Degraded mid C19 formal gardens by William Andrews Nesfield associated with a country house, with the remains of a landscaped park on which William Emes (before 1768), John Webb and Humphry Repton (1791) are all said to have worked.
The Crewe estate was purchased in the late C16 by Sir Randulph Crewe (d 1646), a successful London lawyer who in 1625 was appointed Lord Chief Justice. It descended in his family until 1679 when it passed by marriage to John Offley of Madeley (Staffs), whose son and heir John (d 1749) reverted to the name Crewe. He was succeeded by his son John (d 1752), and he in turn by his son, also John (1742-1829), who served as MP for Stafford 1765-8 and for Cheshire 1768-1806, and who in 1806 was created Baron Crewe of Crewe. It was he who commissioned Emes and Repton to improve the setting of his house, which itself he greatly enlarged c 1800. In the 1860s Crewe Hall was surrounded by new gardens designed by W A Nesfield (1793-1881), and was then rebuilt after a serious fire by Hungerford Crewe, the third Baron, who had inherited in 1835. The third Baron never married, and on his death in 1894 the estate passed to his nephew Lord Houghton, who in the 1930s sold the bulk of it to the Duchy of Lancaster. After the Second World War the Hall was leased as offices, from 1966 by the Wellcome Foundation. In 1997 the Hall and Stables stood empty as a commercial tenant was sought.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Crewe Hall stands c 3km south-east of Crewe. In the 1980s a new road system was laid out along the southern edge of the park, which is now bounded by the A5020 from Crewe to Stoke-on-Trent, via Junction 16 of the M6. Minor local roads run around the east and north sides of the park. To the west the park boundary follows the western edge of Rookery Wood. The area here registered is c 200ha.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The main approach to the Hall is up a straight, 500m long drive from the south, relaid and lined with trees c 1980. At the south end of the drive is the two-storey, brick, Golden Gates Lodge and its associated monumental iron gates on tall brick piers. All may be of c 1878, the date of the Hall's south courtyard walls and gates to which the drive leads. Pevsner (1971) calls this Weston Lodge, and records an attribution to William Eden Nesfield (1835-1888).
There are several other lodges, each marking what was once a secondary approach; farm tracks still lead from one or two. Some 200m north-east of the Golden Gates is the single-storey Stowford Lodge, built in 1879 in the vernacular style with decorative timber framing on the upper part of the brick building, a tiled roof and a tall brick chimney. Bottle Neck Lodge on the east side of the park is in a similar style as indeed are Park and Appletree cottages, a semi-detached pair of dwellings c 300m to its north. W E Nesfield adopted a similar style for buildings he designed for the estate 1860-6 (at the same time that his father was redesigning the Hall's gardens), and it seems that whoever produced Stowford and Bottle Neck lodges was heavily influenced by what had been done fifteen years before.
Slaughter Hill Lodge (listed grade II), at the end of the former north drive, is a single-storey building of 1847 in the Jacobean style by Edward Blore (d 1879).
Crewe Hall (listed grade I) is a large and impressive brick building with stone details. Although superficially of one build, it in fact incorporates four main phases of work. Begun in 1615 and completed in 1639, Sir Randulph Crewe's new house was said by Thomas Fuller to have 'brought London into Cheshire' (Figueiredo and Treuherz 1988, 66). That house, a square block of two tall storeys with a perforated parapet and with sides c 30m long, remains as the core of the present building, to which a large service wing was added to the west end c 1800 in a similar style. In the 1830s a programme of restoration works was carried out by Edward Blore, with huge expenditure on the interior. In 1866, after the Hall was seriously damaged by fire, it was restored and rebuilt by Edward Middleton Barry (d 1880), who was however able to leave the exterior relatively unaltered.
Closing the west side of the south forecourt is a high quality, quadrangular, brick stables courtyard (listed grade II*) of 1636, to which Blore added a tower in 1837.
To the north-west of the Hall are commercial buildings and compounds of the later C20. A large industrial estate immediately east of the Hall is excluded from the registered area, as is Crewehall Farm, the C19 home farm which stands on the south-east side of the industrial estate.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The south forecourt, divided by the main approach drive and with a grassed turning circle, measures c 100m from east to west by c 75m. It is laid to lawn with some irregularly grouped C20 trees and shrubs. The court is entered via elaborate iron gates of 1878 by Cubitt & Co, which hang on stone piers (all listed grade II). Low perforated brick walls run off to either side.
East of the Hall is a narrow terrace of the 1860s, which overlooks a later C20 parterre rose garden, derelict in 1997. On the far (east) side of that garden are two plinths, one of which retains its statue, a life-size man with dog, similar in style to one in the North Garden.
The main garden lies on the north side of the Hall, below a terrace whose baluster rail is beset with carved beasts; how much of the detailing was by Barry, and how much by Nesfield, is uncertain. From the terrace, three flight of steps leads down to the lawn which runs gently downhill for c 75m. Short flights of steps further down the lawn indicate the former line of paths. Near the centre of the lawn is an early C19 stone spiral sundial (listed grade II). The upper part of the lawn is c 70m wide, but about half-way down it narrows to c 30m, its northern part being bounded by a beech hedge concealed within which is an elaborate pierced stone balustrade of c 1860. One statue remains on the west edge of the lower garden, of a man with a dog. In the northern end of the garden is a roughly oval, 15m long, C20 pool surrounded by a wide, flagged path. Low yew hedges lie east and west of it. Some 15m beyond the north end of the garden is a statue of Neptune and a nymph (perhaps early C19, listed grade II) which stands on top of a C19 boathouse. The roof formerly served as an architectural terrace projecting into the lake from the end of the garden and off which flights of stairs led down to landing places. On the north side of the boathouse is a stone arched entrance, its keystone decorated with a bearded head.
