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Moreby Park


Moreby Hall has formal gardens surrounding a country house with a landscape park beyond. Its features include topiary, geometric beds, a pond and woodland.

The have been three designed landscapes surrounding the three main buildings in the area known as Moreby (or Moorby). The estates merged in 1787 and in the 1830s, an early formal style garden was put in to complement a new country. The parkland was extended and this are largely survives in terms of layout and style.


The gardens are terraced and slope down towards the River Ouse. The park to the east of the Hall lies on level ground.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

Early 19th-century formal garden for a country house of 1828-33 by Anthony Salvin built for Henry Preston, surrounded by a park.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

Moreby Hall is situated in the parish of Stillingfleet, to the south of York. The c 39 ha site is situated between the River Ouse (with the Moreby Ings) to the west and the B1222 to the east, and is mainly surrounded by farmland. To the south, the site is bounded by a track which runs from the B1222 in a westerly direction to Home Farm. The gardens, situated to the west of the Hall, are terraced and slope down towards the River Ouse. The park to the east of the Hall lies on level ground.

Entrances and Approaches

The main entrance to the site lies in the north corner of the park. It is flanked by early C19 gates and piers (listed grade II), and immediately to the south is a private dwelling, called Moreby Lodge, which was built in the late C20. The entrance gives access to a carriage drive which leads through the park in a south-westerly direction to the courtyard to the north of the Hall. The second entrance lies further south along the B1222. This gives access to a drive which runs in northerly direction to the Hall and the servants' block.

Principal Building

Moreby Hall (listed grade II*) is situated in the western part of the site. The two-storey Hall is constructed of sandstone ashlar and has a Welsh slate roof. The Hall has a square ground plan, with a tower attached to the north-east. To the east is a square service block with a central courtyard linked to the Hall by a service corridor. The south front has three gables, and the east has two projecting gabled bays. The central bay of the south front has an open loggia which leads to a balustraded terrace with central steps leading to the garden below. The link between the Hall and the service block has on the south side a conservatory, partly installed in the late C20. The north front has two projecting gabled bays, with a central doorway and a tripartite oriel window above. The moulded plinth continues to form a balustrade with two urns flanking the steps that lead from the courtyard to the main entrance of the Hall.

There is a Lakeside Folly (Summerhouse) [Grade II], built around 1832, situated at the southern end of the pond. In a Gothic style, its windows are reputed to have come from York Minster following the fire there in 1829 (Pevsner & Neave 1995, 713); and in addition an Icehouse to the north of the main house (marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6” map (surveyed 1846/7) but may predate this).

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

The gardens and pleasure grounds are laid out around the Hall, along the west boundary of the site. Immediately north of the Hall is a square courtyard, with in the north-east corner an early C19 urn (listed grade II). Along the north boundary of the courtyard is a shrubbery, now (1999) overgrown, which contains the remains of an icehouse. From the north-west corner of the courtyard, steps lead down to a raised walk that runs along the west front of the Hall in a southerly direction. To the north, this walk is screened by an L-shaped castellated wall, with a porch that leads to a flight of steps that run down into the garden below. Halfway along the terrace a walk, called the Western Avenue, leads down into the lower garden to the west. The Western Avenue is flanked by mature yews, which were formerly clipped in various geometrical shapes, forming an arch (CL 1907).

The lower garden to the west is now (1999) laid out to lawn and is divided into various sunken garden compartments, which are screened by mature yews and shrubs. These are the remains of a formally laid out rosery, which is indicated on the OS 1st edition. Along the east side of the garden compartments runs a walk which is flanked by mature yews and trees and a set of urns (listed grade II). The walk leads southwards to another flight of steps, which leads to a serpentine pond surrounded by shrubs, now (1999) much overgrown. The pond is flanked to the east and west by a walk, and to its far south stands a gothic folly of c 1832 (listed grade II), probably incorporating C14 windows taken from York Minster after the fire of 1829.

