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Holdenby House


Holdenby House is the single remaining wing of a major Tudor house constructed in 1583, with Victorian additions. Eight hectares of formal terraced gardens remain from the 16th-century gardens and park, which have been extensively replanted and redesigned in keeping with the property. Features include a walled kitchen garden with greenhouses, a walk used by Charles I, and a Silver Border.

The interior of the parkland is almost entirely covered by ridge and furrow of the pre-1580 open field system. The site incorporates the earthwork remains of the earlier village that was moved by Sir Christopher Hatton.

A Scheduled Monument designation applies to 'Holdenby Manor and 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):

Extensive earthwork remains of a formal terraced garden associated with one of the greatest late 16th-century country houses.



Holdenby lies c 3km east of East Haddon, on the road to Northampton c 10km to the south-east. That road forms the northern boundary of the registered area. The eastern boundary runs around the west side of Holdenby village before turning south-east, to include the line of the main C16 approach to Holdenby House, up to the sewage works north of Coneybury Hill. The southern boundary of the registered area is formed in part by the stream which runs c 400m south of All Saints' church. The area here registered is c 65ha.


Holdenby House is approached from the north, via a straight, lime-lined drive off the East Haddon to Northampton road. At the end of the drive is a gateway of 1920 closely modelled on those of 1583 in the Base Court and that which stands at the south end of the drive, in the centre of the wall closing the House's forecourt. The forecourt archway, close in design to those of 1583, carries the date 1659. Girouard (1979, 1401) suggests Capt Baynes added this date to a pre-existing arch to mark the completion of his new house.

In 1580 Holdenby House was approached from the east along a road which entered The Green, which appears to have served as a large forecourt on the east side of the House. By 1587 that approach had been made more impressive with the construction on the east side of the House of the Base Court, entered from The Green via a large gatehouse (not extant) at the centre of its east side. As the Court was entered the visitor would have seen fully revealed Holdenby's symmetrical, towered east front.


Holdenby House (listed grade II*) was rebuilt between 1873-5 to a design by R H Carpenter and W Slater, incorporating parts of Capt Baynes's mid C17 house and its late C16 predecessor. It was enlarged in 1887-8 by W E Mills. To the west side of the House is a quadrangular stone stables range (listed grade II) of the later C19. On the north-west edge of Holdenby's grounds is a tall, circular, C19 ironstone water tower.

Until a few years before 1580, by which time it had been demolished, the Hattons' manor house lay immediately south of the church. In 1571 Sir Christopher Hatton began to build a prodigious new house on high ground 125m north of the church. Arranged around two courts, it was the largest private house built in England in the C16, with symmetrical fronts, mullioned windows, bay windows and two-storeyed open arcading on the garden front. Dedicated by Hatton to the Queen in an unrealised expectation of a royal visit, Holdenby was sufficiently finished for Lord Burgley (on whose own house of Theobalds it was modelled) to walk through it in August 1579. The main house was largely demolished (although some fragments remained upstanding as late as the 1730s) after Capt Baynes bought Holdenby in 1650; in its stead Baynes contrived a small hall from part of the service buildings in the north range.

Holdenby church (listed grade II*), largely C14, saw extensive restoration, including the rebuilding of the chancel, in the mid C19.


The present House occupies the site of the north-west part of Sir Christopher Hatton's house. The gardens around it were largely created at the time it was restored, in the 1870s. Running from east to west across the south, garden front of the House is a gravelled terrace walk, at the west end of which is a 3m high, ironstone exedra. The walk runs across the top of the main south lawn, which slopes gently downhill to a low, C19 ha-ha, down which steps lead to the main grassed-over remains of the earlier gardens.

Abutting the east side of the north forecourt is a 70m square compartment surrounded with tall brick and stone walls, now (1998) housing a falconry but earlier a fruit garden. This has a central stone basin on its main, axial, yew-hedged north/south path. At the south end of the path a wrought-iron gate leads through to the House's lawns, and to a 60m square, yew-hedged compartment with a central circular lily pool. There is a break in the centre of each side of the square. That to the south leads through to a slight, southward-looking knoll with some mature coniferous specimen trees, while that to the east leads via iron gates (listed grade II) to a narrow, yew-hedged compartment, on the far side of which and through further gates (also listed grade II) there is access to the Base Court.

Between the west side of the House and the kitchen garden is a small, yew-hedged knot garden with central sundial designed by Rosemary Verey. To its south, beyond the main terrace walk, a fragrant garden was being planted in 1998.

The terraced earthworks of Holdenby's late C16 and early C17 gardens lie to the south and east of Holdenby House and its modern gardens, on the top and down a gentle, south-west-facing slope.

The west court of Hatton's house lay immediately to the south of the modern house, divided by a central north/south range from the east court. The remains of Hatton's gardens are laid out on an axial line which continues that of the lost central range. Placed centrally to the south is a level terrace 95m east/west by 70m north/south. In the 1580s this was occupied by a quartered flower garden, and traces of this survive including a circular mound at the centre 30m in diameter and 0.20m high. Along the east and west sides of the terrace are low, raised walks; to the north is the C19 ha-ha. Along the lower, south side of the terrace the ground drops down a 5m scarp; the modern westward approach to the church runs along its bottom.

