The garden was in place by 1773. Repton visited the site in 1800 and improvements were discussed, but probably never implemented. The estate was sold in 1828, and the house was demolished. Cottages were built on the site, and the park and garden were abandoned. A few features remain, including an icehouse and some wall segments.
The site is gently sloping near the bottom of a valley. It faces south. The opposite side of the valley is thickly-wooded. The part of the site which was occupied by the house (presently the site of Michaelgrove cottages) is flat. There are fields to the north, rising to the top of the South Downs.
There remains today a fragment of the west wall of the house, consisting of a round tower and a castellated wall. There is an icehouse at the back of Michaelgrove cottages and a high walled enclosure, once an orchard. There are many large trees in the vicinity, including horse chestnuts and yews. The stables are now a house. The pond immediately west of the main drive survived until recently.
The Michaelgrove estate belonged to the Shelley family. The mansion was built by Sir William Shelley in 1534. In 1769, 29,000 young beech trees were acquired from the Earl of Newburgh for the park. The dovecot was built at this time.
A map of 1773 shows some formal features in the garden. There was a long terrace on the south side of the mansion with steps leading down to the round pond or lawn. This was framed by a wide path. These features survived until the house was demolished.
In 1800, the estate was sold to Richard Walker, a Liverpool ship-owner, who stocked his new 660 acre park with 650 deer. Repton recorded in his memoires that when he visited Michaelgrove with the new owner, they found the house badly run-down and partly occupied by a farmer. They planned improvements. These included the restoration of the house, a new road system, a pre-fabricated pavilion, 'a work of enchantment', to be sent by water from London for viewing the sea. Walker also commissioned Repton to fit up his London house for a masquerade.
It is unlikely that Repton's plans were implemented, as Richard Walker died in 1801. A map published at this time has a beautiful cartouche showing the house overlooking a sweeping lawn with a lake below. There are clumps of trees and an obelisk placed east of the house. Whether this was based on Repton's plans or was an idealised view is unknown.
Richard Walker's son, Richard Watt Walker, greatly extended the house, adding a conservatory, a tennis court and tepid and cold baths. The stables to the east of the house were replaced by new stables at the back. This extravagance and a failed coaching enterprise resulted in the sale of the estate in 1828.
The new owner, the 12th Duke of Norfolk, later pulled down the house, cut down the trees and abandoned the park and garden. The stables were used to house rachorses and Michaelgrove cottages were built for the stable lads using some of the old walls of the mansion.
- 18th Century
- Late 18th Century
- Associated People
- Features & Designations
- House (featured building)
- Description: The house is now demolished, and the site is occupied by Michaelgrove cottages.
- Latest Date:
- Description: There remains a fragment of the west wall of the house, consisting of a round tower and a castellated wall.
- Description: There is a high-walled enclosure, once an orchard.
- Specimen Tree
- Description: There are large horse chestnuts and yews.
- Stable Block
- Description: The stables are now a house.
- Key Information
Agriculture And Subsistence
Late 18th Century
Part: standing remains
Patience Ewart Smith
Sussex Gardens Trust