Immediately south of the Hall is a balustraded terrace with two central steps which lead to the bowling green below (now, 1999, no longer used). The terrace has crazy paving and contains various circular and square beds. The steps and balustrade are decorated with six pairs of early C19 garden urns on pedestals (listed grade II). From the terrace there are extensive views over the bowling green and the parkland beyond it. The square-shaped bowling green is enclosed by clipped yews and surrounded by a walk. To the far south it is divided from the park by a low brick wall.

Kitchen Garden

The rectangular walled kitchen garden, now (1999) called The Gardens, is situated in the south-east corner of the site. It contains a late C20 private dwelling with garden, and to its south-east is a group of early to mid C19 estate cottages. The stables are situated immediately west of The Gardens.


The park, which is laid out along the eastern boundary of the site, is level and contains various mature trees, mostly dating from the early to mid C19. Since the park is not surrounded by a tree belt, there are fine views into it from the B1222. In the south-west corner of the park, immediately north of Home Farm, is a caravan site.

The OS 1st edition, surveyed in 1846, suggests that the parkland was extended to the south when the Hall was built. The parkland immediately to the south of the Hall is called the Old Park and has a long avenue. The parkland south of Home Farm is called The Park and was probably added to the Old Park in the early C19. Since the early C20, that part of the early C19 park that is situated to the south of Home Farm has been in agricultural use and lies outside the site here registered.

There is a pond (‘Fishpond’) in the western section of the park that was constructed around 1834 and another in the northern section near Moreby Bridge.

Primary Sources

  • Gardener’s Chronicle
  • Leeds Intelligencer
  • St. James's Chronicle
    The York Herald
  • Yorkshire Gazette
  • Heritage England, 1999. List entry for Moreby Hall park and garden, entry number 1001452[, accessed 25 August 2016]
  • Roebuck, P. 1976. Constable of Everingham estate correspondence 1726-1743. Leeds: Yorkshire Archaeological Society.
  • Borthwick Institute, University of York (BIHR) TA 46S​​​1842 tithe map of Moreby
  • East Riding Archives (ERA)
  • HD/33 Diversion of Stillingfleet and Naburn highway in Stillingfleet 1829
  • HD/51 Diversion of York-Stillingfleet highway in Naburn and Stillingfleet with Moreby1844
  • Hull History Centre (HHC)
  • U DDBH/3/78 ​​​IPM of John Acclam​​​​1552
  • U DDEV/60/84-86​​Letters from Potts to Marmaduke Constable​1726-43
  • Papers of the Preston Family of Moreby Hall (U DDPR)
  • /12/4 IPM of George Lawson 1640
  • /12/9 Exemplification of proceedings leading to a Final Concord 1598
  • /12/10 Covenant to stand seised 1603
  • /12/12 Exemplification of a Final Concord1604
  • /12/18 Schedule of deeds - estates of M Lawson 1680-1748
  • /12/19 George Lawson marriage settlement 1680
  • /12/24 Schedule of deeds of Marmaduke Lawson 1727-1754
  • /12/42 Abstract of Title of Ralph Milbanke: farm at Mooreby 1697-1783
  • /12/50 Lease and Release: Ralphe Milbanke to William Preston 1787
  • /12/51 Final Concord for 'Manor of Moreby' 1788
  • /46/16 Schedule of deeds - estates of M Lawson 1711 - 1760
  • /47/1 Account Book Marmaduke Lawson 1718-1745
  • /47/6 Bank books Henry Preston 1827-1833
  • /47/7 Bank books Henry Preston 1833-1839
  • /47/8 Bank books John Macvicar 1835-1836
  • /47/25 Accounts of William Massey, timber merchant 1833-1841
  • /50/16 Letter re work at Moreby14 March 1831
  • /50/23 Letters from John Macvicar steward 1837-1840
  • /50/24 Letters and sketches of work at Moreby Hall 1839
  • /50/44 Letter from John Burr re estate matters 1839
  • Public Record Office (PRO)
  • E 40/1360 ​Deed of sale by John Wellisburne to Leonard Be[c]kwith, of Stillingfleit, co. York, of 4 meses, four tofts, and closes in Moreby, 12 February 1529
  • C 2/Eliz/T3/51 ​ Talbot v Slingesby case, c1580


