Great Maytham Hall 1513

Cranbrook, England, Kent, Ashford

Brief Description

Great Maytham Hall has early-20th-century formal gardens and woodland of three hectares. This is set within a larger estate of park, wood and agricultural use covering 41 hectares. It is now in divided use and ownership.

History

The first recorded house was built on the site after 1714. The house and park were enlarged in the 19th century. Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to re-build the house and lay out the formal gardens in 1909. It is one of the few houses and gardens in Kent designed by Lutyens.

Visitor Facilities

The site is open on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons between May and September. Please see: http://www.sunleyheritage.co.uk/GM_index.cfm

Terrain

Undulating

Detailed Description

Great Maytham is one of the few houses and gardens in Kent designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and as such is of great importance in this survey. The only other Lutyens house of importance in the County is The Salutation at Sandwich. Thankfully, most of the essentials of the Lutyens garden have survived, despite the general unawareness of their origins.

Great Maytham is one of Lutyens' country houses in his neo-Georgian manner, built in 1909-1910 for H J Tennant, the brother of Margot Asquith. He incorporated part of a much earlier 18th-century manor house into the older stables and outbuildings. A fine clock tower is at the entrance gate house, and before the 1987 storm a formal avenue of limes lined the gravel drive up to the house. Only one lime tree was standing by the summer of 1988 and the owners were undecided as to any replacements. To the front of the house is an area of some two hectares of informal woodland recently cleared of scrub and brambles.

Lutyens also created a series of formal gardens to the south-west. Here, sloping ground necessitated a giant terrace with characteristic bold and curved flight of steps leading from pergola to a pool garden, with ragstone paths, fine wrought iron gates, brick and tile gazebos and more steps. These areas have been recently improved with more intensive planting of the herbaceous borders, and the current management is keen to improve other areas of planting within the gardens.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

An early 20th-century formal garden designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, incorporating built elements of an early 18th-century garden and set within a largely 19th-century park, part of which has 18th-century origins.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Great Maytham lies adjacent to the east side of the main Ashford to Hastings Road (A28), on the south side of the village of Rolvenden. The 44ha registered site, which comprises 3ha of formal and ornamental gardens set within 41ha of parkland and woodland, occupies level ground in the centre which rises in gentle undulations to the north-east and falls away to the south-west and south-east. The boundaries to the east and west, largely enclosed by hedges and internal tree fringes, are formed by the A28 and a minor lane, Maytham Road. To the south the boundary follows the course of a park boundary bank lined largely with coppiced hornbeam; on its south side is a public footpath. Beyond the site to the west, south, and east is a gently undulating landscape of small fields, hedgerows, and woodland while to the north the site is bounded by the housing and church of Rolvenden village.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The entrance to the site is on the east side, from Maytham Road. A drive enters through the carriage arch which connects the twin flanking lodges of the gatehouse, known as the Clock-House (listed grade II*). Built by Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) as stables in 1909-10, in grey brick with red-brick window dressings and with a wooden cupola and clock face above the arch, the building was converted to residential use between 1961 and 1965. The drive, lined with an avenue of five pairs of lime trees, replanted in the early 1990s to replace Lutyens' original six pairs destroyed in the storm of 1987, runs on a 90m straight course to the gravelled, yew-hedge-enclosed forecourt, laid out 1909-10, on the principal, north-east front of the house. Andrews, Dury and Herbert's Map of Kent of 1769 shows the house similarly approached directly from the east but by the early C19 (Mudge, 1801; Greenwood, surveyed 1819-20), the house appears to have been served by the present partly grassed track which enters the site at West Lodge (of mid C19 origin) on the Hastings road (A28), passes the entrance front of the house and then continues south-eastwards to East Lodge, built between 1870-2 and 1899 (OS 1st and 2nd editions) on the Maytham road. The present entrance was established in 1909-10 as part of Lutyens' design for the house and grounds.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Great Maytham Hall (listed grade II*) sits on level ground towards the south-east corner of the park and enjoys extensive views south-westwards to the distant ridges of the Sussex Weald. Built of grey brick with red-brick window dressings and quoins, the main block of three storeys and the two wings of two storeys each have a semi-basement and an attic storey under a hipped, tiled roof. On the south-east side and connected to Lutyens' house by a passage at semi-basement level is a red-brick pavilion or bothy, built as a laundry to the former C18 house and converted by Lutyens to a squash court. A similar but detached pavilion survives to the north-west of the present house and both were converted to residential use in the early 1960s. The first house recorded at Great Maytham was started on the site of the present house in 1721 and consisted of a two-storey building with basement and the two detached pavilions. It remained roofless until completed in c 1760. A third storey, in Tudor style, was added in 1880 before the house was partially destroyed by fire in 1893. Repaired and altered immediately afterwards, it was virtually rebuilt by Lutyens in 1909-10, only the cellars and the pavilions being incorporated from the C18 house. Conversion to residential apartments took place from 1961 to 1965.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The formal gardens and pleasure grounds lie to the west and south-west of the house, the formal terracing designed, and the C18 walled gardens remodelled, by Lutyens in 1909-10. The south-west front opens onto a paved terrace (restored 1977-8), lined by parallel mixed borders, which runs the full 75m length of the house. It is enclosed at the north-west end by the south-east wall of the kitchen garden and, at the north corner, by a small, square brick gazebo (shown on the OS 1st edition) which is entered from the terrace and which offers views, through openings, over the C18 coach houses and yard (converted to garage use in the early 1960s) below to the north-west and, to the north-east, over a small paved courtyard between the main house and the C18 detached pavilion. In the centre of the terrace, opposite the door leading out from the saloon and continuing the axis of the main drive, a flight of stone steps leads down to a landing embraced by further short flights, flanked by shrub-planted projecting brick bastions, onto the principal lawns. These are also reached from both the extreme north-west and south-east ends of the terrace by straight staircases of similar stone steps flanked by bastions. The extensive lawns, laid out by Lutyens, are constructed as a series of three descending terraces separated by grassed banks, the central level laid out as a croquet lawn. The apparent extent of the lawn in the early 1870s (OS) is defined by the present upper level. The lawns are terminated on their south-east and south-west sides by a grassed ha-ha, planted along its south-east side with shrubbery, the remnants of a box hedge, and occasional trees and immediately beyond them by a copse which screens the view of the park from the house.

