Walcot Hall (also known as Walcot Park)3401

Ludlow, Shropshire, England

Brief Description

Walcot Park has an extensive landscape park with an associated country house. Other features include an arboretum and a 12 hectare garden.

History

Walcot Hall, originally of the 16th century, had associated gardens from at least the late-17th century. There was also an extensive park at Walcot Hall as early as 1730. The house was rebuilt in 1763, after it was purchased by Robert, Lord Clive of India. The grounds were improved throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Visitor Facilities

The gardens are open for two days a year during the May bank holiday.

Detailed Description

Walcot Hall featured associated gardens as early as the late 17th century, shown on a drawing of the Hall. In front of the north-east front was an enclosed court with a central pedestal topped by a ball, apparently surmounted with a sculpted bird. From that court there was access into the main, terraced gardens. These featured a parterre which stretched for a considerable distance south of the house, and had as their centrepiece a circular pool with a fountain.

Impressive kitchen gardens were constructed to the west of Walcot Hall between 1703-1706, and they were probably some of the finest in the country at the time. They required over 700,000 bricks and nearly 7500 horse-loads of lime for mortar. Significant amounts of money were also spent on hundreds of yards of coping stone, 2700 iron hooks for fruit cordons, wheelbarrows, melon frames, trees and staking, and tools and expert advice. Walcot's gardens were famed for their fruit, and in 1790 there was already a greenhouse, a hot house, and a 'hot walk' was being planned. In 1791 a peach house was built in the garden, and peach and nectarine trees were bought for forcing. By 1822, there were a series of hothouses along the curving wall between the east front of the hall and the stables. They were said by Charles Hulbert, the Shrewsbury writer, to be 'the most spacious and costly I have ever beheld.'

There was already an extensive park at Walcot when it was mapped in 1730. Its boundaries at this point were very similar to those of the park in the later 19th century. The park featured a large double avenue, which ran north-east from the main front of the house, continuing east of Walcot Pool and south of Garden House. Only part of this avenue was still standing by 1883.

A second, slighter, avenue ran off north-west, at right-angles to the first, to the north end of Walcot Pool. A bridge across the pool, present in 1882, marked its end. The main drive from the house, which was also tree lined, looped south and east from the hall to Kempton, as well as north to Lydbury North. The southern and western boundaries of the park were planted up with shelter belts.

There were some alterations to the grounds between the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At least some of these must have been by William Emes, who was supplying trees and shrubs to Walcot in 1774. A new tree-lined entrance drive to the eastern part of the park had been created at some point after 1808 (as it is not Baugh's 1808 map of Shropshire). It ran south of the New Dairy, with a lodge on the main Lydbury North-Kempton turnpike. Another lodge lay about a mile to the south, also giving access off the turnpike.

By at least 1827, the fishponds which lay north-east of the house had been greatly extended at both ends into a serpentine lake called Walcot Pool. Reputedly the labour was provided by French prisoners-of-war during the Napoleonic Wars, but it may be that Emes was also responsible for this alteration. In 1799, Richard Colt Hoare, when visiting Walcot, noted 'a piece of water' before the house.

An arboretum first established by Lord Clive was expanded by his son to about 30 acres. The arboretum was kept up by successive owners, and its specimens included the first Douglas Fir in Europe, which was presented in 1842. About a half-mile south of the Hall a rustic summerhouse called The Hermitage was built in 1802, but deliberately destroyed in the mid-20th century to save on estate costs. It was an 'Indian temple' built as a thatched roundhouse surrounded by a verandah. It featured flooring of coloured flag stones and wicker roof and walls. The summerhouse also had an associated cedar grove and lime avenue.

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

Gardens (landscaped in the 1770s by William Emes), arboretum and deer park, in all totalling 180 hectares, associated with a country house.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Walcot stands to north of centre of its park, 1km to the south of the village of Lydbury North. From the main (east) facade, there are panoramic views out over Walcot Pool to the Long Mynd, 5km to the north-east. The area here registered is the decorative, core, parkland. It omits a much larger area, once within Walcot's deer park. The registered area is roughly triangular, extending from the north bank of Walcot Pool to a point 200m below Springhead, above the pools on Pigeonhouse Bank. From this core drives, included within the registered area, extend out to public roads. The area here registered is c 150ha.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The main approach is that from Lydbury North. The drive crosses farmland as a straight track lined with Turkey oaks, then enters the park, passing over the dam across Walcot Pool. From here it continues, turning south-east to become a straight, lime-lined approach to the east front of the house. This is part of an avenue present in the early C18, which ran across what was then farmland.

A second drive leads north from the village of Kempton, 2.2km to the south-south-east of the Hall. This starts at an estate cottage and runs north to arrive at the east front of the house. A second estate cottage, Park Cottage, late C18/early C19 (listed grade II), stands 30m to the north-east. Another approach leads west off the public road to the north of the village, over a late C18/early C19 bridge (listed grade II) past this cottage, then through a plantation, Sally Nursery, to join with the south drive. The south drive was the main approach in the early C18, at which date it appears to have been a tree-lined public road skirting along the eastern edge of the park. New roads were made between Walcot and Kempton in 1786-7.