  • T Jefferys, Map of Yorkshire, 1772
  • OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1846, published 1851; 2nd edition surveyed 1906, published 1910


  • The former house at Moreby, near Stillingfleet, around 1720 (S Buck, Yorkshire Sketchbook)
  • Various copies of watercolours showing Moreby Hall, early 20th century (private collection)

Description written: November 1999

Edited: May 2000

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


3.1 Estate owners

The current Moreby Hall was built between 1828 and 1834 by Henry Preston but replaced an earlier building that lay to the south of it. The latter had been the home of the Lawson family, who acquired the estate in the early seventeenth century. By 1672, they had a modest house of 7 hearths, although a more substantial building appears to be shown in the sketch by Samuel Buck in the 1720s. Marmaduke Lawson inherited the estate from his father in 1698 and may well have made the significant improvements to the park and garden shown on Jeffrey’s map of 1771. His sons had died without heirs and so he passed Moreby to William Preston, his wife’s nephew, in 1762, who acquired the neighbouring estate belonging to Ralph Milbanke in 1787.

William had no direct heirs, so Moreby went to his younger brother, Rev. Thomas, in 1791 who lived there until his death in 1827. As Thomas died childless, the estate went to his nephew, Henry (son of William and Thomas’ brother, Henry),who made significant changes both to the principal house and to the landscape around it between 1828 and 1849. He also purchased significant lands in neighbouring Stillingfleet and Kelfield in 1827 and 1828 respectively. Moreby passed to Henry’s son, Thomas Henry, in 1857 and on the latter’s death in 1906, to his son Henry Edward. Henry’s two children, Thomas and Beatrice started to sell off parts of the wider estate in the 1950s but retained the Hall and 90 acres of the parkland. The latter was finally sold in 1985 to the Greenan family with the Preston family keeping the walled kitchen garden where they built a house.

Key owners:

  • Marmaduke Lawson b1685 (1698-1762)
  • William Preston b1723 (1762-1791)
  • Rev. Thomas Preston b1742 (1791-1827)
  • Henry Preston b1779 (1827-1857)

3.2 Early history of the site

In the Domesday book, there were 2 estates at Moreby. The first, formerly a manor, of one carucate (about 120 acres) belonged to Count Alan of Brittany (part of his Clifton manor). It had meadow of 26 acres and woodland of 2*2 leagues (about 9 square miles or 5760 acres), shared with his nearby holdings in Escrick and Riccall. The second, also of one carucate, belonged to Hugh, son of Baldric and had 20 acres of meadow and shared 1*½ leagues of woodland (about 320 acres). Whether these were the same two estates but by the late 13th century, one was owned by Robert de Grey(‘Moreby Manor North’) and the other by William of Moreby(‘Moreby Manor South’).

The former (or ‘Moreby Manor North’) passed to the Crown in 1485 and in 1529, John Wellisburne sold it to (Sir) Leonard Beckwith of Stillingfleet for £100 that year and it was described as:

4 messuages, four tofts, and closes in Moreby called 'Gossostecroft', ‘Haverlands’, 'Brigfeld', 'Shawfeld', 'the Southfeld', 'the Southgrene', 'Newriddyng', 'Stokkisriddyng', 'Burnehyrst', 'Old Ryddyng', 'Mekill Carre', 'Armetparke' and 'Littilwodend' and a wood called 'the Southgaile' (PRO E 40/1360)