Flanking the central terrace to east and west are the most pronounced features of the garden, flights of terraces (in 1580 called The Rosaries), each 100m wide from east to west. To the west, and overlooked from the walk down the west side of the central terrace which stands 10m above it, are seven terraces, each c 1m high. The top one is probably C19; the next has a C19 wall inserted into it but is probably the uppermost of the late C16 terraces. At their west ends the terraces meet a 1.5m high north/south walk which bounds the garden; a bulbous projection on the inner, east side midway down the walk may mark the site of the documented arbour. At the bottom of the west terraces is a rectangular fishpond (dug 1580 x 1587); the north/south walk turns east to run along the pond's south side, scarping steeply away to the south. To the east of the central terrace, and again at a lower level, there are seven narrow steps or terraces, each 0.5m ( 0.75m high. Below the lowest terrace is a long, narrow area, in 1587 called the Bowling Alley, bounded on the south by a 1m high raised walk. This was the route from the garden to the Banqueting House.

To the west of the site of the late C16 house (and thus south-west of the present one) and south of the modern kitchen garden is a gently sloping lawn with shrubbery. In 1580 there were nine square flower beds here, which when Holdenby was mapped anew in 1587 had been replaced by rows of trees. Both maps show a Cistern House on the north/south raised walk which continues up the west side of this compartment. The ditch which supplied the Cistern House can be traced cutting across ridge and furrow in the park to the west.

Placed roughly centrally at the head of the east terraces is the more southerly of the two monumental limestone ashlar carriage arches (both listed grade I) which lay at either end of the Base Court. Both are dated 1583. The Base Court itself, 60m north/south by 70m east/west, adjoined the east side of Hatton's house. Between 1580 and 1587 it was remodelled and a large gatehouse, of which no trace survives, was built on the centre of its east side. This gave access to a compartment called 'The Green', 300m wide from east to west and 250m from north to south, crossed axially from the east by the main approach drive. Also built in the 1580s was a double-pile banqueting house or lodge (not extant), in the early C17 known as the Dairy House, close to the south-west corner of The Green.

South of the main terraced garden and east of All Saints' church is a further distinct set of garden earthworks. These lie within a compartment which in the 1580s was an orchard and in which between 1580 and 1587 the number of fishponds increased from one to six. A 4.5m high prospect mount stands at the south-east corner of the compartment; from its top there are panoramic views, north-west across the gardens to the site of the C16 house, and across the lower ground of the former deer park to the south. To its west, and again overlooked, are eight low terraces forming a zig-zag path down the slope to the fishponds dug in the 1580s. On the north side of the terraces is a roughly rectangular area cut back into the hillside, with internal scarps presumably representing flower beds. This apparently represents alterations after 1587, and possibly improvements made at Holdenby in the early C17 when it was owned by the Crown.

Holdenby's gardens, shown pictorially on estate plans of 1580 and 1587, were claimed by Hatton to have been modelled on those at Lord Burghley's great house at Theobalds (Herts). In 1597 their design was attributed to Hugh Hall, a Catholic priest. The gardens were described c 1600 by John Norden: they 'hath been raised, levelled, and formed out of a most craggye and unfitable ground now framed a most pleasante, sweete, and princely Place with divers walks, manie ascendings and descendings replenished also with manie delightfull trees of Fruits, artificially composed Arbors, and a Destilling House on the west end of the same garden, over which is a Ponde of water brought by conduite pypes, out of the Feylde adjoyninge on the west 1/4 of a mile from the same House.' Further additions may have been made to the gardens in the first half of the C17 when Holdenby was owned by the Crown, and in 1651 they were described as 'a pleasant spacious and fair garden adorned with several long walks, mounts, arbours and seats, with curious delightful knots and planted with fruit trees.' Among the garden walks was the Long Walk (later known as the King's Walk) along the top of the terraces where Charles I exercised in 1647. Also mentioned in 1651 were orchards, fishponds, bowling alleys, spinneys planted with ash and 'delightful walks' (descriptions cited in RCHM(E) 1981, 106). The gardens were effectively abandoned in the 1650s at the time the main house was demolished.


West of Holdenby, along the south side of the East Haddon to Northampton road, there is a small park, of permanent pasture underlain with ridge and furrow, with occasional mature parkland trees. There is a narrow shelter belt along the side of the road while denser woodland lies either side of the main north drive and down the west side of the House's gardens. At the extreme north-east corner of the park is a mid C19 estate building, described as 'lodge' although there was never a drive from this point. This park was apparently created in the later C19, about the time the House was enlarged.

Also included within the registered area is the north-west corner of the 606-acre (c 250ha) deer park created by Sir Christopher Hatton between 1580 and 1587 on the rolling clayland south and south-east of Holdenby House. Now permanent pasture, in the 1580s this section of the park was wooded and known as 'The Grove.' Norden saw fallow deer in the park c 1600. At least in part the park occupied the site of Holdenby's open fields, inclosed 1584 x 1587; any village houses around the church had already been removed by 1580. County maps of the C17 to early C19 show no park at Holdenby, and it would seem likely that the late C16 park was inclosed c 1651 about the time the House was demolished. Its pale is followed by hedge lines. Most of the park (outside the registered area) is divided into enclosure-period fields and under arable cultivation.


