Leyswood 5055

Withyham, England, East Sussex, Wealden

Brief Description

Leyswood has a picturesque garden laid out by James Temple from 1868. The garden is on rocky sandstone outcrops surrounding a country house designed by Norman Shaw in his domestic 'Old English' style. Features from mid- to late-20th-century gardens also remain.

History

James W. Temple was persuaded to buy the site by his cousin, Norman Shaw, who designed the house.Many new plantings of exotic and rare trees and shrubs, together with a pinetum, bamboo dell, tropical fernery 'with its bold rockery' and an extensive range of twenty-six glasshouses, including orchid and camellia houses, were described in contemporary horticultural journals.

Detailed Description

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Leyswood is situated on a natural rocky crag on the top of a sandstone ridge with views north-east towards Harrison Rocks and the Weald of Kent, and to the surrounding Sussex countryside to the west. The garden, covering some three hectares, lies within the grounds of James Temple's original 16 hectare estate.

The site is set back from the east side of Corseley Road which runs north from Withyham to Groombridge, approximately three and a half kilometres south of Groombridge and 10.5 kilometres south-west of Tunbridge Wells. The main Uckfield-Tunbridge Wells road (A26) is around two and a half kilometres to the east. The Leyswood estate is bordered on the west and north-west by the Corseley Road, on the north-east by Forge Road and on the south-west and south-east by the fields and woodland of adjoining properties.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Leyswood is approached from the east off the Corseley Road through a double-leaf, six-bar, one metre high wooden gate (dating from the late-20th-century). This is flanked by thick evergreen plantings (rhododendrons and laurels) on the west side and a two metre clipped conifer hedge on the east. Immediately through the gate, on the east side of a rolled gravel drive, is a 19th-century Tudor-style lodge designed by Norman Shaw, now, 2004, surrounded by flower beds and a laurel hedge.

From the entrance gates the drive (with speed ramps) curves gently south-east for 200 metres along a mature chestnut avenue, as shown on the 1874 Ordnance Survey map but now (2004) with a few replacement trees. To the south side of the drive a lawn is backed by mature shrub plantings (2004, largely rhododendron) and conifers. On the north side, across a ranch-style iron fence, there are views across the adjoining pasture land to Old Birchden Farm and surrounding wooded hills. At the end of the chestnut avenue, on the south of the drive is the entrance to Hunters Moon, a late-20th-century house.

The drive continues south-east from this junction for approximately a further 120 metres. It runs between rocky outcrops and the remnants of exotic trees, including redwoods, Wellingtonias and cedars, to a further junction with a road leading east to a 20th-century house (Little Rock). From this second junction, the drive turns south for some 150 metres with views to Leyswood House on a ridge to the west and to a 19th-century brick gazebo perched on a crag above the drive with views eastwards.

Fifty metres further on from the gazebo on the west side of the road there is a flight of six stone and brick steps leading up through a gap in a clipped yew hedge (with views to a lawn with mature trees). Opposite the steps is a fork in the road leading east to Wren Hill (a 20th-century house), the drive swinging north-west for 20 metres to double-leaf, wrought iron gates (now, 2004, automatic gates) hung on round stone and brick piers, which form the entrance to the grounds of Leyswood House.

On the east side of the piers, stone steps (shown on the 1910 Ordnance Survey map) lead up to lawns on the south and north of the drive. Twenty metres on from the gates, the drive turns sharply north, continuing for 40 metres flanked by grass verges with tall trees and shrubs. It then passes under a 19th-century gatehouse tower and a broad stone archway and leads onto a gravelled turning and parking area in front of the house.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The north side of the Leyswood House courtyard is enclosed by a wooden trellis with a red brick central archway (dating from the late-20th-century), on axis with the arch of the gate tower and with a red brick summerhouse with tiled roof on its east side. The trellis has a mixed border on its south side and seating in a paved area on its north side, mature conifers framing views to the north-east.

From a terrace on the north side of Leyswood House, steps lead west to an upper garden (not seen) and east down between rocky outcrops with shrubs, ericas and conifers. Ten metres from the house there is a lawn within a bowl formed by sandstone outcrops topped by trees and shrubs and cut through with gulleys. Below the rocks is a pond with a 20th-century water feature (not seen, 2004 Sales Particulars).