Sir Leonard died in 1557 and his estate was inherited by his son, Roger, who sold (part of?) the estate to Edward Talbot. He, in turn, sold it on to Thomas Beckwith (possibly a cousin of Roger). However this was challenged by the family of Roger’s two sisters, Frances and Elizabeth. Around 1580,Talbot was taken to court by Frances and her husband, Henry Slingsby and Frances (Elizabeth’s daughter) and her husband George Harvey. In the court document, the disputed landholding is given as:

A capital messuage, grange, or farm called Moreby [MorebyGrange Farm] in Moreby, Yorkshire, with 120 acres of arable land, and 100 acres of meadow (PRO C 2/Eliz/T3/51)

In 1598, there was an Exemplification of proceedings leading to a Final Concord [agreement] between Mauger Vavasour and William Tankarde esquires plaintiffs and George Harvey esquire & wife Frances, Henry Slingsby esquire & wife Frances deforceants for the:

Manor of Morebye with 100 ac. land, 50 ac. meadow, 60ac pasture, 80 ac. wood and 100 ac. heath and furze’ (U DDPR/12/9) .

In 1604, it was sold by Henry and Frances Slingsby to George Lawson for £1560 (U DDPR/12/10) and it included 4 ‘messuages’ (U DDPR/12/12).

The Lawsons were a well-connected family from York. George’s great-grandfather, Sir George, had been the MP for York and its Mayor in 1530. His son, Thomas, also became Mayor in 1562. Peter, Thomas’ son, married Elizabeth Beckwith, daughter of Ambrose and niece of Sir Leonard George died in 1640 and Moreby passed to his son, the Rev. George (1606-1670) who was the Vicar at Eakring in Nottinghamshire. Apart from a brief period during the Interregnum, he lived at Eakring until his death. His son, George III (1659-1698/9) however did live there, as did his son, Marmaduke, until the latter’s death in 1762 when it passed to the Preston family.

During the 17th century, this part seems to have acquired the status of ‘manor’. In the Inquisition Post Mortem of George I (1640), it is described as:

Capital messuage or farm called Mooreby and lands there which he acquired from Sir Henry Slingsby of Scriven and wife Frances (by deed of 20 April 1603)’ (U DDPR /12/4).

By the time of George III’s marriage settlement of 1680, it is now referred to as:

Manor, capital messuage and estate of Mooreby (reserving woody grounds called Woodend, Woodend or Lady Wood, and Spring Wood)’ (U DDPR /12/19).

Indeed by the time of the sale of the lands belonging to the Milbankes in 1787, a lawyer on behalf of William Preston disputed the claim of the vendor that they had the right to tithes. The reason he gives is that ‘it does not appear by any of the Title Deeds that a Manor, or even a reputed Manor, has ever been claim’d by the Milbank family’ (U DDPR /12/42).

‘Moreby Manor South’ came into the Acklam (or Acclom/e) family through the marriage of Mary, daughter of Henry Moreby, to William Acklam about 1370. It remained in the family until the marriage of Elizabeth, sole heiress of John Acklam, to Sir Mark Milbanke in 1659. It was this estate that Ralph Milbanke sold to William Preston in 1787, when the two estates merged.

It would appear that only the southern manor was occupied by its owners until the 17th century. The Acklam family had a manor house, with chapel by 1493 (Raine and Clay 1865, 358). The manor was described thus in 1552 in the Inquisition Post Mortem for John Acclom:

Manor of Moreby with Moreby Hall and closes called the Parke, Twentie Acres, Bull Ridding, Fogge Close, Four Acres & Smithe Close (with herbage of the wood there); parcels adjacent to New Lane on E. side of the Parke, Gosse Crofte; a lane with Stayne Ridding & Osmond Ridding; a lane between Great Meadow & the Parke; and 19 1/2ac. in Great Inges, all in Moreby (U DDBH/3/78).

John Leland in his itinerary of England between 1535 and 1543, describes the house and park: ‘Beyond this [Bishopthorpe] 3 miles the ground waxith sumwhat wooddy, and about the 3 mile I cam hard by Mr. Aclam’s parke wherinis a preaty dwelling place’ (Leland and Smith 1906, 12).

