East Rounton Grange, Northallerton 2855

England, North Yorkshire, Hambleton

Brief Description

East Rounton Grange park and garden was developed by three generations of the Bell family. Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, a wealthy industrialist and an early patron of the Arts and Crafts movement, acquired the estate in 1866. He commissioned a mansion and other estate buildings by the architect Philip Webb and developed the surrounding gardens. After his death in 1904, his son Sir Hugh, continued improvements on the estate, employing the architect, George Jack. His granddaughter, the famous explorer Gertrude Bell, redesigned parts of the garden before the First World War, no doubt inspired by her travels in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. One notable creation was the ‘rock garden’ built in 1907 following her trip to Japan four years earlier where she met Reginald Farrer, the noted plantsman.

History

East Rounton Grange park and garden was developed by three generations of the Bell family. Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, a wealthy industrialist and an early patron of the Arts and Crafts movement, acquired the estate in 1866. He commissioned a mansion and other estate buildings by the architect Philip Webb and developed the surrounding gardens. After his death in 1904, his son Sir Hugh, continued improvements on the estate, employing the architect, George Jack. His granddaughter, the famous explorer Gertrude Bell, redesigned parts of the garden before the First World War, no doubt inspired by her travels in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. One notable creation was the ‘rock garden’ built in 1907 following her trip to Japan four years earlier where she met Reginald Farrer, the noted plantsman.

Philip Webb designed Rounton Grange for Sir Lothian Bell during the 19th century. The house has subsequently been demolished.

Detailed Description

1. LOCATION
Rounton Estate is situated on the east side of East Rounton village, 10 miles to the south east of Darlington and 1 mile west of the A19.

2 AREA
The extent of the historic designed landscape is c. 104 ha (257 acres).

3 BOUNDARIES
The garden and park are bounded by the main road to the north, the River Wiske and East Rounton Stell to the west and south and a straight linear land boundary to the east.

4 LANDFORM
The core of the estate lies at c.70m AOD. The underlying bedrock is mudstone (Mercia Mudstone Group) overlain by Devensian Till (Diamicton). The soils are slowly permeable, seasonally wet, slightly acid but base-rich loamy and clayey soils. The current land use is arable with some pasture with surviving woodland and plantations.

5 SETTING
The site of the house, park and gardens is fairly level but sloping steeply to the River Wiske on the east. Where not obscured by trees there are views to the south and east towards the North York Moors and Cleveland Hills. The site is within the National Character Area 23 Tees Lowlands.

6 ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

6.1 West Lodge GII (NHLE: 1294522) and approaching drive
Built by Philip Webb c 1875. Style described as ‘inkpot’ by Burman, with central chimney and high pyramid shaped roof (Burman 2001, 122). NHLE listing suggests it may have included older fabric but nothing is shown here on the Ordnance Survey map of 1857, so presumably was built in Bell’s time. The lodge is c. 230m south of the main road, approached by a straight drive which divides into two at the lodge, one arm approaching the mansion’s main west entrance and the other continuing in a straight line to the coach house and motor house. The approach would be largely tree lined, the house probably not being visible until the carriage sweep at the main door was reached.

6.2 East Lodge GII* (NHLE: 1188873) and approaching drives
The lodge, entrance archway and screen walls were built by George Jack in 1909. The lodge stands on the main road at the entrance to a drive which ran straight with largely open views for about 500m SW and then curved through the woodland around the house for a further c. 270m, joining the west drive just north of the carriage sweep at the entrance. Any view of the house would have been obscured by the woodland surrounding the main buildings. A one way system operated with a second drive taking traffic away from the house as far as the edge of the woodland where it joined the incoming drive.

7 PRINCIPAL BUILDINGS

7.1 Rounton Grange (demolished)
Built by Philip Webb, associate of William Morris and architect of the Arts and Crafts movement, initially completed by 1876 with later alterations by both Webb and George Jack. The building was tall (5 storeys) to minimise impact on existing mature trees. The main entrance was on the west side where first the west drive and later the east drive opened into a large graveled approach. The south and east facades, where the main living quarters were, fronted the gardens and the north end of the building housed the servants’ quarters with a service courtyard between two wings. The later Common Room was built on the north end of the easterly of these wings, approached from within by an ambulatory. This was initially glassed in but later roofed in tile and also led to the conservatory range.