The gardens at Crewe Hall were laid out c 1860 by William Andrews Nesfield, and photographs reproduced in Country Life in the early C20 (CL 1902; 1913) show the complex parterres which were their main feature, as well as the sweeping view, now lost, down the North Garden and across the lake to the woodland beyond. Nesfield's garden design at Crewe incorporated interlaced letters, and in 1863 an observer noted the 'curves of variegated gravel and its thick box edging, its broad terraced walks and flights of steps, guarded by quaintly-carved balustrades and strange heraldic monsters ... its prevailing colours of buff and blue [recall] the old traditions of the family' (Elliott 1986, 139).
That scheme returned a formal setting to the Hall, a setting which had been done away with during the later C18 improvements to the grounds; a view of 1818 (Ormerod 1819, pl between pp 168-9) shows the park running up to the walls of the Hall. Those earlier formal gardens and walks, laid out, presumably, in the early C17 at the time the Hall was built, are shown in a painting of c 1710 (Harris 1979, 142).
The Hall stands in the middle of a roughly circular park 1.5km in diameter. The park is fairly flat, although north of the Hall the ground falls gently towards the valley of the Englesea Brook, dammed in the C18 to form a lake, before rising again to the north-east.
The main feature of the landscape park was the lake immediately north of the gardens, which was c 800m long from east to west and 300m wide, and with a tail extending east to Lagger's Bank and Crewe Bridge East on the eastern border of the park. The north and east drives from the Hall were carried across the tail of the lake on a bridge. The present bridge is an elegant concrete structure, probably of the very early C20. In 1941 the lake was drained after the dam gave way, and its area is now planted with mature poplars.
That wood is but one of several large areas of commercial woodland within the park, extending to the west as Rookery Wood and to the north as Temple of Peace Wood. The last originally lay along the north shore of the lake, the eponymous temple remaining standing until at least 1892. There is a further block of woodland west of Bottle Neck Lodge, on Philip's Hill, while a plantation belt runs around the north-eastern boundary of the park, between Slaughter Hill Lodge and Appletree Cottage. Almost all the rest of the registered park is intensively farmed, most of it for arable crops.
In his account of his tour published in 1768 Lord Verulam states that ‘The situation of Crewe hall is flat and has been without a park, which the present Mr Crewe is now laying out under the direction of Mr Eames’.
The pupil of William Emes, John Webb (1754-1828) is also said to have worked at Crewe (Stroud 1975, 207-8). In 1791 Humphry Repton (1752-1818) produced designs for an ornamental lake and new approaches.
The brick-walled kitchen garden compartment lies c 50m west of the stables courtyard. It measures c 140m east/west and 80m north/south. The brick walls are perhaps C18. In the centre of the east wall, looking into the garden, is a three-bay, two-storey gardener's house of c 1800. Inserted into the east end of the north garden wall is an elaborate early C17 stone entrance. It was presumably moved here when landscaping took place around the Hall in the later C18 and it may be that which originally stood east of the Hall and which is shown on a C17 engraving (Ormerod 1819, 168).The interior is occupied by a 1960s wooden social club, a football pitch, tennis courts, and a bowling green.
Along the outside of the south wall of the garden is a belt of ornamental planting, including mature spruce trees. Immediately east of the kitchen garden is The Apple House (listed grade II), a two-storey octagonal brick storehouse of c 1636 with a pyramidal tiled roof.
G Ormerod, The History of Cheshire iii, (1819), pp 166-70
The Gardeners? Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette, (7 February 1863), p 124
Gardeners? Chronicle, (17 January 1885), pp 75-6; (17 December 1892), pp 737-41
Country Life, 11 (20 March 1902), pp 400-08; 33 (3 May 1913), pp 634-40
Burke, Peerage (1913), p 529
N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cheshire (1971), pp 191-5
D Stroud, Capability Brown (1975), pp 207-8, 222
J Harris, The Artist and the Country House (1979), p 142
G Carter et al, Humphry Repton, Landscape gardener 1752-1818 (1982), p 149
B Elliott, Victorian Gardens (1986), p 139
P de Figueiredo and J Treuherz, Cheshire Country Houses (1988), pp 66-71
OS 6" to 1 mile: Cheshire sheet 56, 1st edition published 1882
Cheshire sheet 57, 1st edition published 1882
Cheshire sheet 56, 2nd edition published 1911
Cheshire sheet 57, 2nd edition published 1911
Cheshire sheet 56, 3rd edition published 1938
Cheshire sheet 57, 3rd edition published 1938
OS 25" to 1 mile: Cheshire sheet 56.12, 1st edition published 1876
Cheshire sheet 57.9, 1st edition published 1876
The Crewe Hall archives are said to have been burned in the mid C20 (information from Dr Keith Goodway)
Description written: August 1997
Register Inspector: PAS
Edited: April 1999
The listing was enhanced in 2016.