The lawns are enclosed along their entire north-west side by the south-east, red-brick wall of the walled gardens, the southernmost c 50m and two piers being added by Lutyens to the surviving C18 length. From the staircase at the north-west end of the terrace a stone-paved path with a central grass strip runs 100m south-westwards, parallel to the wall, to a small paved terrace, terminated by a balustraded wall, from which flights of stone steps lead south-eastwards down onto the lowest level of lawn and north-westwards into the southernmost walled garden. This garden is only partially walled, being enclosed to the north-west and south by a belt of mature oak wood, underplanted with rhododendrons and shown established by 1870-2 (OS 1877). It is laid to lawn with, as its central focus, a square lily pool surrounded by paving and four corner herbaceous beds. An axial paved path leads south-eastwards from the pool into the woodland and north-eastwards up a flight of semicircular steps and through a wrought-iron gate into the principal walled enclosure. Its walls surviving from the C18 and formerly containing a rose garden (guidebook), this is laid to lawn surrounded and divided centrally by stone-paved paths (the present structure established by 1870-2, OS 1877) with mixed borders along the foot of the walls and with a climber-covered brick and timber pergola running south-west to north-east over the central axial path. A further wrought-iron gate gives access onto the lawns from the east corner while built into the south corner is a raised brick gazebo designed by Lutyens in 1909-10 in a style similar to the gazebo on the terrace.

PARK

The park extends to the north, west, and south of the house and gardens. To their immediate north-west and south-west, the gardens are abutted by woodland, that to the west, shown established on Mudge's map of Kent of 1801, comprising largely coppice with small areas of conifer plantation. The woodland to the north-west, also largely coppice and recorded by 1909 (OS) as The Wilderness, encloses a lake, constructed between 1870-2 and 1898 (OS 1st and 2nd editions) on former marshy, clump-planted parkland. Beyond the woodlands to the west and on the rising ground to the north the parkland, shown established between 1819-20 (Greenwood) and 1870-2 (OS 1877), is open in character, laid to permanent pasture and with a few clumps and individual trees surviving from the extensive planting pattern shown on the OS 1st edition as extending to the east to west field boundary 320m north of the house. North of this field boundary, tree cover, sparse in 1870, now (1997) comprises only three or four mature oaks with a similar number of new trees planted in the 1990s. South of the boundary and north of the lake, the surrounds of the southernmost of two ponds, established by 1898 (OS), are now (1997) planted with a small collection of ornamental trees.

Immediately north-east of the house, and enclosed by a narrow, westward-extending arm of coppice woodland, the parkland has a denser scatter of clumps and individual trees of mixed age. South-east of the main drive and extending to the southern boundary of the site, the parkland, shown established on Mudge's map of 1801 and well furnished with scattered trees in 1877 and 1909 (OS), is again laid to permanent pasture and open in character, with a few clumps and, to the east of the house, a number of large mature pollards.