A rectangular, brick- and stone-walled kitchen garden lies close to the west side of the House, south of the stables. It is probably largely of later C19 date. A greenhouse along the north wall was reconstructed in the later C20.


The villagers removed from around the church c 1580, and others who lived north-east of the House were rehoused in a new, planned, village laid out around a rectangular green. This green adjoined the north side of, and shared the axial alignment of, the Base Court on the east side of the House. Also on the Green was an inn, built by Hatton to offer overflow accommodation when large parties visited Holdenby. This, the modern village of Holdenby, largely comprising estate cottages, lies immediately beyond and north-east of the registered area.


Country Life, 32 (19 October 1912), pp 528-38; 166 (18 October 1979), pp 1286-9; (25 October 1979), pp 1398-1401

J Summerson (editor), The Book of Architecture of John Thorpe in Sir John Soane's Museum, Walpole Society 40, (1966), pp 8, 26, 30, 38, 93-4, plate 85

N Pevsner and B Cherry, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire (1973), pp 260-3

Northamptonshire Past & Present 5, (1977), pp 392-5

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Inventories: Northamptonshire 3, (1981), pp 103-9, plates 16-18

C Taylor, The Archaeology of Gardens (1983)

M Girouard, Town and Country (1992), pp 197-210, 268-9

B A Bailey (editor), Northamptonshire in the Early Eighteenth Century: The Drawings of Peter Tillemans and Others, Northants Record Society 39, (1996), pp 97-8

J Heward and R Taylor, The Country Houses of Northamptonshire, (RCHM(E) 1996), pp 235-8 and plates


Maps of 1580 and 1587 which are held in the Northamptonshire Record Office are reproduced in RCHM(E) 1981, plates 16-18

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1886/1891; 2nd edition published 1900-1

OS 25" to 1 mile: 2nd edition published 1900

Description written: 1998

Edited: January 2000

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01604 770074

Access contact details

The gardens are open Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays, April to September, 13.00 to 17.00. Private tours by arrangement. Please see: or telephone 01604 770074


Between the A428 and A5199, 6 miles north-west of Northampton.


Mr and Mrs Lowther


A survey of 1587 reports 606 acres (about 245 hectares) of park. The parkland was bounded by a continuous wooden fence, most of which can be traced today as a hedge-line. By 1607 this area had fallen to 499 acres (about 144 hectares) excluding 135 acres (about 67 hectares) of lawn meadow. The deer park fell into disuse at this time after the property was bought by Capt. Baynes and was certainly abandoned by 1762.

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):


The Hattons were established at Holdenby by the late 15th century, and gradually increased their holding in the parish until William Hatton (died 1546) owned all four manors. His son Christopher, who was born there in 1540, moved into royal circles at the age of 21, and through the favour of the Queen rose quickly. In 1564 he became one of the Queen's Gentlemen Pensioners, and in 1578, by which time the reconstruction of Holdenby was well advanced, was made Vice Chamberlain and knighted. From 1587, by which time the House was completed and its gardens and deer park laid out, he was Lord Chancellor.

By the time of his death in 1591 Hatton owed £40,000, his extravagances including the purchase of Kirby Hall (see description of this site elsewhere in the Register) while work was still in progress at Holdenby. His estates passed to his nephew Sir William Newport (died 1597) who took the name Hatton, and then to Sir Christopher Hatton II, his namesake's cousin. In 1607 the last-named sold Holdenby to James I as a country seat for Prince Charles, and during the early 17th century it was visited many times by royalty. Charles I spent over three months as a prisoner here in 1647.

In 1650 Holdenby was bought by Capt Adam Baynes, a Roundhead soldier, MP for Leeds and speculator, who felled Holdenby's woods and demolished most of the house and sold the materials. After the Restoration Holdenby returned to the Crown and was then sold. Holdenby remains (1997) in private hands.


Tudor (1485-1603)

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Conservation Area

  • Reference: Holdenby Conservation Area
  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD2037
  • Grade: I
  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: Lyne House (No. 11)
  • Grade: II
  • Historic Environment Record (Local Authority)

  • Reference: SMR 1015 - MNN3212


  • Greenhouse
  • Walk
  • Hedge
  • Topiary
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Building
  • Description: Holdenby South Lodge, dating back to the 17th or 18th century. It is situated south-east of the house on the 16th-century approach drive and may have been a hunting lodge.
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: The surviving terraces from the original late 16th-century layout.
  • Gate
  • Description: Two sets of 18th-century wrought iron gates about 85 and 105 metres east of Holdenby House.
  • Arch
  • Description: A pair of carriage arches leading to the outer court.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Earthwork
  • Description: The interior of the parkland is almost entirely covered by ridge and furrow of the pre-1580 open field system.
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Tudor (1485-1603)





Open to the public


Civil Parish