Ladyholt Park 5265

West Sussex, England, West Sussex, Chichester

Brief Description

The only buildings in the valley are two cottages which appear to be located on the site of outbuildings associated with the original house. The position of Ladyholt House is evident from brick and tile rubble in the ploughed field to the south-east of the cottages. With the exception of a bank of grassland, designated a Site of Nature Conservation Importance by West Sussex County Council, for its species-rich chalk grassland, the rest of the park is in arable production.

History

There is some confusion about the exact date of construction, but we know from a lease dated 1680 that the mansion had been newly-built and the park recently enclosed and impaled and stocked with deer.

Detailed Description

Ladyholt Park is situated to the south-west of the village of Harting at map reference SU754164. The location is a hidden valley surrounded by woodland on three sides with the predominant views being north-east along the valley towards West Harting Down and north-west across wooded downland tops and valleys. When approaching the site from the east via Eckensfield the valley is dramatically revealed as you reach the top of the slope at 141 metres.

The only buildings in the valley are two cottages which appear to be located on the site of outbuildings associated with the original house. The position of Ladyholt House is evident from brick and tile rubble in the ploughed field to the south-east of the cottages.

With the exception of a bank of grassland, designated a Site of Nature Conservation Importance by West Sussex County Council, for its species-rich chalk grassland, the rest of the park is in arable production.

The woodlands surrounding Ladyholt Park are of mixed deciduous species, principally beech, oak and hazel coppice. These are backed by Forest Enterprise commercial conifer plantations. To the north east is Star Copse, no doubt named after the rides which radiate out from the centre. Star Copse is designated a Site of Nature Conservation Importance by West Sussex County Council, for its ground flora. The woodland is semi-natural hazel coppice with mainly ash standards.

Practically nothing remains of the designed landscape of cross avenues and trees belt shown in the estate map of 1739 or the line of trees shown on the 1724 map leading to Harting. This is perhaps not surprising for a park where the house was demolished more than 230 years ago and for a family that was despised for its catholic beliefs. It is likely the park was stripped of its valuable timber after the house disappeared with the exception possibly of some beech trees in the woodland strip which have now reached a considerable size (4.8 - 3.8 metres in circumference).

The boundaries of the park have not changed and the outer woodland belt is of a similar shape to the 1739 estate map. Star Copse is an important historic feature. The star-shaped rides show up clearly in the 1795 map and the outline is very similar to the 1739 estate map.

The archaeological resistivity survey carried out by Southern Archaeology in 1998 provides good evidence of the validity of the 1739 estate map in respect of the location of the mansion and associated features. Comparing the two, it would appear the rectangular mansion was approached from the north by a main entrance drive which curved around a large circular pond or water feature in front of the house.

This site presents a difficult conservation issue as so little remains of the original parkland layout with the exception of the landscape setting created by the surrounding woodlands and Star Copse. The site has a tantalising history to tell of the rise and fall of a family and it is significant piece in the grouping of historic parks and gardens within the local area.

Re-creation of the historic parkland plantings would be impractical. There may however be a way to give some sense of the historic landscape importance and impact of Ladyholt Park whilst maintaining it in agricultural production. This could be done by reversion of part of the arable land to pasture (which would enhance the local landscape setting as well as assist the conservation of the important SNCI chalk grassland habitat) and replanting a limited number of parkland trees to define the lines of the main axis avenues. Marking the location of the old house, in an appropriate way, would give a focus for any tree plantings.

Star Copse is currently in sympathetic ownership. It is important the shape of the woodland, the wood banks and star shaped rides are maintained. A long term plan of rotational coppicing will ensure the conservation of the woods historic and wildlife interest.

Features
  • Tree Feature
  • Description: The woodlands surrounding Ladyholt Park are of mixed deciduous species, principally beech, oak and hazel coppice. These are backed by Forest Enterprise commercial conifer plantations.
  • Tree Feature
  • Description: To the north east is Star Copse, no doubt named after the rides which radiate out from the centre. Star Copse is designated a Site of Nature Conservation Importance by West Sussex County Council, for its ground flora. The woodland is semi-natural hazel coppice with mainly ash standards.
  • Designed Route
  • Description: There are rides which radiate out from the centre of Star Copse.
Access & Directions

Directions

Ladyholt Park is situated to the south-west of the village of Harting at map reference SU754164.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Harting
History

Detailed History

The rise and fall of Ladyholt Park is associated with the Caryll family. In 1590 Edward Caryll purchased the manor of West Harting, where Lady Holt was later built by Lord John Caryll (1625-1711). There is some confusion about the exact date of construction, but we know from a lease dated 1680 that the mansion had been newly-built and the park recently enclosed and impaled and stocked with deer.

The estate was sequestrated in 1695 to 1696 because of the implication of Lord Caryll in the plot to assassinate William III. We know the park was well-wooded at that time as timber had to be felled to clear the debts incurred in buying back the estate. The next John Caryll (1667-1736), called the Squire of Ladyholt, corresponded with Alexander Pope between 1710 and 1736. Pope made frequent visits to Ladyholt and walked in the park.

Following the death of John's son from smallpox in 1718, Ladyholt was let for some years. By 1719 the bailiff reported '...I find Lady Holt Park is to be stript of all Timber that will yield any money, all the Ashe being already cutt down and the oake must follow soon as the Season will fitt'. However by 1726 John Caryll was improving Ladyholt for his grandson, including planting an avenue on his neighbour, Lord Dormer's land leading to Idswoth, and levelling the land before the house.

In 1736 his grandson, John Caryll (1718-1788) inherited Ladyholt and put great improvements in place, perhaps in preparation for his impending marriage. In 1738 we know visitors to Ladyholt were '...extremely charm'd with it, and called the park the Garden of the world'. The park was also stocked with deer, much appreciated as a gift by the Duke of Richmond. However by 1744 John Caryll was in financial difficulties and in 1747 Ladyholt was let again.

In 1755-56, John Caryll was negotiating the sale of Ladyholt with his neighbour Sir Matthew Featherstone of Uppark who withdrew at the last minute. In 1766-67 John Caryll sold Ladyholt to the Duke of Richmond, who turned out to be acting for Sir Matthew Featherstone. The contents were sold at auction in 1767 and by 1770 Ladyholt House had been demolished, some of the bricks being used to build the nearby Foxcombe House and a wall by the dairy at Uppark.

References

Contributors

  • Jane Bowden

    1

  • Sussex Gardens Trust