Leckhampton Court 6912

Cheltenham, England, Gloucestershire, Cheltenham

Brief Description

This site is now a hospice. Traces of the outline of the garden remain, but not the detail. There is a formal parterre, a canal (filled in but the outline is visible), a flower and vegetable garden, orchard, plantation, and an avenue leading to the church.

History

The manor is recorded in the Domesday Book. It was once part of the royal manor of Cheltenham, but effectively an independent manor from at least 1066.It belonged to the Gifford family from the mid-fourteenth century, and passed through a daughter to the Norwood family and then again to the Trye family. From 1894, it has changed hands a number of times and been rather neglected. It has been a private residence until bought by the Sue Ryder Foundation in 1979.

Detailed Description

The garden to the north of the house is presently all under grass. There are banks and steps indicating former walks, and the line of the central path from the house is clear. To the south of the house there are presently flower gardens and walls, some of which are from demolished buildings, and some original terracing. Buildings shown in the Kip engraving are still extant, although converted to other than farm uses. There are still ponds to the west of the house, again as shown, and the driveway newly planted in 1712 in Kip's engraving still exists, although presumably not the same actual trees. It now runs through a field, and is not open to a walker. Wrought iron gates close it from the churchyard. The main driveway to the house is not on precisely the same line as in 1712, though approximately. The former vegetable garden on a west facing slope has recently (in the early twenty-first century) become a car park.
Features

Style

  • English Landscape Garden
  • Manor House (featured building)
  • Description: Stone-built house with crenellations and an open hall, with additions from several periods.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Water Feature, Designed Route
History

Detailed History

The existing LeckhamptonCourt, although much restored, reveals details dated to the fourteenth century. It is a large, rambling house, with buildings from the end of the sixteenth century on three sides of a courtyard. A south wing parallel to the south side of the courtyard was erected in the eighteenth century and demolished in the twentieth century; considerable traces of this building remain in walls within the garden area. To the south and west of the Court there have been numerous outbuildings, some now demolished, others restored, including the farmbuildings, farmyard and two ponds.

When the garden was laid out is not precisely known. There are, however, several important indications of the nature of the garden in the eighteenth century, because the Court was one of Gloucestershire's important houses. The most illuminating is the engraving by Kip published in Atkyn's History of Glostershire in 1712. There is also an estate map of 1745 (Glos. Arch.D303/P2) and a parish map of 1835 by the local surveyor, W. Croome (Glos. Arch. P198a/VE 1/1 & 2) which is happily accompanied by a book of reference. Other records of the estate, for example sale particulars in the nineteenth century, offer further insights.

There are three salient features of Leckhampton Court gardens. The first is the choice of a site for the house on a terrace on the side of the Cotswold scarp. There are signs that former cultivation terraces running along the contour of the slope provided some of the later features of the garden. There are very wide-ranging views from here to the Malverns, across the Severn valley and along the Cotswold scarp. A number of springs rise on the hill, providing the house with an ample water supply.

A second feature is the existence of the Kip engraving, many aspects of which can be traced on a very interesting map of 1745 which unfortunately is darkened by damp, and indeed on the ground today (2009). It suggests a high degree of accuracy in the engraving.

A third is the relative lack of later development of the site, such that many relict features remain.

The Kip engraving suggests that on the east side of the Court a formal ‘Dutch' garden with a canal and straight paths was designed in the late seventeenth century. This garden makes use of the sloping nature of the site to create two raised walkways on the south, terminating with a pavilion which has disappeared. Stones in the boundary wall may have been reused from this small rectangular building. A railing to the south separates the formal walks from the orchard on the slope behind.

In the centre, a path runs through a flat area from the rear entrance to the house, terminating in a flight of steps leading to a gate in the east boundary wall. The wall may have had peach trees or other fruit trees growing against it. There was a raised path along this eastern boundary in front of the wall.

This garden is all grass today, but traces of the path are visible. Croquet was played here in the later nineteenth century. Six squares were marked by Kip within this area, divided by paths, and these might be revealed by archaeological investigation.

On the north, a walkway is on the same level as the central garden, but from it the ground falls away sharply northwards to a canal. The outline still exists, but the ground level has been raised. To the north of the canal there was a terrace walkway, just visible today, and then as Kip shows the ground continues to fall sharply.

The other major garden feature in the Kip engraving is the small walled garden adjoining the south range, which inspection shows is sunken and therefore was and is very warm, and beyond it a large vegetable garden on the gentle westward-sloping hillside.Changes in levels have necessitated many flights of steps and terracing, but the general outline is still quite clear. The vegetable garden has only recently been abandoned (information from Mr J. Millington) to make a car park and arboretum.

Kip shows a newly-planted avenue of trees leading from the Court to the church. The same trees cannot still be there, but mature limes do still line a narrow walk to the church. At the churchyard end there are iron railings and a gate, and the lime walkcontinues on the north side of the church linking the porch with the rectory house opposite.

The 1745 estate map, made after a fire had destroyed a substantial portion of the north wing, shows the canal and the walks in the ‘Dutch' garden still in existence. Additionally, the walled south garden, the vegetable garden and upper orchard, the farm yard and the yard with kennels were later indicated. The path to the church is defined by a double line of trees which are at a more mature stage of development than in the Kip engraving. Although very indistinct, the map does seem to show that there were two ponds as in the Kip engraving. The path from the church passes over a bridge beside the pond immediately south-west of the house, and there is the possibility that there had once been a mill. The stream may have run past the churchyard whose uneven boundary appears as a naturally twisting stream might. A field below the church path was called Mill Hay. This map suggests there had been further work on the area north and west of the house. The driveway to Leckhampton Church Road has been created on approximately its present line, whereas Kip shows only a rough track into an area of trees, and a straight canal or large elongated pond separates two fields to the side of the drive, later known as Canal Orchard. There are more gardens indicated on the church side of the drive.

By 1835, the ‘Dutch'canal had disappeared, as had the pavilion at the end of the upper walks. A substantial new block had been built to the south of the main house, though the square walled garden was not affected. The gap left by the fire was still there; it was not filled until 1895. The water course which may be interpreted as leading to a mill had been emptied, although its outline remained. The other pond had been much enlarged, and two islands had been left in its enlarged circumference.

Six years later the estate was sold by auction in London. Mention was made in the sale particulars (Glos.Arch. D303 E10) of the house ‘surrounded by the beautiful grounds', of ‘Pleasure grounds, Gardens and Terraces'. ‘Productive Kitchen Gardens, Greenhouse, Grapery, Forcing House, Flower Garden' were detailed, ‘abundantly supplied with fine springs of water'.

The estate was again sold in 1894, and had not had any significant development. ‘Quaint terraced gardens'were mentioned, and ‘beautiful old-fashioned gardens'. The steps linking the gardens were ‘long since grey with age, and lending a very quaint appearance to the surroundings'. Only one island remained, but part of the large pond had been filled in. However, the ‘warm and sheltered kitchen garden' was well stocked.

From this time, the house was often occupied by tenants rather than owners, and it deteriorated until in the later twentieth century the old hall had collapsed, and the whole house required major expenditure on restoration. Some features of the garden were recorded on Ordnance Survey maps, but the canal area has been ignored and simply put into the adjoining field.

A certain amount of work has been done on the garden to clear it and the provision of car parks has taken some of it. But Kip would still recognise it.

References