KITCHEN GARDEN

The kitchen garden lies to the west of the house, enclosed to the south-west by the wall of the principal walled garden and by further walls to the south-east, north-west, and north-east, the last backing onto the coach houses and garage blocks. A range of small outbuildings and greenhouses, which existed in 1870-2 (OS 1877), was largely replaced after 1908 by an extensive range of glasshouses, the surviving brick bases of which are now planted ornamentally as private gardens for residents or used for propagation.

REFERENCES

Country Life, 32 (30 November 1912), pp 746-53

L Weaver, Houses and Gardens by E L Lutyens (1913), pp 247-56

J Newman, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald (1969), p 479

J Brown, Gardens of a Golden Afternoon (1982), pp 170, 179

Great Maytham Hall, guidebook, (Country Houses Association 1982)

Maps

W Mudge, Map of Kent, 1" to 1 mile, 1801

C Greenwood, Map of the County of Kent from an actual survey made in the years 1819 and 1820, about 1" to 1 mile, 1821

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1870-2, published 1877; 2nd edition published 1899; 3rd edition published 1909

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1870; 2nd edition published 1898; 3rd edition published 1908

Description written: October 1997

Amended: January 1999

Edited: November 2003

Features

Style

  • Formal
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Great Maytham is one of Lutyen?s country houses in his neo-Georgian manner, built in 1909-1910 for H J Tennant, the brother of Margot Asquith. He incorporated part of a much earlier 18th-century manor house into the older stables and outbuildings.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: To the south-west of the house, sloping ground necessitated a giant terrace.
  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: Before the 1987 storm a formal avenue of limes lined the gravel drive up to the house. Only one lime tree was standing by the summer of 1988 and the owners were undecided as to any replacements.
  • Steps
  • Description: There is a characteristic bold and curved flight of steps on the terrace.
  • Pool
  • Description: Pool garden.
  • Gazebo
  • Description: Brick and tile gazebos.
Pergola, Herbaceous Border
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The site is open on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons between May and September. Please see: http://www.sunleyheritage.co.uk/GM_index.cfm

Directions

The site is 1.5 miles south-east of Rolvenden, 4 miles south-west of Tenterden.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Rolvenden
History

Detailed History

The Moneypenny family owned Great Maytham from 1721-1900 but there were financial problems in the late-1800s. Additions, a fire and other problems disfigured the house. During a period of lets, one of the tenants was Frances Hodgson Burnett who took the house from 1898-1907. He was inspired to write ‘The Secret Garden' from the walled garden of the old Georgian house that existed then. Lutyens incorporated this into his new garden design, and the bricked-in doorway is eagerly hunted today by schoolchildren. The Tennant family lived in style at Great Maytham from 1909-1938, 13 gardeners being employed with a huge new kitchen garden, laundry, dairy, carpenters shop and an estate of around 530 hectares.

The whole estate and house contents were dispersed at the sale in 1936. Army occupation in 1939-45 followed by various unsatisfactory ownerships led to a deterioration and neglect of house and gardens. The site was rescued from a threat of demolition by the Country Houses Association in 1961. Conversion and restoration work took four years. There are now 30 residents, some of whom actively assist in the maintenance of the garden.

Forty-seven trees of significant size were lost in the 1987 storm. These included oaks, Scots pine, horse chestnuts, silver birch, cherries and crab apples as well as the lime avenue.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

An estate existed at Maytham in the Saxon period and a manor and its owners were referred to in Domesday Book. Owned by two de Maytham sisters in the 14th century and by the Carew family in the early 16th century, it became Crown property in 1539. Granted first to Thomas Cromwell and then to Sir Thomas Wyatt, it passed by marriage to the Colpeppers of Bedgebury who owned it until 1714 although it was never their principal residence. It was sold in that year to Captain James Monypenny who began building the first recorded house on the site. The property remained in the hands of various members of the Monypenny family, who enlarged the house and the park in the 19th century, until the death of Lt-Col Robert Thomas Gybbon-Monypenny in 1893. Various owners and tenants including, from 1898 until 1907, the authoress Frances Hodgson Burnett, occupied Great Maytham until 1909 when the then owner, Mr Powell-Edwards, sold it to the Rt Hon H J Tennant who engaged Sir Edwin Lutyens to rebuild the house and lay out the formal gardens. When the Maytham estate was sold again in 1936 the tenanted farmland surrounding the house and park was sold off separately. A succession of owners followed, the house being used by the National Institute for the Blind and by the army before falling into a state of neglect. In 1961 most of the parkland was divided and sold, the house, gardens, and part of the eastern parkland being purchased by the Country Houses Association (formerly the Mutual Households Association) who restored the property and converted it to residential retirement apartments. The house and gardens remain (1997) in charitable ownership with the majority of the parkland in divided private ownership.

Period

  • Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
Associated People

People associated to Great Maytham Hall

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Kent Gardens Trust