Heron's Ghyll 5025

East Sussex, England, East Sussex, Wealden

Brief Description

Heron's Ghyll has a mid- to late-19th-century garden laid out with formal, rock and water gardens by the poet, Coventry Patmore. The gardens surround a new house built on an estate of 14th-century origin, part of which was later sold and developed as a separate house and garden from 1869.

History

In 1866 Coventry Patmore brought two adjoining estates (covering some 150 hectares), one on either side of the Uckfield to Crowborough Road. In 1869, Patmore sold the estate on the west side of the road to an Alexander Nesbitt, re-naming his re-built house on the east, Heron's Ghyll. From 1869 the estates remained in separate ownership. At Heron's Ghyll, Patmore developed formal gardens and a chain of five ornamental ponds linked by waterfalls along the ravine.

Detailed Description

Heron's Ghyll sits on rising land within woods and agricultural land on the boundaries of the village of Fairwarp, some four kilometres south-west of Crowborough and four kilometres north of Uckfield. Heron's Ghyll is bounded on the north, south and east by surrounding fields and on the west by the Uckfield Road.

Heron's Ghyll is approached from the west off the road leading north from Uckfield to Crowborough (A26) through an entrance set back from the road and bounded by 0.5 metre high stone walls. The remains of wooden gate posts on each side of the entrance are bordered by mature pine and oak trees with an understorey of rhododendrons. The tarmac-surfaced serpentine drive, with traffic-slowing humps and one metre high modern lights, extends 250 metres to the house with remnants of the oak trees noted by Patmore.

Immediately to the north of the drive there are steps up to an entrance through a two metre high conifer hedge to the garden of a two-storey 19th-century gate lodge of dressed stone with a tiled roof. On the opposite side of the drive from the lodge, there are views south-east across playing fields to a wooden cricket pavilion (20th century) backed by a mature copse, and south to St John's Roman Catholic Church (1897) built by Fitzalan Hope in ‘Early English style' for the use of the local population.

From the lodge, the drive rises for a further 50 metres bordered on the north by a two metre high clipped laurel hedge. At the far end of the hedge a side road leads north past a modern garage block to converted 19th-century stable buildings (red brick with a tiled roof) in use as a pre-preparatory school for Temple Grove School. Northwards from this building, school playing fields extend around 500 metres to the boundary sheltered on the west by trees bordering the A26. Opposite the converted building on the east the ground drops steeply to the site of a large pond (now, 2005, dry in parts), behind which is a hard tennis court set amongst woodland glades.

From the side road the main drive continues on a downward incline, curving north-east after 150 metres to allow a view of Heron's Ghyll house to the east, whilst on the south of the drive a path leads through to shrubbery walks and gardens on the south of the house. The drive leads to a gravelled forecourt on the west of the house, enclosed by a low stone wall with piers topped by stone pineapples.

From the south side of the gravelled forecourt at Heron's Ghyll, 1.5 metre high double-leaved wrought-iron gates attached to stone piers topped with balls, lead to a raised terrace (around 20 metres x 40 metres) on the south side of the house. The raised terrace, centred on Patmore's original smaller house, comprises a grass plat bordered on its four sides by gravel paths (in 1903 bounded by yew hedges), now separated from the house by grass borders with low shrub foundation planting.

The gravel path on the east overlooks a hard tennis court enclosed by wire mesh, positioned in front of the east wing of the house in a sunken area once part of an informal garden and still (2005) containing a mature cedar. This path terminates in a stone bastion with integral seating, with views over a boating lake (now, 2005, partly dry) 30 metres to the south-west. Wooden posts on the north side mark the position of a boathouse.

The gravel path on the west of the raised terrace is bordered on its west side by a flower border and running parallel to this is a further gravel path from the forecourt entrance, flanked by a grass bank with mature trees and shrubs behind. At the southern end of the terrace a flight of four steps descends from this path to an informal grassed area with shrubs and rhododendrons around the lake.

The irregularly shaped lake extends to the site boundary bordered by mature trees, shrubs and brambles with bulrushes and irises growing in damp areas of the dry lake bed. Steps (2005 in poor condition) descend to the water on the north edge around 20 metres from the terrace steps. A dry stream bed runs a distance of some 50 metres south-east from the east edge of the lake to the first of a chain of four ponds (now, 2005, dry), linked by sluices and waterfalls and extending to the site boundary. The pools are set within a narrow belt of woodland enclosed by one metre horizontal metal fencing (2005, rusty) with views to the south-west and north-east across surrounding parkland. Fifty metres south of the terrace there is a covered swimming pool on a raised grass platform surrounded by a wooden fence and chicken wire.

