Muntham Court (also known as Worthing Crematorium)5303

Worthing, England, West Sussex, Arun

Brief Description

The crematorium is approached from the Worthing road by a sweeping drive. There is a thick woodland belt to the south, with views to the north past newly-planted lime trees and the remains of old park metal railings, across arable fields with a few remaining parkland trees and clumps. The land around the crematorium mainly consists of winding walks and glades through woodland planting of a variety of native and specimen trees.

History

Whilst the first house was thought to be built by Thomas DeMuntham in 1371, it was not until 1734, after many changes in ownership, that there is a suggestion of a designed landscape. At this time, Lord Montague developed it as hunting seat.

Visitor Facilities

The site is now in divided ownership, but the crematorium area is in municipal ownership and for general public use.

Terrain

The site is located on ground rising to the west of the Findon valley, up to a height of around 100 metres.

Detailed Description

Muntham Court, which is now the Worthing Crematorium, is situated in the parish of Findon at map reference TQ 112096. It is located on ground rising to the west of the Findon valley, up to a height of around 100 metres.

The crematorium is approached from the Worthing road by a sweeping drive. There is a thick woodland belt to the south, with views to the north past newly-planted lime trees and the remains of old park metal railings, across arable fields with a few remaining parkland trees and clumps. The land around the crematorium mainly consists of winding walks and glades through woodland planting of a variety of native and specimen trees.

To the east, below the old terrace walk of the demolished house, is an open grassland area used for internment of ashes and bounded by the old kitchen walls to the north. There are views eastwards to the South Downs which can be seen above a large clump of trees within an arable field.

There is an impressive lime avenue of mature trees (at a spacing of 27 by 6 metres) that once provided the formal north entrance to the front of the old house from the attractive flint North Lodge. The majority of the limes survived the 1987 storms. However, the avenue effect has been eroded by the growth of trees and scrub up the middle. There is evidence from sprouting stumps of another lime avenue running parallel in a woodland belt closer to the crematorium buildings.

With the exception of the extensive views over the South Downs to the east, views in other directions are enclosed by the woodland belts.

For some time the grounds have been managed extensively as a wildlife area and have become overgrown. The current park management is interested in adding some element of formality to the site, in keeping with its function as a crematorium and as a link to the history of the gardens. The scope, however, is limited, due to the internment of ashes preventing plantings in some areas and the problems with theft of garden ornaments and plants.

What can be seen on the ground are principally the remnants of a designed landscape associated with the house that was re-built by the Marchioness of Bath between 1877 and 1887. Photographs from 1907 show extensive formal gardens surrounding the house with elaborate yew topiary hedges and viewing arches at regular intervals. Most impressive was the long yew topiary walk, to the east of the house and below the raised terrace, which extended a considerable distance from a circular layout of box and bedding, called the Crown Garden.

All that remains now is the terrace walk, a monogrammed flint wall with a stone seat at its base, the outer wall of the kitchen garden and some of the yews from the north court. Despite the lack of detail there is still the feel of a formal design as you stand on the terrace walk and look eastwards. Whilst the formal garden has virtually disappeared the ornamental tree plantations which surrounded them are still there despite the loss of many mature trees in the 1987 storm.

The main lime avenue to the house is an important historic feature. However, it is in separate ownership from the crematorium, being part of the adjoining Muntham Farm.

From map evidence, the outer woodland belts with a continuous ride network appear to have originated as an earlier designed landscape feature, possibly when the site was established as a hunting lodge. The principal function was no doubt to shelter the land and property from the surrounding barren and exposed downland. An engraving from 1830 shows an earlier house surrounded by a well-wooded parkland.

The main conservation issues are:-

• Conservation of the woodland belts and ornamental plantings.

• Conservation of the lime avenue.

• Restoration of some part of the formal elements of Muntham House gardens, possibly by means of the creation of a new garden area within the remains of the North Court.

Features
  • Terraced Walk
  • Description: Despite the lack of detail there is still the feel of a formal design as you stand on the terrace walk and look eastwards.
  • Wall
  • Description: There is a monogrammed flint wall with a stone seat at its base.
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The outer wall of the kitchen garden remains.
  • Specimen Tree
  • Description: Some of the yews from the north court remain.
  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: The main lime avenue to the house is an important historic feature. However, it is in separate ownership from the crematorium, being part of the adjoining Muntham Farm.
  • Crematorium (featured building)
  • Description: The crematorium, opened in 1968, replaced the private house which had been demolished in 1961.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The site is now in divided ownership, but the crematorium area is in municipal ownership and for general public use.

Directions

Muntham Court, which is now the Worthing Crematorium, is situated in the parish of Findon.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Findon
History

Detailed History

The manor of Muntham dates back to the conquest. Whilst the first house was thought to be built by Thomas DeMuntham in 1371, it was not until 1734, after many changes in ownership, that there is a suggestion of a designed landscape. At this time, Lord Montague developed it as hunting seat. In 1765 Lord and Lady Montague sold Muntham to William Frankland, Esq for £6,300. Frankland much added to the site and built a white wooden obelisk which was connected with his interests in mechanics.

Thomas Yeakell and William Gardener's map of 1778 shows a woodland belt with a serpentine path to the north-east of the buildings. However an engraving attributed to 1830 shows an extensively wooded park. In 1835 the estate was put up for auction, it was described as, ‘A capital mansion, seated on an eminence, in a finely timbered park with pleasure grounds of great variety and beauty, productive kitchen garden and orchard'.

Four years later the estate was auctioned again. The 1839 sales particulars in West Sussex Record Office state that there was a Gothic entrance lodge, iron gates and a half mile carriage drive. A ha-ha separated the pleasure grounds from the park. There are two estate maps contained in the particulars and the following details emerge:

• 66 feet high noble obelisk with staircase to the prospect room

• Stone and flint octagonal tower in the park, the lower part for sheep, the upper for pigeons

• Muntham Down - grazing, Muntham Firs - 50 acres of fox cover and game preserve

• Grass terraces with large vases for orange and other trees

• Rustic pheasantry

• Stone and flint castellated dairy with schoolroom

• Grove of beech trees

• Walks

• Parterres of flowers

• Kitchen Gardens with gravelled walks, flower beds and lawn with a fountain and greenhouse

• Ancient yew tree avenue and walk

• Fountain of a boy (life size) seated in a shell supported by dolphins blowing through a conch shell, jet d'eau 30 feet high falls into a basin of silver and gold fish. Other jet d'eaux issue from the nostrils and mouths of the dolphins.

• 372 feet deep well on Muntham Down

In 1850, Harriet Thynne, Marchioness of Bath bought Muntham. She had the red brick house re-faced in flint with Bath stone architectural features and re-designed in a Jacobean style by Henry Woodyer. The main façade was altered to face east and spectacular formal gardens with extensive yew topiary were developed. Muntham remained with the Thynne family until the death of Colonel Thynne in 1957.

In 1958 the estate was sold off in lots and by 1961 the house had been demolished. The new crematorium, located on the old tennis courts was opened in 1968.

Period

  • Victorian (1837-1901)
Contact

Telephone

01793 445050

Official Website

Other websites

Owners

  • Worthing Borough Council

    Town Hall, Chapel Road. Worthing., BN11 1HA
References

References