Hatch Park 1644

Ashford, England, Kent, Ashford

Brief Description

Hatch Park is a landscape park of considerable antiquity, complementing Godinton Park to the north-west of Ashford. It is a well-wooded and unspoilt estate managed for agricultural and sporting purposes.

History

Richard Knatchbull purchased the manor and deer park in 1485. A new house was designed by Robert Adam in the 1760s. Some alterations were made to the house in 1827 and again before 1917. The parkland is subject to a Deed of Covenant between the current owner and the National Trust.

Terrain

On the edge of a ridge with the park falling away to the north

Detailed Description

Hatch Park is an important landscape park of considerable antiquity, complementing Godinton Park to the north-west of Ashford. Hatch Park is in fact part of a very much larger estate of several thousand acres lying between the A20 and the North Downs. It is an exceptionally well-wooded and unspoilt estate managed for agricultural and sporting purposes. When viewed from the west of the Downs near Wye on the National Nature Reserve, the significant and scenic value of this estate becomes very apparent.

An important change affected Hatch Park during World War 2, when grazed parkland was converted to arable farming. The land south of the woodland has been so affected, and deer no longer graze the area along the A20 highway.

Apart from agriculture and forestry, the park also has some recreational value, since three public footpaths cross the park. The trustees take an enlightened view of the public enjoying the Park from the footpaths, but strongly discourage trespass and damage.

In 1968 Hatch Park was notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The gardens have always been informally landscaped, except for a time five years before World War 2, when the then tenant, Mrs Hudson, had great plans for flower borders. As tenants for the last 45 years, the Caldecott Community has tried to maintain a level of practical informality, as the grounds are used by the children. The area of garden covers about a fifth of that outlined on the map.

The arboretum near the house is in a damaged state and still needs surveying.

It is proposed to replant on a phased basis the parkland trees over the next few years.

Some remarkable and venerable pollarded hornbeams survive in Bockhanger Wood.

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

A mid-18th-century landscape park accompanying a country house built by Robert Adam.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Hatch Park lies c 5km south-east of Ashford, to the north-east of the village of Mersham. The c 165ha site is bounded to the south-west by the A20, to the south-east by The Ridgeway, and by farmland along all other boundaries. The original southern boundary of the site may have taken a line along the southern edge of Bockhanger Wood, through the present site of the stables, to join The Ridgeway. It seems likely that a second, earlier road followed the parish boundary which runs north/south across the centre of the park. The house, known as Mersham-le-Hatch, stands on the edge of a ridge with the park falling away to the north, the location providing extensive views over the park to the rising ground beyond.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The main drives all enter the park from the A20 to the south-west. The west drive branches off the public road at the western end of Bockhanger Wood, passes the small Bockhanger Lodge c 950m north-west of the house, winds through the Wood, then breaks out into the open park c 450m north-west of the house. From here it hugs the hillside with the wooded land rising to the south and the park falling away to the north, and leads to the entrance front on the north-north-east side of the house, although the original entrance was on the opposite front, facing south-south-west. A second approach, from the south-east corner of the park c 600m south-east of the house, crosses the flat, wooded south park, turning westwards to give a view of the house on its platform and the lakes in the park beyond to the north. The third, more direct approach lies between these two; a drive from the early C19 yellow brick and tile Hatch (or South) Lodge (listed grade II), which stands c 350m south-south-west of the house, leads north along the western edge of the pleasure grounds and up to the south-south-west side of the house.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

In the centre of Hatch Park stands Mersham-le-Hatch, an imposing country house (listed grade I) built in the Palladian style of red brick with Portland stone dressings under a slate roof. The house faces south-south-west and has a large rectangular central block linked by narrow, straight balustraded corridors to rectangular flanking wings. This facade was originally the entrance front but during the C20 the garden front to the north-north-east, with its ground-floor balustraded loggia, became the main entrance. The house was designed by Robert Adam (1728-92) for Sir Wyndham Knatchbull between 1762 and 1766 and was altered in 1827 and 1872 for later members of the Knatchbull family.

The mid C18 stables (listed grade II*) stand c 100m to the south-east of the house.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The gardens lie to the south of the house. Below the south front a broad open lawn is encircled by a shrubbery and specimen exotics, particularly Wellingtonias, while to the south-west are remnants of a pond and fountain which once formed the focus of a mid C19 flower garden. The gardens are divided from the band of fields between them and the road by a ha-ha. Much of the shrubbery and exotic plantings date from the mid C19 although according to an account of 1776 (CL 1921), when the mansion was completed in the 1770s the gardens and pleasure grounds were said to have been 'laid out with great taste and judgement'.