REFERENCES

Books and articles

E. Luckhurst, Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener XXV (1873), 98; XXIX (1975), 164, 289; XXX (1876), 71-2; XXXI (1876), 440; III (1881), 237-8, 270-1.

‘Oldlands Hall, the seat of Alexander Nisbett Esq', Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener (September 16, 1875), 246-7.

Coventry Patmore, How I managed and improved my estate (London: George Bell Sons, 1886).

JLW Petley, Maresfield Old and New (Chichester: JW Moore, 1896). Reprinted Worthing: Gadds Printers Ltd, 1991.

Basil Champneys, Memoirs and Correspondence of Coventry Patmore Vol 1 (London: G Bell & Sons, 1900), 223-42.

‘Heron's Ghyll, Sussex, the Seat of Mr James Fitzalan Hope', Country Life (May 16th 1903), 638-42.

W.T. Pike, Sussex in the Twentieth Century: Contemporary Biographies (Brighton: WT Pike& Co, 1910), 50.

Derek Patmore, The Life and Times of Coventry Patmore (London: Constable, 1949), 140-46.

Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex (London and Beccles: William Clowes and Son Ltd, 1965), 533.

Joan Morgan and Alison Richards, A Paradise out of a Common Field: the Pleasures and Plenty of the Victorian Garden (London: Random Century Group Ltd, 1990), 39-40, 48, 60-1, 64, 118-9, 123, 142-3, 150, 170-5, 197, 220.

Frederick Sowrey, ‘Heron's Ghyll Gardens', Sussex Gardens Trust Newsletter 10 (Spring 1998).

Janet H. Stevenson, ‘Alexander Nesbitt, a Sussex antiquary, and the Oldlands estate', Sussex Archaeological Collections 137 (1999), 161-73.

Simon Wright, ‘Coventry Patmore at Heron's Ghyll', Sussex Gardens Trust Newsletter 22 (Spring 2002).

Barbara Abbs, ‘A Note on Oldlands', Sussex Gardens Trust Newsletter 22 (Spring 2002).

Maps

Plan of Puxtye Farm 1816. ESRO

Tithe Map for Buxted 1840. ESRO

Tithe Map for Maresfield 1840 ESRO

Plan of Buxted Hall 1865. ESRO

OS 25" to 1mile: 1st edition published 1875 (Sheets 27/4 and 28/1); 2nd edition published 1899 (Sheets 27/4 and 28/1); 3rd edition published 1908 (Sheets 27/4 and 28/1)

Illustrations

View of a House at Uckfield. Undated watercolour by MD Wyatt. British Architectural Library: Drawings and Archives Collections V&A ref PB109/10.

Water steps and south front of Heron's Ghyll, Sussex. Undated postcard probably 1920s. (Private collection).

Archival Items

Oldlands Hall Sale Catalogue and Map (1949)

