Mount Ephraim 2340

Nr Faversham, Swale, Kent, England

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Brief Description

Mount Ephraim is an estate of 323 hectares (13 hectares registered), featuring many gardens of varying styles, most of which were laid out in the 20th century.

History

The Dawes family have been associated with Mount Ephraim since the 1650s, when a branch of the Northumberland family came to Kent. They built a small, elegant house in 1695. The house was re-built after 1880, at which time the grounds were extended. After 1912, the gardens were re-modelled and a large rock garden was created. The garden became overgrown, but was reclaimed in the late-20th century.

Visitor Facilities

The gardens are open between Easter and September. Please see: http://www.mountephraimgardens.co.uk/the-gardens/

Terrain

The land falls away from the house in the direction of the sea.

Detailed Description

The essential elements today are of a spacious 19th-century/early 20th-century establishment and grounds, with associated tree planting and garden layout. However, much of the lavish detail of the Edwardian period and the 1920s is now missing, due to enforced upkeep problems and neglect during the war years.

Despite later extensive redevelopment of the garden during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some earlier features are still extant. Most prominent of these is the double-curved ha-ha (itself a listed building). This runs in a line approximately north-east/south-west past both the house and lake.

The main task of Mrs M N Dawes, the present owner, has been to renovate these gardens as far as possible, and maintain them with far fewer staff and resources. The rock garden was completely overgrown ten years ago but has now been successfully reclaimed. The remarkable topiary of 1914-1918 war period is in very good order.

A full tree survey is proposed by Mrs Dawes. Of especial note are oriental plane, holm oaks, sweet chestnuts, beeches, oaks and a range of exotic conifers. These may be over 100 years old. There are a number of fine maples, mainly seedlings, and a variety of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum).

The gardens continue to develop. A water garden is a new feature. The October 1987 storm damage was comparatively slight. A vineyard and orchard walk have now been included. Restoration work was begun in 1994 with the help of Kent County Council and the Kent Gardens Trust on some of the built features.

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 The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

A country house surrounded by terraced gardens, including a large rockery, laid out in the early 20th century and set in a small, mid-19th-century park.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Mount Ephraim is located on the north side of the A2, Sittingbourne to Canterbury road, c 5km to the east of Faversham. It occupies a rural setting between the villages of Dunkirk, Boughton Street, and Hernhill. The c 13ha site is bounded to the south-west by Staplestreet Road and by farmland and woodland on all other boundaries. The land falls away from the house, which is situated in the western corner of the site, to the north-north-east in the direction of the sea, which can be seen from the gardens c 6km beyond the northern boundary.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

A short drive leads north-north-east from Staplestreet Road along the western boundary, its entrance to the site marked by a pair of C19 wrought-iron gates and late C17 supporting brick walls (listed grade II). The drive forks after the gate piers, the eastern fork leading to the gravel entrance court below the north-west front of the house. The northern fork of the drive leads first to the early C20 stable block c 120m to the north-north-west of the house, and then continues to link with the lodge on Church Hill (both outside the area here registered).

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Mount Ephraim (listed grade II) is a country house built of red brick under a slate roof in an irregular plan. It is constructed in two storeys with a rectangular main block and service wings to the south-west. The entrance is on the north-west front which carries a central leaded cupola. The house was rebuilt c 1880 for the Dawes family, on the site of a house built for them in 1695. It was extended by William Charles Dawes in 1913.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

To the north-west of the house, a secondary drive from the stables to the house runs along the north side of a wall which encloses an area of lawn, shrubs, and topiary first planted in the late C19. The south side of the wall has a herbaceous border along its length. A small summerhouse stands at the north-west end of the garden, overlooking a recently planted (2001) formal planting. The southern boundary of the north-west garden is formed by the main drive to the house forecourt.

A series of four partly balustraded terraces descend the gentle slope to the north-east of the house, towards the late C19 lake located c 200m from the house. Each terrace is subdivided into areas at different levels. The top terrace is laid to grass planted with larger trees and has a central fountain. From the house steps descend to the first area (the Rose Terrace) which has small rose beds set in grass, surrounded by yew hedges. Below this lies another grass level, though there are traces in it of cross-paths coupled with small-scale terracing. The third terrace is also laid to grass, with a hard tennis court located at its south-east end. The terrace is reached via a set of gates hung on tall, red-brick gate piers surmounted by ball finials. The lowest terrace is laid to grass planted with larger trees and has a central flight of steps leading down to the edge of the lake, on the north-east bank of which is Mount Ephraim Wood, underplanted with rhododendrons and azaleas. In the late C20, the piped water leading from the lower end of the lake was opened up to form a stream and its banks were planted as a water garden. To the west of the terraces is a rock garden laid out in the Japanese style, reputedly by the firm of Waterer's in c 1912, while to the south-east lies a vineyard reached via the early C20 Motto Gate. The present gardens were laid out mainly by William Charles Dawes in the early C20.