It was rented out after the marriage to Elizabeth to Mark Milbanke, as no family is recorded there in the hearth tax of 1672. In 1749, there is an advertisement in the York Courant:

To be let, 4 Miles south from York, and near the navigable River Ouse Moreby Hall, with the Paddock stock’d with deer (there were about 18 brace), two orchards. Planted with good fruit and bears well, the garden with fish ponds and what ground adjoining to the house there is occasion for – the house may be seen any day, and entered at pleasure and let for any term of years.’ (Neave 1991, 44). In the sale document of 1787, it is recorded that the tenant was Paul Parkins (U DDPR/12/42). This thought to be the present ‘Home Farm’.

3.3 Chronological history of the designed landscape3.3.1 1700-1828

Marmaduke Lawson married Susanna Preston on 7 January 1702/3 and came of age in 1706. Susanna was the daughter of John Preston, a successful merchant from Leeds. Through his mother, Marmaduke had also inherited the estate at Seaton Ross. The building shown in Samuel Buck’s Yorkshire Sketchbook would appear to be more substantial that the ‘7 hearths’ recorded in 1672, so the house may well have been enlarged in either in his father’s time or after his marriage. His wife died in 1711 and the following year, he married again to Grace Brooksbank. While there were four children (including two sons) from the first marriage, there were no children of the second.

In the late 1720s, it would appear that Lawson was having problems with finance as a number of farms on his estate were mortgaged. Unlike his peers, who were able to convert part of their estates from farmland to landscape parks, this shortage of money meant he had to maximise the estate income. A large part to the west was wooded, possibly being remnants of the ancient woods mentioned in the Domesday book and shown on the Jeffreys map of 1771.

Marmaduke started selling charcoal and other timber, including young trees, to many of the leading estates. His record of sales is in the Hull Archives (U DDPR/47/1) and shows the extent of the business. It is perhaps no co-incidence that he was a subscriber to Switzer’s Practical Husbandman and Planter, or, Observations on the Ancient and Modern Husbandry, Planting and Gardening, Etc: in 1733, as was Thomas Knowlton, gardener to Lord Burlington at Londesborough.

There has been speculation about the ‘Mr Lawson’ who collaborated with Thomas Knowlton at Everingham (Henrey1986, 276), as documented by the letters between the absent owner, Sir Marmaduke Constable, and his steward, John Potts (Roebuck 1976). The records in the account book (U DDPR/47/1) make it clear that it is Marmaduke Lawson, as these entries show:

April 1732 (from Moreby) To Sir Marmaduke Constable 388 rails, 300 yards at 6 score, 19s 10d; to ditto 43 posts 4s 6d

1742 To Sir Marmaduke Constable 14 oak trees 5 & 6ft at 1s 6d per ft comes to £13 14s 8d

Knowlton and Lawson worked on the development of the designed landscape at Everingham from about 1727 to at least 1743 (when the correspondence ends). Lawson’s exact role apart from supplying trees is not clear as Potts comments:

The first is concerning the hall Garth. Before that work was begun I desired Mr Lawson and Mr Knowlton to come here and agree upon the most proper, and cheapest way to doe, the latter [i.e. Knowlton] is the only director, and to his judgement I referd the whole work, since the other [i.e. Lawson] never came but once after’ (Letter from Potts to Constable, 30 January 1731, U DDEV/60/86).

However it seems that Knowlton did respect Lawson’s ability with regard to tree planting:

‘[Knowlton] thinks it impossible to remove so great a quantity of [elm] trees as you have at Scorborough in one season, and therefore advises to divide ym into three, and to draw the strongest first. He will meet Mr Lawson here, who he says, and I believe knows more of yr designe in that kind, than any else’ (Letter from Potts to Constable, 2 August 1731, U DDEV/60/86).

