Lilliesden (also known as Lillesden)2063

Hawkhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England

Brief Description

This is a mid-19th-century garden with terraces and pleasure grounds with lakes and exotic trees, laid out on the north-west, west and south-west sides of an 1855 mansion and set within extensive parkland. The site was used as a school until 1998 and the gardens and grounds contain related sports buildings. The site became derelict for several years, but is currently being re-developed into apartments.

History

In 1853, Lillesden was bought by Lieutenant Colonel Edward Loyd, a banker of Jones Loyd & Co, Manchester. He immediately demolished the Elizabethan house, replaced it with a Victorian mansion and ‘made estate improvements, such as damming the Kent Ditch stream to create ornamental lakes; he also provided a gas works, an icehouse, a modern water supply and tower' (Dawes). These features together with a new lodge, a stable block and a kitchen garden are shown on the 1862 OS map. In 1922 the estate was broken up and the house, with some 10ha, was bought by St Wilfred's Boys Preparatory School. The house remained in varied institutional use until 1998, when it was bought for private development.

Detailed Description

The following decsription must date from the period before the school closed and the buildings became derelict. The current state of the site is not known.

To the south and west of the house is a broad terrace, and below that is a geometric garden of beds cut out of grass. Below this are wide sweeps of lawn and walkways between irregular groups of pine, shrubs and rhododendrons.

This very artificial piece of 19th-century parkland created from farmland has remained until now and been consistently embellished in the same style. Many specimen conifers have recently been planted in the lawns.

A gymnasium and swimming pool have been constructed on the side of the Victorian stone and gravel terracing. An adventure playground has been created from a fallen Chestnut.

Storm damage has been limited. A few pines have been lost and some limbs from several trees, but the more exotic planting below has been protected by its more sheltered position.

The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Tunbridge Wells Borough:

A mid-C19 garden with terraces and pleasure grounds with lakes and exotic trees, laid out on the north-west, west and south-west sides of an 1855 mansion and set within extensive parkland.

SITE DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Lillesden lies on an eminence about 60m above sea level on the side of a steep, west-facing valley with wide views across undulating open countryside to woodland on its north-west, west and south-west sides. It is situated approximately 1.5km south of Hawkhurst, 6.5km south-west of Cranbrook and 26km south-east of Royal Tunbridge Wells. The c.60h site is on the west side of Hastings Road (B2244) and is bordered to the east by Hastings Road and to the north, south and west by the farmland of its former, wider estate.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Lillesden is approached from the west side of the B2244 through an entrance in a 1.5m high stone wall that runs the length of the estate that borders the road. Immediately south of the entrance is a ‘picturesque' lodge (listed grade II) built around 1855. It is single-storey with an attic and built of red brick with ashlar detailing and a gabled, slate roof with moulded bargeboards (listed building description). It has a small turret with a spire on its south-east end and a timber porch over its west entrance. It is now in separate private ownership.

Immediately west of the lodge a five-bar, wooden gate opens onto a gravelled drive that winds westwards for 100m through areas of rough grass planted with mature trees and shrubs. It then turns southwards to run for a further 200m to reach a rectangular forecourt on the north, principal, entrance front of the mansion. The forecourt, which is bounded by rough grass on its west, north and east sides, affords views across parkland lying to the north-west of the mansion.

The route of the drive survives from 1855 (1st edn OS map) although the specimens of ‘Cupressus macrocarpa, Wellingtonia, Pinus Douglasii, and other favourites' noted in 1867 (Robson) and fully mature in 1996 (Kent Compendium) are now (2009) in poor condition. Lillesden's ‘stone pillared entrance gate', mentioned in the 1935 Sales Particulars is no longer in place.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Lillesden's mansion, built in 1855, is a two-storey, roughly rectangular-shaped house with an attic and a slate roof. It is constructed in red brick with ashlar dressings in a Gothic style with barge-boarded gables, projecting bays, tall chimney stacks and pinnacles. Built on its south-east end is a conservatory (22m x 9m) of the same period (1st edn OS map). Adjacent to the south-west corner of the mansion is a two-storey wooden building erected to house a school gymnasium in the 1990s. A similar single-storey construction built to cover a swimming pool stands adjacent to the south-west corner of the conservatory. The four buildings form a rectangular enclosure around a C19 terrace garden on the south front of the mansion. In 1867, the mansion was described as ‘replete with every comfort which wealth, good taste, and judicious arrangement can ensure' (Robson) but now (2009) all buildings are in a poor state of repair.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The ornamental gardens lie to the south and west of the mansion but are now (2009) neglected. A broad terrace walk runs the length of both the south and west sides of the mansion and this and the layout of the terraces, including a late C19 stone fountain basin, survive from Loyd's new works begun in 1855 (1st edn OS map). When first laid out the garden below the terrace walk on the south front was occupied by ‘a geometric garden, the beds being cut out of grass ... gay with the most choice bedding plants' (Robson). Also at that time, below the terraces on both the south and west fronts, there were ‘irregular groups of Pinuses and shrubs, with ample glades of well-shaven lawns between, the whole intersected with walks'.

