Worth Park (formerly known as Milton Mount Gardens) contains formal gardens, a recreational parkland and a lake area which has been recognised as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance.
The park was originally a medieval deer park and formed part of the Forest of Worth, which stretched from Slaugham in the South to Worth in the North. The Worth Park Estate was purchased by Sir Joseph Montefiore in 1850. Joseph died in 1880 and the house and garden were remodelled by his son Francis Abraham Montefiore.
Visitor FacilitiesThis is a municipal park, open daily for general public use.
Worth Park (more recently known as Milton Mount Park) was once part of the famous Worth Park Estate, the remnants of a high status example of a late Victorian garden, and is situated in an urban neighbourhood of Crawley, sandwiched between Grattans Drive and the Balcombe Road.
The park is mainly enclosed by a perimeter belt of trees with an informal network of paths. The paths encircle the formal pond area and the croquet lawn leading to the tennis court. A path crosses a ha-ha and leads to a circular walk around the informal lake at the northwest corner of the park. Some of the trees in the park today may exist from the original 1840s planting and include several varieties of oak and an avenue of cedars. A significant amount of the original Worth Park garden still exists from the early 1900s. The area around the lake includes Pulhamite features and contains a variety of fauna and rare plants.
The three examples of Pulhamite still existing at Worth Park, the rock garden, the islet in the lake and the fountain and basin in the formal gardens are listed Grade II as is Ridley Court, previously the stables to Worth Park. This good quality large purpose built stable wing is in the Italianate classical style and is substantially intact.
- Description: Pulhamite rockery built by James Pulham & Son.
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- Description: Ridley's Court, former stables to Worth Park.
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- Access & Directions
Access Contact DetailsThis is a municipal park, open daily for general public use.
Detailed HistoryFrom its original use as a medieval deer park this area has passed through five distinct stages on the journey to the municipal park we see today.
Worth Park was originally part of the Forest of Worth, which extended from Slaugham to Worth and formed part of the Warenne landholdings after the Norman Conquest. In 1279 John de Warenne claimed ‘Free warren and liberties in his Park in Worth'. However, the later chronology of residential use of the site is sketchy, with Norden's 1595 map of Sussex showing no building within the park.
The first glimpse of gentrification is shown in Morden's 1695 map of Sussex, with a large building within the park palisade. During this period the land was owned by the Shirley family of Wiston, who were responsible for developing and redeveloping other sites within Sussex. Although the property constructed during this period was destroyed by fire in the 19th century, the 1840 Tithe map and apportionment for the parish of Worth refer to the property as ‘Worth Park House and pleasure gardens' which gives an indication of the status of both house and gardens. A remnant of the formal landscape still remains in the form of a partial grand cedar avenue to the east of the gardens, which bisects the later 19th century gardens.
In 1850 a prominent London banker, Sir Joseph Montefiore, purchased Worth Park estate. Sir Joseph represents one of the many new gentry who moved into the area following the construction of the railway in the 1840s. Three years after purchasing the estate the original building was destroyed by fire, enabling Sir Joseph to construct a grand red brick mansion complete with 10 reception rooms, 10 bedrooms, and a stable quadrangle accommodating 18 carriages. Sir Joseph died in 1880, and his son, Sir Francis Abraham Montefiore began rebuilding the house. The Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener (22 December 1892) states ‘The rebuilding and extension of the mansion to its present noble proportion ... was commenced in 1884, and finished in 1887, and during the same period the grounds were completely remodelled. In planting the very choicest shrubs and trees have been selected, and are now growing into effective groups'. Sir Francis employed James Pulham and Son to construct the gardens. The gardens were laid out over four levels, capitalising on the elevated position of the site. The first level, which is at the highest point, consists of a formal garden to the east of the main house.
The garden consists of three circular areas known as the Sundial, Dutch and Fountain Gardens surrounded on one side by a semicircular Arts and Crafts inspired walkway. Country Life Illustrated 1899 remarked that ‘Variety is sought in the adornment of several special gardens, such as the fountain and sundial gardens ... These have something of a pleasing formality ... the beds of flowers are very attractive, and pyramidal golden yews add a pleasing note ... The curved corridor protecting one side of the garden is very unusual, and an interesting feature. Corridors in some ways analogous exist ... but the corridor at Worth Park is singular in having its opening filled with great sheets of glass, so that, within the glass, one is looking out through windows.'
The second level consists of a series of formal terraces, separated from the higher level by a grand staircase and balustrading, flanked and topped by large vases, with a large circular fountain as a centre point. This work is undoubtedly by Pulham, and is featured in his sales catalogue. Some of the original yews that framed the fountain still remain, and are a taste of the structured formal planting.
This area of the garden was separated from the open parkland by a ha-ha, which remains intact today. Finally, a large lake fringes the gardens. Map evidence suggests that the lake was constructed from redundant water features connected to the largely defunct iron industry. Along the edge of the lake, James Pulham created a naturalistic island using Pulhamite, which, although overgrown, is still distinguishable today. It is worth noting that a more detailed survey along this stretch of the gardens might yield other features by Pulham.
In 1915 Worth Park Estate was broken up and sold. The sales catalogue described the estate as a ‘Residential, Manorial, Sporting and Agricultural Domain.' The house and gardens were purchased in 1920 by a boarding school, originally situated on a hill near Milton, Gravesend. The name of the school was retained, and Worth Park re-emerged as Milton Mount College.
By 1963 Milton Mount College decided to sell both the house and grounds, the house was demolished in 1968, and was subsequently purchased by Crawley Borough Council. A new block of flats was constructed on the footprint of the Victorian house. However the gardens, although rather battered, still remain.
Crawley Borough CouncilTown Hall, The Boulevard, Crawley, West Sussex, RH10 1UZ
Sussex Gardens Trust