A pair of early C19 lodges with attached walls, gate piers and gates (listed grade II) stand at an entrance at Brunslow Bridge, on the public road (B4385) to the east of the park, 1.5km north of Kempton. From them, an avenue, Walcot Avenue, leads west across meadows, and over the River Kemp via a probably late C18 limestone rubble bridge with ashlar dressings (listed grade II), continuing into the park to the south of The Dairy, to join with the south drive. To the east of the lodges the drive continues eastwards providing a route to Edgton.

A further lodge, Brockton Lodge, late C18, and remodelled mid to late C19 (listed grade II) stands outside the park, 60m south-east of the village of Brockton which lies 2.2km to the north-west of the house. To the south of the Lodge, a track leads east to the mid C19 Lake (formerly Walcot) Cottage (listed grade II) at the north-west corner of the park, continuing east across the park to join with the north drive.

In the early C18, the main approach to the house was via an avenue from the east which led past the buildings now known as Lower Gardens, and over a dam across a chain of three pools on the site of the present lake. The track then continued west along the then boundary of the park, towards the settlement of Lower Down. The park was later extended north of this track, and the approaches were altered, presumably at the time the lake was enlarged.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Walcot (listed grade II*) was rebuilt after 1763 by William (later Sir William) Chambers (d 1796) for Lord Clive of India. It is of brick, and has an eleven-bay, parapeted, two-storey entrance front with portico to the east, overlooking the lake. A ballroom was added to the west side of the house in the early C19, the west end of which gave access to a long, curving hothouse, also erected in the early C19 (pre-1822) and described by Charles Hulbert of Shrewsbury as 'the most spacious and costly I ever beheld' (CL 1939, 391). The hothouse was demolished in the mid C20, but the brick backing wall survives, linking the house to the stable court (after 1763, probably by Chambers; listed grade II) further to the west. That demolition was probably part of the works undertaken in the mid 1930s, when the house was reduced in size and remodelled.

Some 40m north-west of the house is a C19 game store (listed grade II), near which stands a dovecote of C17 origin (listed grade II).

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

There is a gravel sweep east of the house. The main gardens comprise lawns, which extend along the south side of the house and westward of it to the terrace ramping up to the east end of Walcot's arboretum. The lawns are bounded to the south-east by a deep, stone-fronted ha-ha which divides the gardens from the park to the south.

Walcot's arboretum was developed by Lord Clive's son, Edward, in the early C19. It covers an area of around 10ha and includes a Douglas fir grown from one of the original seeds supplied by Douglas in 1827. On the steeply shelving ground of the pleasure grounds, at the north end of the arboretum and to the west of the kitchen gardens, are two triangular fishponds. To the north of these, and north of the arboretum, is an area of woodland round an open paddock, through which runs a ride known as the Roundabout. A new (late C20) timber-framed house stands immediately outside the south-west corner of the arboretum.

Both John Walcot of Walcot and, in his own right, his gardener Thomas Dobbs, were among the subscribers to Stephen Switzer's Practical Husbandman and Planter of 1733-4. The gardens at Walcot at that time are shown on maps of c 1700 and c 1730. They ran south from the house and comprised six compartments arranged 3 x 2 about a central axis, on which, by c 1730, a fountain had been constructed. The area is now beyond the ha-ha and no visible trace of the gardens remains in the park. To the west of the house was a walled compartment, later partly overlain by the ballroom and hothouse complex, the western part of which survives as grassland running westwards to the base of the steep terrace below the arboretum.

Landscaping and planting work was carried out around the new house by William Emes (d 1803), who in 1774 was paid £133 for 'directing, planning and laying out the pleasure grounds at Walcot, trees planted etc' (SRRC 552/9/295/12, 27 April 1774). Flowering shrubs were supplied by Brunton & Co of Birmingham. Otherwise the precise nature and extent of Emes' scheme is unclear.

PARK

The landscaping is principally a late C18 and early C19 reworking of a C17 design.

The western edge of the pleasure grounds is divided from the parkland beyond by a stone wall, from a central entrance in which a sunken track leads to a pair of fishponds set in the pasture.

The park mainly lies to the south of the house but there are also smaller areas of parkland to the north, between the house and the lake, taken in in the late C18; to the west, already imparked in the early C18; and to the east, over which there are the open views from the east front.

The water, Walcot Pool, 2km long and 80m wide, forms a striking feature of the site, stretching eastwards from the north-west corner of the park to the dam which carries the north drive, then curving round to form the eastern perimeter of the park. The whole of the northern bank is moulded to form a contour dam, Pool dam. There are two boathouses, one by the dam carrying the north drive, the second, present by 1822, standing midway along the eastern half of the pool, 40m to the east of the house. The present form of the Pool had been defined by 1822, with French Napoleonic POWs reputedly having been used in its creation. Colt Hoare, in 1799 however noted that there was a 'piece of water' in front of the house, and an early C18 map confirms that the present lake was constructed by the extension of an existing series of pools occupying the central portion of the present water. William Emes may have had a hand in this.