It would also appear that Lawson had been supplying fruit trees for some time as on 8 May 1727, Potts observes that:

The Pear tree which was grafted three years ago as you goeout of the Garden to the Dog Kennel from Mr Lawsons grafts has a pretty quantity of Pears on it’ (U DDEV/60/84).

The Jeffery’s map of 1771 shows a park at Moreby to the south of the Hall, surrounded by a fence and two avenues, one running north to south and another from the road through the centre of the other. These appear to still be existence by 1846/7 when the first edition of the Ordnance Survey map is surveyed. John Burr in a letter of 18 January 1839 refers to the trees damaged in the ‘old avenue’ by a violent storm (U DDPR/50/23). There are also some trees marked to the north of Hall on the Jeffrey’s map.

There are no existing detailed maps of the estate until a sketch drawn up in 1829 for the diversion of the York to Stillingfleetroad (ERA HD33). This shows the park with three unidentified buildings on the southern boundary that had disappeared by 1842. To the north-east of the Hall are two enclosures that perhaps were the kitchen gardens. This was the area where the new Hall was constructed and so they would have been relocated. The orchard where the fruit trees were grown was perhaps in narrow close that ran parallel to the park and where a fishpond was created later. Burr refers to the damage of an ‘old apple tree’ in this area in 1839 (U DDPR/50/23).

Under the terms of Marmaduke’s will, the estate should have gone to his brother, Richard, but he predeceased Marmaduke by 6 months, so it went instead to his wife’s nephew, William Preston. Both he and his brother, Thomas, who succeeded him, did not enlarge the parkland despite buying the estate to the south in 1787. The map of 1829 (ERA HD33) still shows a clear division between the parkland to the north and the south.

3.3.2 1828 – 1849

The decision to build a new house by Henry Preston in 1828 also impacted on the designed landscape. The new building was to be to the north of the existing one and presumably this affected the gardens there, in particular the probable kitchen garden. He employed first as head gardener, Thomas Deuxberry (or Duxberry) to oversee the changes.

Deuxberry was born in 1797 in Weston, near Otley, the son of Thomas who later (from the 1820s) is described as a nurseryman, seedsman and gardener with a business in Bay Horse Yard, Otley. Deuxberry had previously worked at Horsforth Hall (6 miles northwest of Leeds). He won many prizes at shows, including the Yorkshire Horticultural Society, where he was particularly commended on 3 September 1828 (Leeds Intelligencer, 4 Sep 1828). Two years later he won the Silver Medal awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society to the Yorkshire society for winning the most prizes (Yorkshire Gazette, 8 May 1830). As Henry Preston was a member of the Yorkshire Horticultural Society, he may well have recruited Deuxberry personally.

Deuxberry’s first task while the new house was being built was the construction of the new kitchen garden. It is not shown on the 1829 sketch map (dated 17 June) but as Deuxberry was once again winning prizes for wall trained pears and peaches by September that year (Leeds Intelligencer, 1 October 1829), the new garden may well have been in place by then. Deuxberry left in 1831 and his advertisement for a new position in May 1831, he says that ‘he perfectly understands gardening in all its various departments – having himself laid out the beautiful and extensive Gardens, Hot Houses and Green Houses &c. belonging to Mr. Preston’ (The York Herald, 28 May 1831).

Why Deuxberry left is not clear although as he had no job to go to, Henry Preston must have felt he needed a new head gardener. The new house was nearing completion in 1831 and so work could start on the gardens around it. The new head gardener was John Burr, who was there by April 1832, when the first payment is made to him (U DDPR/47/6). Burr, who is credited by Jane Loudon as the designer of the gardens, was born c. 1808 in Sedgefield (County Durham), the son of George, also a gardener.

Where Burr worked previously and gained his experience is not known. John would have been only about 24 on his appointment, so Preston must have been confident in his abilities, possibly based on a recommendation. His father was working in Sedgefield from about 1808 to 1818 and then Hallgarth (near Pittingham, north-east of Durham) around 1823, so he and his son may have come into contact with Anthony Salvin who was brought up in Durham and worked at nearby Brancepath Castle between 1818-21 and 1829.