7.2 Conservatory and glasshouses

A range of glasshouses c. 65m long, extended at right angles from the north east corner of the house. An early plan labels these as first a ‘glasshouse’ with aviary and plunge bath behind on the north side, then a square palm house with a pyramid shaped glass roof twice the height of the glasshouses, finally another glasshouse labelled ‘vinery’ on the early plan, with engine house and potting sheds behind (Kirk 1990, 271).

7.3 Coach House GII* (NHLE: 1150672)
Remodelled by Philip Webb in 1875 and incorporating earlier 18th and 19th century parts.

7.4 Fowl House (listed with Motor House below)
Built by Webb in vernacular style (Burman 2001, 122)

7.5 Motor House GII (NHLE: 1271845)
Built by George Jack in 1905 to house the family’s motor cars.

7.6 Gardeners Cottage GII (NHLE: 1315222)

Built by George Jack. It has a H & F Bell 1905 date plaque on the chimney. There is an adjacent yard with glasshouses and sheds.

7.7 Water tank, Generator house

Not listed. The generator house was built in 1905 and the water tank in 1906.

8 GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

8.1 Formal Garden
East of the house, the area in front of the glasshouses (20m x min 60m), was laid out with a central path parallel to the glasshouses and a spur at right angles to the palm house. This was bordered by lawn with rectangular flower beds interspersed in a regular scheme with evergreen shrubs. The area was bounded close to the house by a low wall but it is not clear from surviving photos whether this continued all round, although some sort of boundary is indicated by the maps. Beyond the boundary at the end of the glasshouses, a Yew walk continued to the east on the same alignment.

8.2 Pleasure grounds
The house and gardens were surrounded by mixed deciduous and conifer woodland, with numerous walks, screening the core area around the grange from the service areas and from the view of the main road. Trees included beech and the cedar planted by Gertrude and the area to the north of the house is known to have comprised rhododendrons, yew, holly and some huge oaks. Beyond the service buildings paths led across part of the parkland to the western plantation, fishpond and Boat House.

8.3 Lawns
Lawns studded with trees, including beech trees, stretched east for c50m and south for c120m from the east and south sides of the mansion. To the south east a lawned alley led through woodland to the fishpond and rock garden. This was planted on both sides with mixed borders of shrubs and flowering plants. At the southern end of the lawn were two ponds surrounded by mixed borders (see 4.11).

8.4 Rock Garden
The rock garden was created around the larger fishpond approached by a lawned alley c. 120m long. Surviving contemporary photos show an extensive structure of large rocks c. 3m high planted with small shrubs and plants (Burgoyne 1958, 289; NUSC TFA 12 & 13). On the south east shore, a low promontory extended c.10m into the lake with an upstanding boulder at the end approached by stepping stones and planted with trees or shrubs.

8.5 Enclosed garden or tennis courts

Enclosed (walled?) square garden at NZ 425 020, with a rectangular sunken area in the western half and a small building on exterior N wall. This feature was linked by paths to the Grange and to the gamekeeper’s cottage on the main road.

9 KITCHEN GARDEN
The kitchen garden was originally a walled rectangle 70m x 60m with a circular ‘tank’, lined in tile and with a stone coping in the centre. The brick walls were c. 3m high with the southern wall being lower. Later a taller wall was added, enclosing the northern and northeast corner of the original garden, creating a slip garden, for the growing of fruit trees. This had ornamental iron brackets in the wall for the suspension of protection for the trees. Both inner and outer walls had fixings inserted for training wires. Unusually the kitchen garden had no glasshouses associated with it, as these were separate and part of earlier phases of garden development within the pleasure grounds, where they were retained (see 4.7.2).

10 PARK AND PLANTATIONS

10.1 Parkland
At its maximum extent in Sir Hugh Bell’s time parkland extended to the River Wiske to the south and east encircling the Wiske Bank and Hungry Hill plantations, with narrow shelter belts in places. Curved boundaries, probably fences divided the pleasure grounds from the parkland. The interior of the southern parkland was crossed by footpaths and a bridleway. It retained trees along former field boundaries a few tree clumps, mostly removed now, but retaining small plantations, such as Horse Shoe plantation.

10.2 Plantations

The larger plantations lie mainly to the west bordering the River Wiske, with three smaller ones in the parkland. Horse Shoe plantation was first depicted on the 1857 6” Ordnance Survey map and retained as the park expanded and made square by 1892.