Below the south-east front is a large area of lawn set with a circular fountain close to its south-east boundary. Some 50m to the south-east of the house, beyond the fountain, is an C18 brick ha-ha (listed grade II) which divides the gardens from the park.

PARK

The park was formed during the second half of the C19 by the planting of occasional exotic specimens in the field beyond the south-east lawn and in the field to the north of the house, on the east side of the drive to Church Hill. The south-east field is now (2001) mainly open grass, with a small pavilion standing on its south-east boundary. Mature trees are confined to the southern corner of the area.

REFERENCES

E Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent (1797-1801) [Facsimile edition 1972]

Inspector's Report: Mount Ephraim, (English Heritage 1988)

Maps

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1870; 2nd edition 1898

Description rewritten: March 2001

Amended: November 2001

Edited: November 2003

Features
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The house, built by the Dawes family in the 1690s, was re-built by Sir Edwin Dawes in 1880.
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  • Ha-ha
  • Description: Double-curved ha-ha.
  • Garden Terrace
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  • Rose Garden
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  • Hedge
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  • Topiary
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  • Planting
  • Description: A large rock garden was made by Waterer in 1912. The rock garden was completely overgrown ten years ago but has now been successfully reclaimed.
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  • Planting
  • Description: A water garden is a new feature.
  • Walk
  • Description: Orchard walk.
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The gardens are open between Easter and September. Please see: http://www.mountephraimgardens.co.uk/the-gardens/

Directions

The site is 1 mile north-east of Boughton, just off the village of Hernhill, 3 miles east of Faversham.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Hernhill
History

Detailed History

The Dawes family have been associated with Mount Ephraim since the 1650s. A branch of the Northumberland family came to Kent and built a small, elegant house in the early 1700s, acquiring small parcels of land at the same time. The biblical names associated with Mount Ephraim, Jacob's Field and so on are ascribed to the Dawes.

The house was let to the Vicar of Hernhill from 1820-1870, the prelate of this period being the Reverend Handley, who had close associations with the Courtenay riots. He may have carried out some tree planting, but no record survives of the gardens at this time.

In 1880 Sir Edwyn Dawes returned from India with sufficient wealth to entirely rebuild and enlarge the house in a rather stark brick and stucco style, adding various wings over the years, and employing Italian craftsmen to create the marble entrance hall and other embellishments. 1,000 acres of land were also added to the estate at this time.

An album of black and white photographs taken about 1900 show the park-like grounds with scattered conifers and deciduous trees, and a gravelled circular walk that encompassed the lake (date of construction unknown) with exotic trees and shrubs along the route.

William Charles Dawes succeeded in 1903 and he entirely remodelled the garden in a more formal Edwardian, French style with terracing, balustrades, rose gardens, yew hedges and topiary. A large rock garden was made at this time, reputedly by Waterer in 1912. All the stone was hauled by steam tractor from a ragstone quarry at Maidstone. The Japanese style was much in vogue then, and the rock garden incorporates lanterns, cascades and a stone bridge near the lake. Ornamental conifers were extensively planted at this time.

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 The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

The Dawes family have been associated with Mount Ephraim since the 1650s and the first house to be built on this site was constructed in 1695 for Major William Dawes who also acquired several small parcels of the surrounding land. The house was let to the vicar of Hernhill between 1820 and 1870 and it is likely that the Rev Handley was responsible for some of the tree planting which survives from this period. In 1880, Sir Edwin Dawes returned from India with sufficient wealth to rebuild and enlarge the house and to extend the grounds. He further developed the landscape, creating a small park setting for the new house. William Charles Dawes succeeded to the estate in 1912 and, as well as making alterations to the house, completely remodelled the gardens and created a large rock garden, possibly with the assistance of Waterer's nursery. During the middle part of the 20th century the gardens became completely overgrown but they have been the subject of a reclamation programme in the latter years of the 20th century. The site remains (2001) in private ownership.

Period

  • Early 20th Century
Associated People

Just one person associated to Mount Ephraim

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Kent Gardens Trust