Forthampton Court 3885

Tewkesbury, England, Gloucestershire, Tewkesbury

Brief Description

The site belonged to Tewkesbury Abbey from its foundation in 1102 and was the country residence of the abbots until the Dissolution. The Great Hall survives from this period. A tomb from the abbey was moved after the Dissolution to be an ornament in the garden.The present Forthampton Court is a large and impressive house set well back from the modern minor road, with some good trees in the view. Surrounding the house are flower gardens. An attractive stable block in brick was built in the late 18th century. There is a large vegetable garden and late 19th-century glass houses.

History

Forthampton was one of the foundation gifts to Tewkesbury Abbey in 1102, and had probably been church property from the 8th century. Until the Dissolution it was used by the abbots as a country retreat, and a great hall was built probably in the 15th century, which still exists at the core of the house. Whether there was a garden is not known, and there was certainly not a park. It was an agricultural estate. After the dissolution of the abbey in 1540, John Waleman, last abbot and first Bishop of Gloucester, was granted the house, and he may have laid out a garden. A century later it was remarked on favourably. Development of house and estate occurred after Mary Maddox, the heiress to the estate, married James Yorke, youngest son of the first Earl of Hardwicke, and acquired full use of the house. The nature of the gardens is not known in detail, but a brick stable block and a glass house were built. James Yorke bought parts of the former estate which had been sold off after the Dissolution. He planted the Bishop's Avenue of trees (he became successively Bishop of St David's, Gloucester and Ely). Later 19th-century development was also undertaken by a descendant of James and Mary Yorke, including replacement of the glass house.

Detailed Description

The site was surveyed by Raymond Flook in 1979, but he mistakenly thought the house was in Tewkesbury Park, which belonged to the lords of Tewkesbury manor and was on the other side of the River Severn. The abbey leased Tewkesbury Park in the 16th century. Flook noted over-mature trees which he thought were remnants of a park.
Features

Style

  • Informal
  • Glasshouse
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  • Wilderness
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  • Sarcophagus
  • Description: The William la Zouche monument.
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  • Garden Building
  • Description: Former stable block, designed by owner Anthony Keck.
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  • Domestic House (featured building)
  • Description: Forthampton Court
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Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Forthampton
History

Detailed History

Forthampton Court has been described in detail several times by the VCH, by Kingsley and by English Heritage. The core of the house is medieval, presumably built by the abbots of Tewkesbury Abbey which owned the manor. The last abbot and first Bishop of Gloucester, John Wakeman, was the first post-Dissolution owner, and wasprobably responsible for moving a large tomb of a member of the de la Zouche family from the Lady chapel, which was demolished, to a meadow near Forthampon Court. The house has been altered and significantly extended since the 17th century, but its site has not changed.

After the Dissolution of the abbey in 1540, the house and estate passed through a number of owners, amongst whom was the Sackville family, Earls of Dorset and Middlesex, until it was bought by Isaac Maddox, Bishop of Worcester, in 1752. His daughter inherited it, and in 1762 she married James Yorke, a son of the first Earl of Hardwicke and later successively Bishop of St David's, Gloucester and Ely. It has since remained in the ownership and occupation of their direct desendants.

Accounts of the house make no mention of a park, although Forthampton has been heavily wooded since early medieval times - in the 11th century there was a hawks' eyrie in the wood there, and swineherds and pannage for pigs are mentioned on more than one occasion. There could have been some hunting within the wooded areas of the estate. The number of elm and oak trees was a feature in the 19th century. It seems unlikely that a ‘polite' park has been landscaped in the manner of Capability Brown.

An important mention of the gardens occurs in 1634; they were said to be ‘handsome to walk in'. (VCH p. 202). There was also mention of a dovecot, and Pigeon House Close was to the north-west of the house.

James and Mary Yorke paid attention to the garden as well as the house. They moved the tomb of de la Zouche, a chest tomb dating to around 1337, to a position on the terrace on the south corner of the house. It had previously stood in a meadow north-east of the Court. Letters from Mary Yorke refer to this move.

James and Mary Yorke also employed the architect Anthony Keck around 1788 to improve the house, adding new wings to complete the courtyard layout on the south-west side and Keck probably designed the stable block. James Yorke planted an avenue of trees known as ‘Bishop's Avenue'. Philip Webb in 1890 commented on the ‘beauty of the old gardens'. (Kingsley p. 128.) The gardens are likely to have undergone a similar range of changes as the house. The plans would suggest an early formal layout. A number of trees from this planting are likely to still be in existence.

A plan of the estate of 1802 shows an orchard to the east of the house. A field to the north-west called ‘the Burrage' may have been the area of the original village settlement, and traces of ridge and furrow were noticed in 1968 in the field south-west of the house.

The OS map of 1883 shows alterations to the orchard area, with a lawn in the centre surrounded by mixed fir and deciduous trees. A formal garden (vegetables?) was to the north-west in part of Pigeon House close. OS 1902 shows the new road, with Pigeon House close now between the house and the road. OS 1923 shows further alteration to the orchard/garden area, with a small circle (raised mound?) picked out as a feature. Ornamental woodlands are likely to date from the 19th century.

The road from the Lower Lode ferry was moved away from the front of the house in 1889, at the time of a major remodelling by Philip Webb. The present owner has a watercolour of this façade of the house probably of about this date. The change in level resulting from the removal of the road has been described as a ‘haha'.

In 1938, the main entrance was moved to the north-east side of the house, and a new drive was laid out accordingly.

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