop and wood land', the roads to North and South Lodge marked by avenues of trees (Sales Particulars). During the Hussey ownership, the estate was tenanted; Kelly's Directories list the Revd J. C. Allen (1867), Mrs Harrison Blair (1874) and Sir James Stirling (1882), the poet Siegfried Sassoon describing visits during the latter's occupancy (The Weald of Youth). In 1919 the Husseys sold Finchcocks with 10ha to Captain A. W. J. Cecil for £12,000 (sale document), retaining the home farm and remaining land. The new owner made internal alterations to the mansion and created a terrace on the south-west corner (Country Life, 30 July1921).

In 1935 Francis Lycett Green acquired the mansion to house his collection of early Italian and Dutch C17 paintings, their display necessitating further internal modifications (Country Life, 12 April 1946). Under head gardener Harry Bland new features were also developed in the garden, including the planting of a double herbaceous border to replace a rose walk (photographs in private collection). During the Second World War, Finchcocks became a boarding house for junior boys from King's School, Rochester, and, subsequently, it was requisitioned by the Army. Due to ill-health, after the War Lycett Green moved to South Africa and sold Finchcocks; subsequent owners were David and Antonia St Clair Erskine (1950-60), the Legat Ballet School (1960-70) and Mr and Mrs Martin Page (1970-71).

The mansion, outbuildings and gardens of approximately 6ha remain in single, private ownership. The current owners have restored the property (led by architects Judith Bottomley and Laurence Peskett), which is now in use as a museum of musical instruments, open to the public since 1976, with some outbuildings converted to workshops and staff residential accommodation. Much of the C19 and C20 garden layouts remain intact, but now (2008) with modern planting.

Associated People

Just one person associated to Finchcocks

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Kent Gardens Trust