Judging by the bill from William Massey, a timber merchant from Sutton on Derwent (U DDPR/47/25), significant work was undertaken by Burr following his appointment:

• 1833, Work in Gardens by order of E Spence?• 1834, Mr Burr House, £247 10d (Moreby Grange); Garden, Shade & Garden Walls, £26 8s 7d; Fish Ponds, £2 1s 2d & Hot house £12 18s 11d• 5 September 1834, Moreby Hall Vine House

This is also shown by the payments made to Burr by Henry Preston in 1833 and 1834: £100 31s 7d and £279 6s 11d respectively (U DDPR/47/6 and U DDPR/47/7). On the 3 October 1835 (U DDPR/47/8), there is also a payment of £15 16s to Messrs Backhouse [the nursery in York].

A number of letters between John Burr and Henry Preston in 1838 and 1839 (U DDPR/50/24 and U DDPR/50/44) describe the improvements undertaken. These included the gardens immediately around the house (terrace and parterre), the pleasure grounds to the west next to the pond and summerhouse, the park with its plantations and possible new entrances.

21st October 1838 (U DDPR/50/24)

Burr says that he has increased the size of the proposed terrace to include more of the area below the conservatory and improve the overall design. He notes: ‘the space between the walls I then filled up to the back of the upper terraces, the appearances of being the width of both, the Garden being merely a sunken part of the same terrace so in other words to bring them both into one’.

There were new plantations as one of the workers, Fearn, ‘too has been employed all the summer fencing them and ‘the Plantation and coach roads got mowed and cleaned’, however for the pleasure ground with the exception of the gravel little was done.

Work had continued on the parterre or ‘flower garden’: ‘I then got all the plants and gravel out of the flower garden to be ready for the autumn and filled their space on the terraceWe are now laying out the flower garden according to the planThe box is nearly all planted, the Gravel is yet to be got in and then if the weather permit I hope to be able to do the Terrace Garden.

6 March 1839 (U DDPR/50/24)

Burr is making plans for the area around the building (c1832) at the southern end of the lake: ‘I could conceive something ornamental of the little summer house, in what was Miss Preston’s garden by mowing it and connecting it with an aviary.’

Other work that he is engaged in is as follows: ‘I have about a fortnight’s work gravelling the Court and altering the coachroad besides planting up within the hurdles with the evergreens and afterward your Walk by the River shall be got on with.’

19th July 1839 (U DDPR/50/24)

In this letter, he gives ‘an account of part of the work done during the Spring and Summer:

Pruned and thinned the Plantations and Shrubberies about the Pond and Pleasure GroundPlanted several small plantations in the Park as you desired one Sir, these have done well and improve the Park very muchI then began again with the lower flower garden and here I have a great part of the Box to replant the winter having killed the most of what planted in the autumn• The terrace was the next job which I laid out, gravelled and stocked with plants propagated during the spring in expectation of your return. The lower border likewise gravelled and stocked with plants but not of a very choice description.

13th October 1839 (U DDPR/50/44)

Burr continues to work on the park, as he notes: ‘with regard to the Plantation in front of Mr Baines [of Bell Hall], I am not sure that I can much improve it: trees of so many years standing are better than any that may be put in now though these have not grown so well as many others. Yet they are gradually becoming a good block which in a very few years will leave you nothing further to wish for. There is perhaps one opening where a few trees may be of service. I want during the winter a few more close groups planting in different parts of the park which will require fencing.

In other areas though, it seems that Henry Preston was deciding on the design. Burr disagrees with his master’s plan, as he says ‘I want before the winter, your directions about the walk from the new steps to the river, I should like for to be allowed to do it differently. Your plan has always been to have a straight walk. This has prevented me finishing it. I can see no way of carrying this into effect to satisfy myself but I think I can effect all you desire my own way.