PARK

The park, which was formed in the mid C18 when the house was built, lies to the north, east, and west of the house. It is partly under grass and partly under arable and is still grazed in places by a herd of fallow deer (2000). The parkland to the north of the house represents the area of the medieval deer park. Here the land falls down to the north-east to the stew ponds, the largest of which forms a lake known as the Boat Pond c 400m north-east of the house. Beyond the Boat Pond the land rises gently to the perimeter belt. A generous scattering of parkland trees remains.

Barrack Wood occupies the south-east corner of the site, while a further area of woodland occupies the western corner of the park. The latter is divided into Spring Wood and Bockhanger Wood, within which stand a number of mature coppiced trees, particularly hornbeam.

KITCHEN GARDEN

The C18 walled kitchen garden covers c 0.5ha and stands beyond the stables c 150m to the south-east of the house. It retains pathside borders of box with espalier fruit trees behind and contains an area of flower garden beside a derelict peach house.

REFERENCES

E Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent III, (1797-1801) [Facsimile edition 1972], p 286

J P Neale, Views of seats, 2nd series, (1826)

F O Morris, Series of picturesque views 5, (1866-80), p 45

Country Life, 49 (26 March 1921), pp 368-75; 58 (8 August 1925), pp 218-26

I and E Hall, Report on Hatch Park for Kent Gardens Trust, (1993) [Copy on EH file]

Description rewritten: March 2001

Amended: March 2001

Edited: October 2003

Features

Style

  • Informal
  • Lake
  • Description: There are two lakes.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Dam
  • Description: Separate dams hold back the waters of Boat Pond and Heron Pond.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: In 1762 Sir Wyndham Knatchbull demolished the old house and constructed a large new mansion to designs by Robert Adam, choosing a site to the south of the deer park.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Tree Feature
  • Description: The arboretum near the house is in a damaged state and still needs surveying.
Access & Directions

Directions

The site is three miles east of Ashford just north of the A20. It is one mile north-east of Mersham.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Brabourne
History

Detailed History

The boundaries of Hatch Park became defined over 400 years ago when a deer park was established near an older Tudor house close to the London-Folkestone road, the owners being the Knatchbulls whose descendants still own part of the estate. The plentiful woodlands at that time are considered to be an extension of the ancient Forest of the Weald. Ancient remnants still survive today.

In 1762 Sir Wyndham Knatchbull demolished the old house and constructed a large new mansion to designs by Robert Adam, choosing a site to the south of the deer park. Most of the two million bricks were fired in two kilns on the estate and much of the timber came from the estate woodlands. The park must have been landscaped in the prevailing taste of the time, but no record exists of any distinguished consultant being commissioned to do this. Extensive tree planting was carried out and two lakes constructed, which still exist today. Separate dams hold back the waters of Boat Pond and Heron Pond.

The October 1987 storm was very destructive to the deer park in particular, with 30% of many fine mature trees, especially beeches, lost or damaged. Mature beeches along the A20 highway were also damaged or felled. Estate fences have also been destroyed, allowing the escape of many deer.

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

The manor of Mersham was given to the See of Canterbury in 1051, and was purchased, along with the deer park, by Richard Knatchbull in 1485. Sir Wyndham Knatchbull Wyndham, fifth baronet, took over the estate in 1736. On his death in 1749, his son Sir Wyndham, sixth baronet, then age twelve, inherited the estate. In the early 1760s on his return from a Grand Tour of Italy, the sixth baronet called in Robert Adam to design a new house, on a new site, on the ridge a little to the south-west of the earlier building. Wyndham died in 1763, before his house had been completed and the property passed to his uncle, Sir Edward Knatchbull (died 1789), who completed the work. The estate then passed to the seventh baronet's son, Sir Edward (died 1819) who in 1780 married Mary, daughter and co-heir of William Western Hugessen and sister-in-law of Sir Joseph Banks. Their son, the Rt Hon Sir Edward (1781-1849) inherited the estate and carried out some alterations to the house in 1827. Further alterations were made under Sir Wyndham Knatchbull, twelfth baronet (died 1917). On the death of Sir Wyndham, the estates and title reverted to Cecil Marcus Knatchbull-Hugessen, fourth Baron Brabourne and thirteenth baronet. His son, the fifth Baron Brabourne and fourteenth baronet, was Governor of Bombay from 1933 to 1937, Governor of Bengal from 1937 to 1939, and Viceroy and acting Governor-General of India in 1938. Having succeeded his father in 1939, the sixth Baron Brabourne and fifteenth baronet was killed in the war in 1943 at which time the estate and titles passed to his brother. The estate remains in private ownership with the mansion currently (2000) leased to the Caldecott Community, and the parkland subject to a Deed of Covenant between the current owner and the National Trust.

Associated People

Just one person associated to Hatch Park

Contact
References

References