The above layout was depicted in photographs of 1910, 1923 and 1935 and described in the 1935 Sales Particulars as ‘terraces flanked by fine shrubs...the lawns slope to the charming woodland dell planted with rhododendrons and other flowering shrubs and lead by shady walks to the pond below'. At this time the 1935 Sales Particulars also describe the pleasure grounds to the west of the mansion as in use as school playing fields. By 1996 tennis courts had also been built c.100m south of the mansion although descriptions of that date confirm that the terrace, geometric garden and ‘wide sweeps of lawn and walkways between irregular groups of pines, shrubs, rhododendrons etc' survived (Kent Compendium). The pond referred to in Robson's 1867 article was ‘Loyd's Lake', which lies some 50m south-west of the mansion and which was the largest of two lakes that Colonel Loyd created by damming the Kent Ditch. In 1862 a boat house is shown on its north-eastern edge (1st edn OS map), but by 1908 both lakes appear to have partially dried up and are now (2009) covered by trees (3rd edn, 2007 OS maps).

PARKLAND

Parkland on the west, north-west and south-west of the mansion has been in separate private ownership since the 1920s and is characterised by undulating ground. It is managed as grazed pasture and arable fields with some former parkland trees surviving. When Colonel Loyd laid out the gardens and park from 1855 he planted lime and oak and many exotic tree species ‘where only a bare hill existed before' and, in 1867, ‘By retaining trees, which existed in suitable places, planting others where wanted, levelling ground, and removing hedgerows and other obstacles ... it had the appearance of a park formed some centuries ago' (Robson).

The 1870 OS map also records an icehouse some 700m north-west of the mansion and a red brick hydraulic ram house (listed grade II) 700m to its south-east. The ram was connected to a water tower 300m to the mansion's north which in 1998 was converted for residential use (Tower Lodge). Two hundred metres north of the mansion is a C19, red brick stable block (listed grade II) whose 1.5m high walls form a courtyard, which is entered from the west between a pair of brick piers with stone cappings. Two single-storey stable ranges (one extended in the 1990s) and a two-storey coach house with a hipped roof are set around the granite-set paved yard. The stable block was used as classrooms until 1998 when it was sold and converted to residential use. It remains in separate private ownership.

KITCHEN GARDEN

A partly brick-walled, irregularly shaped, former kitchen garden lies c.200m to the north of the mansion. It was sold into separate private ownership in 1998 since when a late C19, gardener's cottage, bothy and greenhouses have been converted for residential use (Lillesden Greenhouse). In 1867 the kitchen garden was described as on level ground and divided into quarters of ‘healthy vegetables' with wall trees ‘yielding abundant crops' (Robson). The 1862 OS map shows five glass houses which, according to Robson, contained grapes, melons and ‘a batch of excellent strawberries plants' for forcing, in addition to ornamental plants for the mansion. The kitchen garden was productive until at least 1935 when it included ‘potting sheds, peach house, vinery and two small glass houses' (Sales Particulars), but appears to have been abandoned after the Second World War.

REFERENCES

Books and articles

Edward Hasted, ‘Parishes: Hawkhurst', The History and Topological Survey of the County of Kent Vol. 7 (1798), pp. 142-157.

T. D. W. Dearn, Historical and Topographical Descriptive Account of the Weald of Kent (1814).

Christopher Greenwood, An Epitome of County History Vol 1 (1818).

Pigot's Directory 1839.

Bagshaw, A History, Gazeteer and Directory of the County of Kent 1847.

J. Robson, ‘Lilliesden', Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener 38 (1867), pp. 238-39.

Kelly's Directories 1899, 1934.

Alwyne E. Loyd, ‘Lloyd and Loyd 1690-1990' from Cilycwm - History & Heritage (1990) at www.cilycwn.com/ci_history.php (accessed 15 July 2009)

Elisabeth Hall, Historic Gardens in Kent (Kent County Council, 1995), p. 52

John Dawes, ‘Estate School Lillesden' in Historic Hawkhurst (May 2006).

Maps

J. Andrews, W. Dury and W. Herbert, A Topographical Map of the County of Kent ...1769.

Hasted map 1778.

William Mudge, A New and Accurate Survey of Kent 1801.

OS maps 1st edn 6" 1862

2nd edn 6" 1897

3rd edn 6" 1907

4th edn 6" 1929

OS maps 1st edn 25" 1870 Sheet 78/6

2nd edn OS map 1898 Sheet 78/6

3rd edn 25" 1908 Sheet 78/6

Revd edn 25" 1933 Sheet 78/6

Kent Compendium Map 1996.

Modern Mastermap 1:10,000 2007.

Map showing listed buildings within Lillesden boundaries.

Illustrations

Lillesden house 1910 in Dawes (2006).

St Wilfred's School terrace garden 1923 in Dawes (2006).

3 colour photos 1981/2.

Lillesden house 1998 in Dawes (2006).