Description written: March 2005

Features
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Heron?s Ghyll is a Gothic-style building designed by J.F. Bailey and constructed in 1868 from local sandstone. The original two-storey house with attic, two bay windows on the south and gables under a tiled roof, was altered and extended under subsequent owners and now comprises a half-H plan shape around three sides of a courtyard.Substantial additions have been made both within the courtyard and on the east wing. A modern two-storey brick house with tiled roof has been built on a raised platform on the north side of the forecourt as accommodation for the headmaster of Temple Grove School. A number of temporary buildings associated with the school, including a sports hall, have been placed north of the house, near the walled kitchen garden.Built from 1869 to the designs of Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, Oldlands Hall is built of ashlar with a gabled roof of red tiles and 16th-century-style chimneys, described as `really no style in particular? (Nairn and Pevsner). The two-storey house with attic had a symmetrical facade with its main entrance on the north and an extensive service wing, now converted to apartments.
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  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: From the north-west corner of Heron?s Ghyll forecourt a flight of concrete steps (dating from the 20th century) leads up through clipped yew hedges towards a 19th-century walled kitchen garden (some 80 metres x 50 metres) around 50 metres from the north-west corner of the house. Now in separate ownership, the kitchen garden entrance on the west side is bricked up, but the remains of a bothy and other structures are on the north-east corner.
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  • Drive
  • Description: Serpentine drive.
  • Gate Lodge
  • Description: Two-storey 19th-century gate lodge of dressed stone with a tiled roof.
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  • Pavilion
  • Description: Wooden cricket pavilion (20th century) backed by a mature copse.
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  • Stable Block
  • Description: Converted 19th-century stable buildings (red brick with a tiled roof) in use as a pre-preparatory school for Temple Grove School.
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  • Ornamental Pond
  • Description: Site of a large pond (now, 2005, dry in parts).
  • Garden Wall
  • Description: Low stone wall with piers topped by stone pineapples.
  • Pineapple Finial
  • Description: Piers topped by stone pineapples.
  • Gate Lodge
  • Description: Two-storey, stone gate lodge, with tile hanging beneath a tiled roof.
  • Plat
  • Description: A grass plat is sited in the angle of the house and converted stable block on its east side.
  • Gate Lodge
  • Description: 19th-century redbrick tiled gate lodge and entrance with wrought-iron gates on Oldlands Hill.
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  • Terrace
  • Description: A raised terrace (around 20 metres x 40 metres) on the south side of the house. The raised terrace, centred on Patmore?s original smaller house, comprises a grass plat bordered on its four sides by gravel paths (in 1903 bounded by yew hedges), now separated from the house by grass borders with low shrub foundation planting.
  • Boating Lake
  • Description: Boating lake (now, 2005, partly dry). The irregularly shaped lake extends to the site boundary bordered by mature trees, shrubs and brambles with bulrushes and irises growing in damp areas of the dry lake bed.
  • Pond
  • Description: A chain of four ponds (now, 2005, dry), linked by sluices and waterfalls and extending to the site boundary.
  • Walk
  • Description: The Azalea Walk, an extensive area with rhododendron and azalea glades leading to woodland (now in separate ownership), also features a Japanese-style pavilion (now, 2005, dilapidated) and a pet cemetery dating to the 1920s, enclosed within a yew hedge.
  • Planting
  • Description: Remains of a rock garden adjoining an ornamental lily pool and, beyond, an arboretum which led along grassy slopes to a chain of lakes (now, 2005, neglected and in separate ownership).
  • Pool
  • Description: Ornamental lily pool.
  • Lake
  • Description: Chain of lakes.
  • Terrace
  • Description: Formal stone terraces.
  • Steps
  • Description: Semi-circular flight of steps lead from the stone terrace to the lower stone-paved walks.
  • Pool
  • Description: A succession of six lily pools (now, 2005 with little water).
  • Ornamental Pond
  • Description: An ornamental pool (now without the deer and fawn fountain described in 1949 Sales Particulars).
Ha-ha
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Buxted
History

Detailed History

In 1866 Coventry Patmore brought two adjoining estates (covering some 150 hectares), one on either side of the Uckfield to Crowborough Road. On the west side of the road, the Oldlands estate, formed in the early-14th century from lands in Buxted and Maresfield, is thought to have originated as assarts from Ashdown Forest (Stevenson).

There appear to have been frequent changes of ownership from the 16th century onwards probably related to local iron working activities, but by 1769 the estate was held by the Holford family. Robert Stayner Holford sold the 16th-century Oldlands Farm with agricultural land to Patmore in 1866.

The smaller estate on the east side of the road, covering some 50 hectares, included a Georgian farmhouse (shown as Puxtye Farm on an 1816 map, but later as Buxted Farm or Buxted Hall) with a ‘vulgar stucco front' (Patmore, 1886), and was surrounded by cultivated fields and woodland (1840 Tithe Map). Both estates contained ‘deep and beautifully wooded ravines', or ghylls, with trout streams.

In 1869, Patmore sold the estate on the west side of the road to an Alexander Nesbitt, re-naming his re-built house on the east, Heron's Ghyll either after the herons found in the area or the Heron family, Lords Say, local landowners from the 14th century.

At Heron's Ghyll, Patmore developed formal gardens and a chain of five ornamental ponds linked by waterfalls along the ravine. This, together with ‘making or widening drives, cutting paths through copses, building summer-houses, cottages and an aviary', are described in contemporary writings (Patmore, 1886; Champneys, 1900) and shown on the 1875 Ordnance Survey map, a year after he sold the property to the Duke of Norfolk.

A second period of expansion took place from 1879 when a James Fitzalan Hope, cousin of the Duke of Norfolk, bought the property (2nd edition Ordnance Survey map, 1897), the new gardens being described as ‘an appropriate setting for so handsome and modest a house' (1903). The ‘natural water gardening' and a water stairway were given particular attention, together with ‘ornamental trees and bushes of the greatest beauty... lovely colonies of rock plants... water-fringe irises and many other moisture loving plants'.

In 1935, Hope (then Lord Rankeillour) leased the estate to a school, Temple Grove, which has since bought it. The grounds have been adapted for school use, including the construction of additional accommodation, tennis courts, swimming pool and the filling in of ponds. The school closed in December 2004 and the property is now (2005) for sale.

Associated People

Just one person associated to Heron's Ghyll

References

References

Contributors

  • Barbara Simms

    1

  • Sussex Gardens Trust