In 1842, Preston’s application to move Moreby Bridge and the road that crossed it was approved. It moved the road north and ran parallel with some existing woodland (ERA HD51). By the time of the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1846 to 1847), the designed landscape is almost complete. The parkland now stretched just north of Moreby Bridge (next to Thomas Dike Reach) to south of Home Farm. The gardens around the house are marked: terraces and bowling green to the south and a rosary to the west.

Jane Loudon gives a contemporary description in The Ladies' Magazine of Gardening of 1841:

Moorby Hall. The seat of Preston, Esq.—This is an uncommonly fine place; with terraced garden, architectural greenhouse, and conservatory, laid out and designed by Mr. Burr, the gardener. The lower garden has stone basket in the centre, with parterre of embroidery, planted with violets and hepaticas at the side. Part of the garden is laid out in green terraces, to correspond with the grand stone terraces near the house; and the whole is in admirable taste, and reflects great credit on Mr. Burr, the gardener. Yews and other trees have been planted, to be hereafter clipped into shape, and the whole has splendid effect in the old English style.

3.3.3 Later history

By the next edition of the 6” Ordnance Survey map of 1893 (surveyed 1891), there is now a lodge just by Moreby Bridge that is the principal entrance, with the carriageway now straightened. The rosary had possibly reduced in size but the rest of the garden around the house remained. There was also been further expansion of the park south to join with the ‘Five Acre’ plantation, next to Moreby Grange (built in the 1830s for John Burr). More parkland was added to the east of the York to Stillingfleet road and the kennels were moved to their present position. However this latter section of c. 40a appears to have reverted to arable land by the next OS edition of 1909 (revised in 1906).

A Country Life article of the 16th February 1907 shows the gardens immediately around the house at their peak. There is extensive use of clipped yews that were not shown in the sketches made by Burr in 1838/9 (U DDPR/50/24). These surround the Bowling Green, the ‘West Terrace’ and ‘Western Avenue’ that leads to the northern edge of the ‘Lower Flower Garden’.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

18th Century

Moreby Hall was erected on the site of an earlier house (see illustration by Samuel Buck in his Yorkshire Sketchbook of around 1720), first owned by the Lawson family, and later bought by William Preston in the late 18th century. By 1772 the earlier house stood in a park near the River Ouse to the north of Stillingfleet (Victoria County History; Jefferys, 1772).

19th Century

The present Moreby Hall was built for the Preston family, well-known merchants and bankers from Leeds, from 1828 to 1833 by the architect Anthony Salvin (1799-1881). Moreby Hall was Salvin's second country house, (the first one being Mamhead [see description of this site elsewhere in the Register] in Teignbridge, Devon), designed shortly after he had gone to live in London where he worked for many years with his brother-in-law, the landscape gardener William Andrews Nesfield, and the architects John L. Pearson and R. Norman Shaw.

As part of the early 19th-century rebuilding of Moreby Hall, the existing parkland was probably extended, and terraced gardens were laid out containing topiary, summerhouses, a rosary, a bowling green and a serpentine lake (OS 1st edition surveyed 1846). The layout of the gardens has been attributed to John Burr, head gardener at the time (The Ladies' Magazine of Gardening, 1841).

20th Century

Moreby Hall was owned by the Preston family until the late 20th century, when the estate was sold and the Prestons moved to a new house built in the walled garden in 1985/6. At present (1999) the site is in multiple private ownership.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD4207
  • Grade: II


  • Topiary
  • Pond
  • Hall (featured building)
  • Description: The present Moreby Hall was built for the Preston family, well-known merchants and bankers from Leeds, from 1828 to 1833 by the architect Anthony Salvin.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Bowling Green
  • Lake
  • Terrace
  • House
  • Parkland
  • Woodland
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential





Civil Parish





  • Report by Louise Wickham[August 2016] Yorkshire Gardens Trust, Selby District Historic Designed Landscapes Project