The Rookery and Hungry Hill plantations had been extended around the two large fishponds. The northern pond alongside the River Wiske was approached by paths from the pleasure grounds across parkland and along the river through the Rookery Plantation. It had an open glade on the southeastern side with paths leading to the second pond and into Hungry Hill Plantation. The southern pond was encompassed by a path giving access to the Boat House. Later a path linked Hungry Hill to the extended Wiske Bank Plantation.

11 WATER FEATURES

11.1 Ponds

Two small ponds lay at the southern extremity of the lawn where daffodils were planted. The larger pond was shallow and had water lilies. Both were surrounded by mixed borders. These were created during Hugh Bell’s tenure, replacing an earlier pond, in an area probably inclined to be boggy as indicated by later mapping.


11.2 Fishpond within pleasure grounds

This larger pond lay along the lawned alley mentioned above (4.8.3) and was the location of the rock garden. Paths encompassed the pond and a small hut or summerhouse stood on the north east shore.

11.2 Water garden
Nature and location uncertain but may have been at the southern edge of the pleasure grounds in the vicinity of the two small ponds where the larger pond is fed by two short watercourses. Local residents recall ‘stone lined rills’ in this area.

11.3 Fishponds
Two larger fish ponds were created in the western plantations, one in Hungry Hill and one alongside the River Wiske, which had also been dammed. A grassed strip ran alongside the pond next to the Wiske and there was a boat house on the other pond.

REFERENCES

Books and articles

Bell Lady ed. 1927. The Letters of Gertrude Bell Vol 1. Ernest Benn, London.

Brown, W. 1897. Yorkshire lay Subsidy (1301), Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series Vol 21

Burgoyne, E. 1958. Gertrude Bell from her personal papers 1889-1914. Ernest Benn, London.

Burman, P. 2001. ‘An Introduction to the East Rounton estate’, from Looking Forwards - The Country House in Contemporary Research and Conservation, Leo Schmidt/ Christian Keller/ Ralf Jaeger/ Peter Burman (editors), Cottbus.

Cowle, L. 2007. The Coach House at Rounton Grange, East Rounton: Historic Appraisal. Typescript Report for English Heritage.

Kirk, S. 1990. Philip Webb. Domestic Architecture. Vol1. PhD Thesis, Newcastle University.

Lawton, D.R. ed. 2001. The Rountons - A brief history. Garden House publishing, Northallerton.

Raine, J and Clay, J. W. 1865. Testamenta Eboracensia Volume III. Durham, The Surtees Society.

Robson, W. T. 1916. The register of the chapelry of East Rounton in the parish of Rudby-in-Cleveland, Co. York, 1595-1837.

Rutherford, S. 2013. The Arts and Crafts Garden. Shire publications Ltd, Oxford.

Victoria History of the Counties of England. 1968. Yorkshire North Riding (VCH). reprint of 1923 edition, University of London.

Waterson, E. & Meadows, P. 1990. Lost Houses of York and the North Riding. Jill Raines

Weaver, L. 1915. ‘Rounton Grange Yorkshire, a seat of Sir Hugh Bell Bart.’ Country Life, June 26

Primary Sources

North Yorkshire County Record Office (NYCRO)

ZFK Bell family papers

Accounts of Isaac Lowthian Bell

Description and valuation of the Rounton Estate 1905

Estate Papers and correspondence 1899-46

National Archives (NA)

IR 30 42 314 Tithe map East Rounton, 1846

Source: http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/ [accessed 18 January 2017]

IR 30 42 314 Tithe apportionment East Rounton, 1846

Source: http://www.thegenealogist.co.uk/ [accessed 18 January 2017]

Newcastle University Special Collections (NUSC)

Gertrude Bell archive, letters (GBL), personalia (GBP), source: http://www.gerty.ncl.ac.uk

Trevelyan Family Albums: Turning the Pages (TFA), source: http://newcastleuniversity.onlineculture.co.uk/ttp/

Newspapers

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail

Northern Echo

Yorkshire Gazette

Maps/Aerial Photographs

Ordnance Survey 1st edition 6” map, surveyed 1854, published 1857.

Ordnance Survey 2nd edition 6” map, surveyed 1891 to 1892, published 1895.

Ordnance Survey Rev edition 6” map, revised 1911, published 1919.

Ordnance Survey 1st edition 25” map, surveyed 1893, published 1894.

Ordnance Survey Rev edition 25” map, surveyed 1911, published 1913.

Ordnance Survey County Series 1:2500, published 1965.

