A multi-layered landscape developing from a modest 18th century layout, through aggrandisement in the 19th century, to its present form with design by Tom Stuart-Smith.
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Spencers is 1km north of Great Yeldham on the road to Tilbury-juxta-Clare. The entrance is in Tilbury Road which is off the A1017 at Great Yeldham
William and Caroline CourtauldSpencers, CO9 4JG
The earliest recorded layout of Spencers, which was acquired after the death of Lady Bateman in 1769 by Mrs. Sarah Chambers, is on Chapman and André of 1777, showing an irregular T-shaped property approached by a long drive from the Great Yeldham-Tilbury road. Before reaching the entrance, the line of the approach passed what appears to be a series of kitchen gardens arranged in a straight line; it then curled round the house to gain access to the stables.
In 1783 Mrs. Chambers sold Spencer Farm for £1400 toGregory Lewis Way, a barrister with a literary turn. A letter (quoted in History of the Way Family by H Way, 1914) written to Way as a prospective purchaser, describes Spencer Farm as ‘one of the seats of Viscountess Dowager Bateman deceased, which. she built in the midst of about 18 acres of ground, that is copyhold of Inheritance at a fine certain, and which is pleasantly disposed round the house. The remaining 5 acres about 100 Rod from the outer Gate is leasehold … this might be made free at a trifling expense. Out of the high road … you drive down a gravel road through the grounds to the house, which stands environed by its own gardens and fields. …’.
By 1799 (the year ofGregory Way’s death) some change is recorded on the Ordnance Surveyors’ Drawings. The land to the south of the approach has been taken into the garden area, with four clumps of planting within the section by the road. Spencer Farm was inherited by Rev. Lewis Way in 1799, while his brother John acquired Spaynes Hall a short distance away. Lewis died in 1835 but his widow Caroline Elizabeth lived until 1882 and appears on the Tithe Award as the owner/occupier of Spencer Farm.
The remnants of the 1799 layout are still visible on the first edition 6” OS (1876), but the grounds have been considerably enlarged and improved by that date. This may reflect improvements by Lewis Way, as the Tithe Map (although earlier) gives no landscaping detail, and would accord with the improvements and alterations made to the house in the early C19. Perimeter plantations run along the entire northern boundary, and the pleasure grounds to the south of the house have been deformalised and extended. A second approach has been made, running south-south-east to join the Great Yeldham-Tilbury road near Brook Farm. This approach is a partial avenue, made through land described on the Tithe Award (1840) as a pasture and an arable field. Not until the third edition 6” OS (1919) does the avenue appear to be continuous.
The long ownership of Spencers by the Way family ended in 1920 when the property was purchased by Andrew Duncan. The 1924 edition of the 6” OS shows little difference from the 1874 edition, apart from the completion of the avenue. A small block plantation has been made north of the walk to the brook, and some extra land taken into the park and the south-west boundary.
From 1937 Spencers has been associated with the Courtauld family with a short break in 1960 when it was bought by Lord and Lady Denham. The sale catalogue of that date describes the two drives, one with entrance lodge and the other with an arch-like avenue of walnut trees. The park surrounding the house contained a number of fine trees, and the large lawn to the south-east and west of the house was also well timbered. The walled kitchen garden contained a brick-built potting shed, three greenhouses and a range of cold frames.
In 1978 Spencers became the home of Lord and Lady Butler (previously Mrs Courtauld). The present owners, Mr. and Mrs. William Courtauld, commissioned garden designs from Tom Stuart-Smith, who has worked intermittently at Spencers for some years.
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English Landscape Garden
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Open to the public