On the south side of the house, from a terrace with a 20th-century rockery garden, steps lead west up to the front lawn. A gravel path leads between flower and shrub beds with mature trees and flanked by broad sweeping lawns, towards a hard tennis court with a timber chalet (not seen) situated 80 metres from Leyswood House. Beyond the tennis court, paths meander through informal woodlands with a wide variety of mature broadleaf and conifer trees and shrubs. On the south-east side of the house there is a lawn with mature conifers and a multi-stemmed cuppressus incorporates a putting green (not seen), enclosed by a clipped yew hedge and rose beds. Steps lead down from the east side of the lawn to the drive at its junction with the road to Wren Hill.

One hundred metres south-west of Leyswood House lies a 19th-century, rectangular, formal garden (40 metres x 50 metres), now the property of 20th-century Garden Cottage. The garden is now, 2004, dilapidated, but the path structure and yew hedges remain.

PARKLAND

Sixty metres east of Leyswood House, on the east side of the drive, is an extensive area (60 metres x 120 metres) comprising lawns studded with mature trees (the site of a 19th-century pinetum). It is backed by a winding sandstone ridge and the remains of Temple's picturesque landscape of deep gorges and extensive boulder ranges (now, 2004, overgrown).

REFERENCES

Books and articles

‘Leyswood, Groombridge', The Gardeners' Chronicle (September 3, 1887), 272-273.

G.W. Butcher, ‘Famous Gardens. Leyswood, Groombridge', The Journal of Horticulture (January 22, 1914), 79-83.

Mark Girouard, ‘Creating the "Old English" Style. Early Norman Shaw Commissions II', Country Life (September 6, 1973), 614-618.

Andrew Saint, Richard Norman Shaw (New Haven & London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (London) Ltd, 1976), 36-45, 405

Roger Newman, 'Firm Foundations', GC&HTJ (March 27, 1981), 26-28.

Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Sussex (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), 512.

Maps

Withyham Tithe Map 1843. ESRO Ref TD/E 138.

OS 25" to 1mile: 1st edition published 1874 (Sheets 6/15 & 17/3); 2nd edition published 1898 (Sheets 6/15 & 17/3); 3rd edition published 1910 (Sheets 6/15 & 17/3); 2001 ed (TQ 527 350) Leyswood Estate, map showing the location of services (drainage, electricity, water) 1947 (private collection). Illustrations

Engraving of Leyswood. Gardeners' Chronicle (February 18, 1888), 205.

Engraving of Leyswood. Gardeners' Chronicle (March 17, 1888), 333.

Photograph of Leyswood 1907. Reproduced in Groombridge History Group, Groombridge. An Illustrated History of the Village (Groombridge History Group, 2000). 46.

Digital photographs of Leyswood gardens and grounds. Barbara Simms, May 2004 (CD back pocket).

Archival Items

Leyswood Sales Particulars, E.J. Carter, Banks & Bennett, Tunbridge Wells 1919. National Mounuments Records Archive (NMRA) Ref SC01121.

The Hamsell Estate Sales Particulars, Messrs Charles. J. Parris, Tunbridge Wells 1938. NMRA Ref SC01113.

Leyswood House Sales Particulars, Knight Frank, London W1 2004. (Private Collection: Barbara Simms)