Greenwood map of the North Riding of Yorkshire, surveyed 1817 & 1818 and corrected 1834

Jeffrey’s map of Yorkshire, c. 1771

Speed’s map of North and East Riding of Yorkshire, c. 1611

Meridian Airmaps 59/72/043, flown 13 July1972

Google Earth imagery 27/4/2006, 5/2/2008

Features
Pond
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Rudby
History

Detailed History

1. Estate owners

By the mid 13th century the settlement was in the hands of the Meynell family and subsequently passed throughout the hands of many different families. In 1548–9 Francis Killinghall conveyed the 'manor of Eastrungton' to Richard Smythe (VCH 1923, 285-6). By the start of the 19th century, the ‘Grange’ and 225 acres of land in East Rounton (tithe award) was owned by John Wailes Snr (1756-1824). He is described as being ‘of (East) Rounton Grange’ in the parish register from 1808 (Robson 1916). He died in 1825 and the estate was inherited by his son, John Wailes II (1812-1866). After his death, the estate was sold to Isaac Lowthian Bell who rebuilt the main house in 1870 and enlarged the park and gardens. Bell’s son, Sir Thomas Hugh Bell inherited the estate in 1904 and made further changes to the estate and, together with his daughter Gertrude Bell, further enhanced the gardens. The Bells moved their permanent home to Mount Grace Priory from 1926 due to economies having to be made, though the estate remained in the hands of the Bell family. The Grange was demolished in 1954 and the gardens were largely abandoned.

Key owners responsible for the major developments of the designed landscape and dates of their involvement:

John Wailes II (1825 - 1866)

I. Lowthian Bell (1866 - 1904)

Sir T. Hugh Bell 1 (1904 - 1926)

Gertrude Bell (1904 – 1914)


2. Early history of the site

In the Domesday survey, it was named ‘Rantune’ and belonged to the King. It had 4 plough lands and a taxable value of 8 geld units (equating to 8 carucates of land) but no inhabitants (http://opendomesday.org/place/NZ4203/east-rounton/, accessed 18 December 2017). There were 9 households taxed in the 1301 lay subsidy (Brown 1897, 29). The church, a chapelry of Rudby in Cleveland, dates from at least 1483 (Raine and Clay 1865, 288). On the Saxton map of 1577 the village is labelled ‘E Rugton’ and also on Speed’s map of c. 1611 but is absent from later maps of Yorkshire such as Blaeu c.1645 and Warburton c.1720.

There was probably a mill there in the 14th century (VCH 1923, 284). At some point in the later medieval or post medieval period, the village declined and there are earthworks of the shrunken village including building platforms, possible toft boundaries and ridge and furrow visible on air photographs and LIDAR (NYCC HER MNY613; Meridian Airmaps 59/72/043; https://houseprices.io/lab/lidar/map accessed 24 November 2017). East Rounton is shown as a small settlement on the Jeffrey’s map of Yorkshire c.1771 but the Grange is not marked. Cowle (2007) has identified the remains of a 4 bay barn of early to mid 18th century date. These were added to in the late 18th century and a horse engine house was built on the west side of the barn.

3. Chronological history of the designed landscape

3.1. 1846 to 1866

John Wailes II is described as a ‘farmer’ in the 1841 census and by 1851 is farming 212 acres and employing several servants. Rounton Grange itself appears on the 1846/7 tithe map but not the 18th century buildings. The land held by John Wailes II is shown as a large undivided area of approximately 225 acres (NA IR 30 42 314, 1846). However what appears to be a park, is marked on the Greenwood map of the North Riding, surveyed in 1817 and revised in 1834. The first edition OS 6” map, surveyed in 1854, shows a fully enclosed landscape with the house standing in a modest park of c. 12 acres, approached from the road by a treelined avenue which splayed out at the road entrance. The date of the house is not known but was later remembered as ‘a large brick building of poor quality’ (Kirk 1990, 474).

The house, with a few other buildings, was surrounded by trees, with enclosed orchards to the northeast and north. The latter was drained by a watercourse flowing westwards across fields to the River Wiske. The northern parkland was enclosed by shelter belt trees. In the parkland there was a small enclosed pond in the south east corner, probably a former cattle pond. The 18th century farm/stable block mentioned above lay to the west of the house, screened by a belt of trees. A trackway running in front of East Rounton Grange, linked the farm to another building in enclosed fields further east, which was possibly a former farm or barn. In the wider landscape there were plantations to the west and south, where the land slopes steeply down to the River Wiske and the East Rounton beck. The 1841 and 1851 censuses for East Rounton list a William Carnegie, gardener. In 1851 he was living at ‘Garden House’ (not identified) with his son, also a gardener. It is quite possible that they were employed by Wailes.