Aerial photograph 2003.

Archival items

Sales Particulars 1935. Geering and Colyer.

English Heritage Listed Buildings entries: undated.

Kent County Council and Kent Gardens Trust, Kent Gardens Compendium and Kent Historic Survey 1996.

N. G. Eveleigh, Hawkhurst Conservation Areas Appraisal. The Moor, Highgate and All Saint's Church, Iddenden Green (Sawyers Green).TWBC (May 1999).

Sales Particulars for Lillesden Coach House 2008. Hamptons International.

Kent Planning. Information for County Council Members on development proposals received week ending 1 May 2009 at www.kent.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/9D8DB653-5C66-4B63-830E-722B0CEBB2D6/0/weeklylist1may09.pdf

Research by Neil Smith

Description written by Barbara Simms

Edited by Virginia Hinze

July 2009

Features
  • Terrace
  • Description: To the south and west of the house is a broad terrace, and below that is a geometric garden of beds cut out of grass.
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Red brick house, being converted to apartment.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Access & Directions

Directions

The site is on the west side of the A229, about 1 mile south of Hawkhurst.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Hawkhurst
History

Detailed History

The building was a farmhouse before 1855, when the new red brick Victorian building was constructed. At this time there was large-scale planting of semi-mature limes, oaks and pines. The approach to the house from the north is bordered by cypresses, wellingtonia and Douglas fir, which are now fully mature. The mansion is on top of a gentle eminence.

The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Tunbridge Wells Borough:

CHRONOLOGY OF THE HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

The name of Hawkhurst (sometimes Hauochesten, Hawkashyrst, Hauekherst) appears in the Domesday Book and is thought to mean the wooded hawk hill (Eveleigh). In Saxon times, Hawkhurst was in the royal manor of Wye and part of the forest of Anderida but after the Norman Conquest the land was given to the monks of Battle Abbey. Small settlements were established in clearings within the forest and by the C15 Hawkhurst had become a centre for the cloth and iron industries. The Chittendens, eminent clothiers in the C16, built a house in The Moor area of Hawkhurst on the site of the present Lillesden estate (Hasted). The house is shown on the 1769 Andrews, Dury and Herbert map as Lillizden and on the 1778 Hasted map as Lilsden, on which it appears to lie within woodland.

In 1798 John Chittenden was in residence (Hasted) and it is not known when he sold the property but a number of occupiers are recorded in subsequent years. These included a Mr John Osborne in 1814 (Dearn), a Mr James Strood in 1818 (Greenwood) and a Mrs Barriage in 1839 (Pigot) until, in 1853, Lillesden was bought by Lieutenant Colonel Edward Loyd, a banker of Jones Loyd & Co, Manchester, who became High Sheriff of Kent in 1876 (Dawes).

Loyd immediately demolished the Elizabethan house, replaced it with a Victorian mansion and ‘made estate improvements, such as damming the Kent Ditch stream to create ornamental lakes; he also provided a gas works, an icehouse, a modern water supply and tower' (Dawes). These features together with a new lodge, a stable block and a kitchen garden are shown on the 1862 OS map. The gardens are described in an 1867 article on ‘Lilliesden, the seat of Colonel Lloyd' (Robson), by which time a conservatory had been built on the south side of the mansion and farmland abutting the ornamental gardens had been planted as a park (2nd edn OS map). Colonel Loyd died in 1890 and his wife ten years later, at which time the estate of 199ha was inherited by their youngest son, Llewellyn.

During the First World War Lillesden was used as a hospital for refugees and the war wounded (Dawes). In 1922 the estate was broken up and the house, with some 10ha, was bought by St Wilfred's Boys Preparatory School. The School remained in occupancy until 1936 when it was offered for sale and described as ‘most suitable for a large institution, boys' or girls' school, hotel, convent or private residence' with ‘beautiful gardens and grounds' (Sales Particulars). It was bought by St Cuthbert's Girls School which was forced to move out four years later when the site was requisitioned by the War Office. In 1945 the School returned to a dilapidated house and grounds despite which, Dawes recounts, it expanded rapidly over the next thirty years as Lillesden Girls School and bought nearby properties including Hall House, Collingwood House and Malt House. In 1975 the School merged with Bedgebury Park, Goudhurst and Hollington Park Schools as Bedgebury Lower School and in 1998 moved to the nearby Bedgebury site.

Lillesden house and grounds were purchased for development and the other buildings including the lodge, stable block, kitchen garden and water tower were sold separately. In 2009 a planning application was submitted for ‘change of use and alteration to Lillesden House to form 14 residential apartments' and ‘new residential "enabling" development comprising 4 detached and 6 terraced houses with new access road' (Kent Planning) and is still under consideration. The property remains in multiple private ownership.

Period

  • Mid 19th Century
References

References

  • Kent County Council Planning Department {The Kent Gardens Compendium} (Canterbury: Kent County Council, 1996) 106The Kent Gardens Compendium

Contributors

  • Kent Gardens Trust