Description written: June 2004

Features

Style

  • Picturesque
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Leyswood House (listed grade II) now (2004) comprises the remains of an early Norman Shaw courtyard house built 1868-9, the east and north sides having been demolished around 1952. A gate tower with Gothic pointed arch on the south side forms the entrance to the courtyard.
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  • Gatehouse
  • Description: The adjoining two-storey Gothic-style gatehouse is red brick with stone dressings on the ground floor, tile-hung above, under a tiled roof. It has a castellated parapet and gable with metal finials. There is now, 2004, an extension (garden room and conservatory) on the north-west side of the courtyard.
  • Garden Building
  • Description: One hundred metres south-east of Leyswood House, there is a 19th-century dower house, coach house and stables, together with the adjoining `Old Riding School?, which have all been converted for residential use. Similarly, some 200 metres to the south-west of Leyswood House, private houses have been constructed around a 19th-century dairy, bothy and walled kitchen garden, including a late-20th-century Georgian-style house within the walled garden. A number of mid to late-20th century bungalows and houses have been built within the bounds of the 19th-century Leyswood estate (2001 Ordnance Survey map).
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  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: Eight metres south-west of Leyswood House, a square, 19th-century (1st edition Ordnance Survey map), brick-walled kitchen garden (30 metres x 30 metres) has its main gate towards the eastern end of the north wall, on axis with the gate tower. The garden is now attached to a late-20th century house, but the quadripartite path structure, central circular brick walled tank (1898 Ordnance Survey map) and ruined greenhouses remain. The garden is now, 2004, cultivated as an ornamental, fruit and vegetable garden. Immediately outside the garden wall, on the north-west corner, are the foundations of a 19th-century camellia house, its paths and plants still intact.
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  • Gate
  • Description: Leyswood is approached from the east off the Corseley Road through a double-leaf, six-bar, one metre high wooden gate (dating from the late-20th-century).
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  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: Mature chestnut avenue, as shown on the 1874 Ordnance Survey map but now (2004) with a few replacement trees.
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  • Gazebo
  • Description: 19th-century brick gazebo perched on a crag above the drive with views eastwards.
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  • Gate Piers
  • Description: Round stone and brick piers, which form the entrance to the grounds of Leyswood House.
  • Summerhouse
  • Description: Red brick summerhouse with tiled roof.
  • Terrace
  • Description: Terrace on the north side of Leyswood House.
  • Lawn
  • Description: Ten metres from the house there is a lawn within a bowl formed by sandstone outcrops topped by trees and shrubs and cut through with gulleys.
  • Ornamental Pond
  • Description: Pond with a 20th-century water feature.
Drive
Access & Directions

Directions

The site is set back from the east side of Corseley Road which runs north from Withyham to Groombridge, approximately three and a half kilometres south of Groombridge and 10.5 kilometres south-west of Tunbridge Wells. The main Uckfield-Tunbridge Wells road (A26) is around two and a half kilometres to the east.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Withyham
History

Detailed History

In December 1865 the marine artist Edward William Cooke commissioned the architect Norman Shaw to build a house, Glen Andred, at Bulls Wood near Groombridge on the Hamsell Estate, an undeveloped rocky site with imposing views owned by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. Whilst Cooke's house was being built, Shaw persuaded his own cousin, James W. Temple, director of the Shaw Savill shipping company, to buy around 16 hectares of land some 15 metres above sea-level overlooking Glen Andred.

By December 1866 Shaw had produced designs for a large, imposing, country house there (with lodge, dairy and walled kitchen garden), to be called Leyswood. It sported a proliferation of gables and ranks of thickly ribbed chimneys, described in one contemporary journal as ‘excessively ugly' but later as ‘an exceptionally fine example of Norman Shaw architecture' (1919 Sales Particulars).

The approach to Leyswood was along a curving, ascending chestnut-lined drive that gave views of the house on a crag above, the ornamental and productive gardens lying to the south-west (1st edition Ordnance Survey map). As at Glen Andred, the natural rocky outcrops, ‘massive, rugged and sparsely clad', were cleared to provide ‘a perfect labyrinth' of picturesque walks through and over gorges.

By 1898 (2nd edition Ordnance Survey map), extensive stabling, a riding school and dower house had been built to the south-east of the house and a second walled garden and formal flower garden to the south-west. A ha-ha 100 metres from Leyswood House (1910 Ordnance Survey map) allowed views from the house to the south-east. Many new plantings of exotic and rare trees and shrubs, together with a pinetum, bamboo dell, tropical fernery ‘with its bold rockery' and an extensive range of twenty-six glasshouses, including orchid and camellia houses, were described in contemporary horticultural journals.

After Temple's death, his widow remained at Leyswood until 1919, subsequent to which the house had a succession of owners and land was gradually sold off. During World War 2 the site was occupied by the Canadian Army and from 1945 by a Cecilia Watkins, who lived there for six years. From 1951 Leyswood was briefly the property of a M.W. Higgs.

A year later the house was sold with around 10 hectares of land to Ian Simpson. He demolished most of the house apart from a gatehouse, gazebo and staff wing, which were then used as a family home and company offices until the 1980s. Leyswood House and three hectares (mainly remnants of early-20th-century lawns and shrubberies near the house) remain in single private ownership but the remaining garden and grounds are now (2004) in multiple private ownership.

Associated People
Contact
References

References

  • Nairn, Ian and Pevsner, Nikolaus {The Buildings of England: Sussex} (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965) 512The Buildings of England: Sussex
  • Saint, A. {Richard Norman Shaw} (New Haven, London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (London) Ltd, 1976) 36-45, 405Richard Norman Shaw

Contributors

  • Barbara Simms

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  • Sussex Gardens Trust