A small wooded valley, Pigeonhouse Bank, lies to the south-west of the house. Its sides are laid out with rides, and on the valley floor are two fishponds, probably created from earlier ponds in the 1820s and 1830s. Some 100m to the west of the upper pool is the site of The Hermitage, an octagonal rustic 'Indian Temple' built in 1802/3 but burned down in the mid C20. The woodland continues eastwards, along Cedar Bank, which forms the south side of the valley and the southern edge of the registered site.

A mid C18 map indicates the knoll to the south of the house as imparked for deer as far south as the parish boundary, the land beyond being divided into fields. This agricultural land to the south of Cedar Bank, extending southwards to Lodge Farm, was later imparked and planted with a scattering of parkland trees and several small plantations including Park Plantation and The Clump. A band of land to the west of the southern approach also formed part of the mid C18 park, and a strip to the east was later taken in when the public road was re-routed and its former line became the south drive.

KITCHEN GARDEN

On rising ground to the west and north of the stables are extensive kitchen gardens, enclosed by stone-coped brick walls, which probably date from 1703-6. The gardens are in two irregular compartments, one running roughly west from the stables, with a gazebo (listed grade II*, possibly an adaptation of a pigeonhouse) attributed to Chambers set in the west wall (listed grade II, extending 70m either side of the gazebo). The second, larger compartment adjoins to the north. The cistern in the smaller garden and the fountain basin in the larger may have been connected with the waterworks for a fountain, known to have been constructed in the 1760s.

At the north end of the kitchen garden complex, built onto the external wall of the garden, is an C18 icehouse and vegetable store (listed grade II).

REFERENCES

Country Life, 86 (14 October 1939), pp 388-92

E G Harris, 'Those Good Old Days': A Lifetime of Service on a Large Country Estate (1981)

Walcot Hall: A Brief History, guidebook, (J Parish 1991)

P A Stamper, Historic Parks and Gardens of Shropshire (1996), pp 28, 40-1, 44, 48, 54-5, 57, 63-4

Maps

Map of demesne of John Walcot, around 1700 (private collection)

Map of Walcot Demesnes, around 1730 (875/2), (Shropshire Records and Research Centre)

Plan of Walcot Demesnes, 1822 (552/8/748-9), (Shropshire Records and Research Centre)

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1882-3, published 1891; 2nd edition surveyed 1901, published 1903

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1883; 2nd edition surveyed 1901, published 1903

Features

Style

  • English Landscape Garden
  • Lake
  • Description: Fishponds were enlarged into a serpentine lake, which lay off the front of the hall.
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  • Country House (featured building)
  • Description: Walcot Hall is a large red-brick house of two storeys, and eleven bays by eight. In the centre there is a one-storeyed portico of four Tuscan columns. To the west there is a ballroom added in the 19th century. The whole house was altered and reduced in 1933.
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  • Hothouse
  • Description: A series of elaborate hothouses were constructed along a curving wall between the house and the stables.
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  • Avenue
  • Description: There were two avenues in Walcot park. A large double avenue ran north-east from the main front of the house. A second one ran off north-west to the north end of Walcot Pool.
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  • Drive
  • Description: The main drive from the house, which was tree lined, looped south and east from the hall to Kempton, as well as north to Lydbury North. A new tree-lined entrance drive to the eastern part of the park was created at some point after 1808.
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  • Gate Lodge
  • Description: There were two lodges at the entrances of the main drives to Walcot Hall. They lay about a mile apart on the main Lydbury North-Kempton turnpike.
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  • Summerhouse
  • Description: An Indian-style summerhouse called The Hermitage was built in the park, featuring a thatch roof and a verandah. It was destroyed in the mid-20th century.
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Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The gardens are open for two days a year during the May bank holiday.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Lydbury North
History

Detailed History

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

Walcot was long held by the Walcot family, until in 1763 it was sold by John Walcot and his son Charles to Robert, Lord Clive. This was during the time Clive spent in England between his second and third terms in India, as he built up a large landed estate around Bishop's Castle. Almost immediately he brought in Sir William Chambers to rebuild the house, and about ten years later he employed William Emes to undertake improvements to its surrounds. After Clive's suicide in 1774, Walcot was inherited by his son, Edward, who married the heiress of the last Herbert Earl of Powis and in 1804 himself became Earl of Powis under a new creation. He made further alterations to the house, adding the ballroom and hothouse. His interest in horticulture being further evidenced by the large number of specimen trees planted about the grounds, some of which form the basis of Walcot's celebrated arboretum. The Clives sold Walcot in 1933. As of 1999 it remains in private hands

Period

  • Late 18th Century
Associated People

People associated to Walcot Hall

Contact
References

References