3.2. 1866 - 1904

After the death of Wailes II the estate was sold in 1866 to Isaac Lowthian Bell, a wealthy ironmaster. The sales description lists a ‘Mansion House, Out Offices and buildings Woodlands and several closes of richand productive arable grass land totalling 225 acres etc’, an area equivalent to the land holdings of Wailes on the tithe map (Yorkshire Gazette, 12 Aug 1865).

Bell, a patron of the Arts and Crafts movement, originally planned to modify the existing house but took the decision to build an imposing mansion designed by the architect Philip Webb, an associate of William Morris. The house, Rounton Grange, replaced the earlier house on the same site and was completed in 1876. Webb designed the house to be ‘compact and high’ in order to save pre-existing trees on the site and to get a view of the hills to the south and east (Burman 2001, 121). At right angles to the north east corner of the house was a range of glasshouses with a tall palm house in the centre fronted by a formal garden. The glasshouses were linked to the house by an ‘ambulatory’ with a glazed roof. The closest glasshouse was backed on the north side by an aviary and plunge bath and the further surviving glasshouse, was labelled as a ‘vinery’ with engine house and potting sheds behind (Kirk 1990, 271). Grapes have been grown in the surviving glasshouse within living memory and there are reports of arched vents for an underfloor heating system.

The existing ‘house and pleasure grounds’ figure in Bell's accounts for 1868 even before the house was rebuilt (NYCRO ZFK) but were subsequently enlarged. The gardens around the house, delimited by an undulating boundary, were extended to the east and south, with lawns dotted with trees. The cattle pond was replaced by a new smaller pond and a larger fish pond was created further to the east in the south east corner of the pleasure grounds. It is not known who designed the gardens but Webb is known to have been involved in garden design at the Red House, Kent and Great Tangley Manor, Surrey and may have had a hand at Rounton (Rutherford 2013, 75).

Webb also built or modified the West Lodge and remodelled the Coach House adding a flat, stabling and washing yard. The Home Farm on the north side of the road to East Rounton and other buildings in the village were also built by Webb. A small glasshouse and enclosure were built to the north of the house screened by trees. The possible farm building to the east, shown on the earlier Ordnance Survey map, was demolished and the area incorporated into the garden woodland. A walled kitchen garden, with a low wall on the southern side, was built just to the east sometime between 1866 and 1891. This had a central tank to store water, lined with tiles and with stone coping around the top.

By 1891/2 Bell had extended the parkland around the original house in all directions, taking in former farmland, the earlier boundaries still visible as tree lines on the Ordnance Survey 6” map of 1895. The former Horse Shoe plantation, now rectangular, was enclosed by parkland to the south and an additional plantation with a pond created just to the north. The plantations at the Rookery and Hungry Hill were extended and two large fish ponds created here. One pond was made by damming the River Wiske, the other was a boating lake with boathouse and adjacent walks. A pheasantry was located north of the Rookery. Just to the east, there was a square enclosure, with a rectangular sunken area in the western half shown in the Ordnance Survey 25” map, surveyed in 1893. This may have been a sunken garden feature or may be the location of tennis courts known to have existed. This feature was linked by paths to the Grange, the enclosure with glasshouses mentioned above and to a house on the main road, probably the gamekeeper’s cottage.

The gardens were clearly well established early during Bell’s tenure in the last quarter of the nineteenth century as they had a local reputation for beauty in Lowthian Bell’s time. In 1888 the NER employees’ band were entertained at Rounton Grange and enjoyed ‘a walk round the beautiful grounds and gardens’ (Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 21 August 1888). In 1895 the Belle Vue Congregational Adult Bible Class made their fourth visit to Rounton Grange and ‘strolled around the gardens and lake. On their return an excellent tea was provided in the conservatory near the hall’ (Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 22 July 1895). When Bell’s granddaughter was married in 1899 ‘there was a reception in a large marquee on the lawn’ (Yorkshire Gazette, 5 August 1899).

