Otford Court 2521

Sevenoaks, England, Kent, Sevenoaks

Brief Description

Otford Court has a house and associated parkland dating from around 1880. Features include a kitchen garden, stable block, pleasure grounds and a warren.

History

The extensive Beechy Lees estate was bought in the early-1880s. An unusual Victorian house was built and parkland laid out.

Detailed Description

A few camellias flower in the one remaining glasshouse where a deep water tank still exists (now derelict). A circular railed pond is the central feature of this productive garden and the beds and paths are easily identified, although today the area is all laid to grass. A few old apple trees remain and the odd fig clings to the walls. A rather unusual semi-circular compost pit lies to the north, near the stables.

The parkland today retains many fine trees, both singly and in groups, with notable copper beeches, horse chestnuts, cedars and beech. Most of the trees are small for their age, because they are growing on this thin, chalky scarp slope. Nearer the house many exotic conifers crowd together jostling with diverse deciduous trees nearby. They form a rich mass of colour and texture throughout the seasons. There are some fine sequoias.

On the hillside to the east is the Warren, an area of grassland wonderfully rich with wild flowers and rabbit burrows. There are also many orchids. Again some fine trees stand alone and in clumps, and woodland surrounds the whole. Hedgerow shrubs such as viburnum and dogwood abound, all characteristic of the chalky downland.

In 1990 it was decided to clear the grounds back to their original, more open plan layout of the last century, and to create vast new sports fields and tennis courts. Massed bulb planting and avenues were proposed, but these, as yet (in 1992) have not been carried out.

The grounds are very beautiful and peaceful. There are still many Victorian touches at Otford Court, including the kitchen garden, the Pulhamite rockwork, the trees and fine period buildings.

Features
  • School (featured building)
  • Description: . The red brick house with terracotta embellishments, stained glass windows and a tower and cupola embodied all that was Victorian, together with the large rooms and the wonderful oak wood panelling/carving.
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  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: The kitchen garden walls are very fine, and in the old days there were glasshouses and conservatories and a range of bothies and potting sheds. All are now, unfortunately, in sad states of repair.
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  • Glasshouse
  • Description: A few camellias flower in the one remaining glasshouse where a deep water tank still exists (now derelict).
  • Earliest Date:
  • Pond
  • Description: A circular railed pond is the central feature of the productive garden.
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  • Structure
  • Description: A rather unusual semi-circular compost pit lies to the north, near the stables.
  • Stable Block
  • Description: The stables were tiled from top to bottom in blue tiles and, there are apparently very sophisticated plumbing arrangements.
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  • Specimen Tree
  • Description: The parkland today has many fine trees, both singly and in groups, with notable copper beeches, horse chestnuts, cedars and beech.
  • Rabbit Warren
  • Description: On the hillside to the east is the Warren, an area of grassland wonderfully rich with wild flowers and rabbit burrows.
Access & Directions

Directions

The site is mile east of Otford, off the Pilgrims Way. Entry is via Rowdow.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Otford
History

Detailed History

The extensive Beechy Lees estate was bought in the early-1880s. An unusual Victorian house was built and parkland laid out. The red brick house with terracotta embellishments, stained glass windows and a tower and cupola embodied all that was Victorian, together with the large rooms and the wonderful oak wood panelling/carving. The house is set into the side of the North Downs and enjoys amazing views out over its terraces and parkland to a distant church. The view is framed by fine woods.

The extensive south-facing kitchen garden and stable block were laid out at the same time, again with impressive luxuriance. The stables were tiled from top to bottom in blue tiles and, there are apparently very sophisticated plumbing arrangements. The kitchen garden walls are very fine, and in the old days there were glasshouses and conservatories and a range of bothies and potting sheds. All are now, unfortunately, in sad states of repair.

The house and land were put up for sale in 1902, and the large sales catalogue (now in Maidstone Record Office), is very rich in detail and illustration. The catalogue records that the grounds were laid out by a well-known landscape gardener, which might have been a Mr Pulham of London, as there are excellent examples of his artificial rockwork in the forecourt.

The 1909 Ordnance Survey map shows the layout of the grounds very clearly. The pleasure grounds were semi-circular, consisting of wide, steep, grass terraces and lawn, with shrubs and beds of flowers around the edge, and conifers to each side. A fountain walk was laid out and there was also a flat lawn, possibly for croquet. These pleasure gardens stayed intact until recently, when they were damaged by the storm.

Earlier in the 20th century new houses were built along the lower half of the main drive, but some splendid mature trees do still remain in this area. Part of the parkland in the south-eastern corner was built on, but most of the land on this estate is still open. The house became a school in the 1930s and some of the land was put to sports use. Since World War 2, much scrubby shrubbery/woodland grew up on the site, criss-crossed with pathways, giving a feeling of enclosure and intimacy.

Associated People

Just one person associated to Otford Court

References

References

  • Kent County Council Planning Department {The Kent Gardens Compendium} (Canterbury: Kent County Council, 1996) 117The Kent Gardens Compendium