A report on the Great Smeaton annual show in 1883 noted that ‘the centre stage in the floral tent was decorated with greenhouse plants and exotics lent for the occasion by (amongst others) Mr Isaac Lowthian Bell, of Rounton Grange’ (Northern Echo, 6 August 1883). The gardens reflected the Victorian taste for bedding plants, judging by the comments of Gertrude Bell very shortly after Lowthian’s death. The growing of ‘geraniums and horrible calceolarias’ was vetoed by her immediately after her father inherited the estate (NUSC GBL 1 January 1905). At the same time, she enthused about the azaleas and rhododendrons established in Lowthian Bell’s time and comments that the garden must be ‘a vision of glory in the Spring’ (NUSC GBL 12 June 1905).

Gertrude may have had some influence on the garden in her grandfather’s lifetime as she sent home cherry trees from Japan for the various Bell properties, as she wrote: ‘Father! you are the Lord of 110 trees! Japanese cherries and plums, not dwarfed. I think we shall have to induce our respected father and grandfather to let us make a plantation at R'ton [Rounton] or Mt Grace - wouldn't it be nice to have a Japanese cherry grove!’ (NUSC GBL 1 June 1903)

3.3. 1904-1926

Bell died in December 1904 and the estate passed to his son Sir Hugh Bell who took up residence there. The valuation of the estate in 1905 describes the mansion at Rounton ‘sheltered by plantations and ornamental trees and shrubberies of which there are some fine specimens. The pleasure grounds are well laid out and there is a capital walled in kitchen garden.’ There is also mention of new buildings put in for the plant to supply electricity. The rent roll mentions ‘grass parks’ (NYCRO ZFK). Hugh immediately initiated improvements, including a private electricity supply (Lawton 2001, 113). Paths through the grounds were lit by electric lamps within living memory. There is reference to electricians in the house and a new water tank being installed (NUSC GBL 12 June 1905).

Hugh also followed in his father’s footsteps in his patronage of the Arts and Crafts movement and several buildings were added to the estate by the architect George Jack including the Motor House and Fowl House and the Gardener’s cottage in 1905 and the East lodge and gateway in 1909. The latter building cut across the block of land to the east, suggesting that the Bells had acquired the Hollins property by this time. Jack also built the common room, an extension to the mansion house itself in 1905-07 (Kirk 1990, 270). The linking ambulatory was probably roofed in tile at this date and further sheds added behind the vinery. Other service buildings were constructed near the Gardener’s cottage, including one to house generators dated 1905 and the water tower dated 1906. In the wider estate by 1911 further blocks of parkland had been added extending to the Wiske Bank plantation in the south west. Kennels had been added north of the pheasantry. In the vicinity of the boating pond, a path with a stone memorial alongside is remembered today as the ‘Lady’s walk’, created by Sir Hugh for his wife.

Hugh’s daughter, Gertrude, was also a passionate gardener and clearly took charge of the gardens from the moment her father came into possession. She continued to have a major input until WW1 when the focus of her life moved elsewhere. She was working with the head gardener James Hanagan only days after her grandfather’s funeral on the 23rd December. He had worked for her grandfather since at least 1881 and continued to work for the family until 1921: ‘I spent a most interesting morning with Hanagan…I had to arrange with him about some bulbs and plants which I had brought from Redcar and we then went through the seed list together and settled about the spring order, which must of course be sent off immediately…Hanagan also knows all the pipes by heart which is extremely useful as I found when I was going through the conservatory. I think his fruit and vegetables are very good and as for the flowers he has not had much of a chance so far’ (NUSC GBL 1 January 1905).

Although much of her time was spent away from Rounton in the following years, Gertrude continues to have the garden in mind: ‘I have discovered in Jerusalem a German who has started a market garden and collected all the bulbs of the country. I have ordered from him 6 wonderful sorts of iris and a tulip which he is to send to Rounton in the summer…One is the black iris of Moab, and another a beautiful dark blue one, very sweet scented, which grows in Gilead’ (NUSC GBL 3 February 1905).

According to her stepmother she spent the summer of 1906 at Rounton: ‘She was extremely keen about the garden and especially greatly absorbed in starting a rock garden which afterwards became one of the show gardens of the North Riding’ (Bell 1927, 225). Her inspiration for the rock garden may have been the plants she had seen on her mountaineering trips to the Alps but must also have owed something to having met Reginald Farrer, the rock garden specialist, on her visit to Japan in 1903: ‘Reginald Farrer, who is a great gardiner [sic], breakfasted with us this morning (Sunday) and he and I spent a happy morning in nursery gardens’ (NUSC GBL 28 May 1903).

The rock garden was situated around the small lake/fish pond in the SE of the gardens. By June 1907 the garden was presumably finished as there is reference in her letters to the cost: ‘I’m charmed to hear the rock garden looks nice. I don't think it's very dear considering what it is, do you? Has Backhouse planted the blue and white border? for that ought to be included in the account which makes it embrace more than the rock garden’ (NUSC GBL 14 June 1907). This is the sole reference to Backhouse, so likely to be the well-known Backhouse nursery in York, who offered landscaping services as well.

To date we have no record of what was planted there apart from Iris Sasania which she writes about growing wild in Egypt in 1909: ‘I looked at them, too, with despair, for they won't throw up one littlest flower on our rock garden, do what I will’ (NUSC GBL 20 May 1909).

As well as the original drive, the Grange had a new approach from the east lodge which passed through woodland to the north of the house, comprising rhododendrons, yew, holly and some huge oaks, before arriving at the front door. An alternative route took traffic leaving the house back through the woodland in a one-way system, still remembered today. Straight gravelled paths ran from the entrance area along the south and east sides of the house. Photographs show the lawns separated from the main entrance carriage sweep by a white paling fence (NUSC GBP PERS_U_028 1905). An ornamental garden bench placed just to the east of and facing the house on a short graveled spur of the paths appears on family photos which also show a small wooden hut in the background. The rectangular formal garden in front of the glasshouses, at least partly enclosed by low walls, were well established by this time with rose beds alternating with evergreen shrubs (Weaver 1915, 907; NUSC TVA Album 11 1921-24). Adjacent to this area and to the east surviving trees mark what was a ‘Yew walk’.

The mixed deciduous and evergreen woodland around the house appears to be denser than in Lowthian Bell’s time. Open lawns, dotted with trees, including beeches and a cedar of Lebanon, grown from a cone by Gertrude, extended to the south of the house and a lawned alley led to the fishpond where the rock garden was located (NUSC GBL 6 May 1911; NUSC GBP PERS_U_029 1905; Lawton 2001, 131).

The small pond existing in Lowthian Bell’s garden had been filled in and two new ponds created slightly to the west of it at the south end of the lawns. The lawns near these were studded with daffodils as Gertrude mentions in her letters: ‘the wild daffodils by the little pond will come out and nod their heads to the east wind’, ‘Are the little daffodils out at the bottom of the lawn?’ (NUSC GBL 6 May 1911, 24 March 1916, 17 April 1924). Photographs show these small ponds to have been shallow, planted with water lilies and surrounded by shrub and flower borders with a garden bench alongside (NUSC GBP PERS U 035 1905; NUSC TVA Album 5 & 11).

A watercourse is shown feeding through the larger of the ponds suggesting that this area would naturally have been boggy. Over the winter of 1912-13 Gertrude was writing to Sir Valentine Chirol about the new water garden she was creating. The location of this is not certain but may correspond to ‘stone lined rills’ observed in living memory near the mentioned watercourse and ponds above: ‘The new water garden…is in course of construction. If you look with the eye of faith you can see irises blossoming over the stones and mud heaps. I have planted the new water garden all over with labels, and must now order the corresponding plants’ (Burgoyne 1958, 280)

The addition of an outer wall, partly enclosing the kitchen garden seems to have been carried out early in 1911, or not long before, as Gertrude writes from Baghdad in March: ‘The garden wall, on the other hand, is a wonderful affair. You are making a fine job of it aren't you! We’ll plant the fruit trees this autumn and we ought to have fruit enough to satisfy the most ambitious when it's all done. Also what fine nursery borders I hope to wring out of Hanagan, bless him’ (NUSC GBL 18 March 1911).

Though out in the Middle East during the war, Gertrude continues to take an interest in the gardens and in 1918 sends tulip and thistle seed for Hanagan: ‘I collected the seed of a most wonderful thistle in Persia, one I've never seen before…Will you please give it to Hanagan and tell him it won't mind cold because it's accustomed to 4 months' snow where it grows on the hilltops, but it would like as much sun as it can get, and very sharp drainage. It's a sub-alpine. If it's really new we'll send it to Kew’ (NUSC GBL July 11 1918, Sept 5 1918). Seeds of this plant, apparently a species of Centaurea, were subsequently sent to Kew by Gertrude (Kew Archive DC/149/350).

Hanagan ‘a great figure in our Rounton life’ left the employment of the Bells in 1921 at the age of 77, though the family were still making plans for the garden when a new gardener was appointed later that year (NUSC GBL 15 May 1921; 11 September 1921; 13 October 1921). However, the Bells were needing to make economies in the 1920s. At the time the Bell’s main residence was still Rounton Grange but they also had Mount Grace Priory and other property locally as well as a London house. A draft of living expenses dated March 1925 includes £1250 as expense for gardens but this may include other gardens in Bell hands. The writer makes various suggestions for economising - staying at Rounton may be possible ‘if you decide to let the garden go to wreck’. Other savings might be made ‘by closing the gardens entirely’ and/or ‘by selling the garden produce’. In the event the Bells mothballed Rounton Grange and downsized to Mount Grace in 1926, the year that Gertrude died, as well as keeping the London house (NYCRO ZFK Estate correspondence; Kirk 1990, 475). It seems likely that the decline of the gardens dates from this time.

4 Later history

Sir Hugh Bell died in 1931 and was succeeded by his son Sir Maurice Bell who continued to live at Mount Grace. During the second World War Rounton Grange was requisitioned and initially used for evacuee ‘cripples’. Subsequently it became a POW hostel and, after the end of the war, a hostel for refugee farm workers run by the War Agricultural Executive Committee until 1948 (NYCRO ZFK Estate Papers; Waterson & Meadows 1990, 35; Kirk 1990, 475). It is unclear whether Sir Maurice Bell maintained the gardens at Rounton at this period, although his 1944 tax return includes named gardeners in his employment (NYCRO ZFK Estate correspondence). He died in 1944 and was succeeded by his nephew Sir Hugh Bell II.

The original war requisition included the house, part of the south facing lawn and a small area to the north. In 1948 there were proposals to extend the area but it is unclear whether this ever happened as requisition was terminated not long after. The military had cultivated ‘an area of garden adjoining a greenhouse’ as a kitchen garden. The most likely greenhouse is the one north of the house in a small enclosure part of which lies in the requisition area (NYCRO ZFK Estate correspondence).

Correspondence after Sir Maurice Bell’s death indicate that there were continuing problems for his heir with the hostel relating to the water supply, the sewage system, damage to the property and encroachments on the boundaries (NYCRO ZFK Estate correspondence). After the requisition terminated, Hugh II could not afford to maintain the house and was unable to dispose of it. He took the decision to demolish Rounton Grange in 1953/4, though other buildings on the estate survive (http://www.lostheritage.org.uk/houses/lh_yorkshire_rountongrange.html accessed 24 November 2017).

By 1965 the house and most of the glasshouse range had gone. The fishpond alongside the Wiske and the small ponds at the end of the lawn had been filled in and the lawn areas were becoming overrun by the woodland. By 1972 only the immediate site of the house remained clear. The Wiske Bank and Hungry Hill plantations were cleared and replanted around this date, though the woodland walks and ‘Lady’s Walk’ survived. By the early 2000s the Horseshoe and adjacent plantations had been merged and replanted, though the shape of the original mid 19th century horseshoe planting had survived or been recreated (Meridian Airmaps 1972; Google Earth imagery 2006, 2008, accessed 24 November 2017).

According to local sources, the area immediately to the north of the house was cleared and replanted by the Forestry Commission in the 1950s. The Forestry Commission’s hut, which was built over the former formal garden, survived until recently (Google Earth imagery 2006 accessed 24 November 2017).

The Motor House, originally built by George Jack in 1905 became an arts centre in 1979 when the artist Miles RIchmond, the husband of a granddaughter of Hugh Bell, returned to live there from abroad (www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/miles-richmond-painter-who-followed-his-teacher-david-bomberg-on-an-uncompromising-artistic-path-981773.html accessed 24 November 2017). Webb’s Coach House was renovated in 2015 and won an award for sympathetic renovation (http://www.nybcp.org/News/ID/30/No-more-horsing-around-at-East-Rounton; http://www.nybcp.org/News/ID/36/The-Old-Coach-House-wins-at-the-2015-LABC-Building-Excellence-Awards-Grand-Final accessed 24 November 2017) . The two lodges and the former gardener’s cottage are all inhabited buildings. The kitchen gardens are occupied by Dark Star Plants.

Associated People

Just one person associated to East Rounton Grange, Northallerton

References

Contributors

  • Report by Margaret Mathews, Yorkshire Gardens Trust (April 2018)