A late C19 garden of formal terraces and informal pleasure grounds laid out around a late C19 house, set within a wooded park created in the early C19 for which Humphry Repton prepared proposals in a Red Book of 1800 and in which stand the ruins of the former monastic house of Bayham Abbey.
Bayham Abbey was founded c 1200 as a house for monks of the Premonstratensian order, the first buildings probably being completed by 1211. The abbey was suppressed in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey and the estates leased by Henry VIII to Anthony Browne, Lord Montague. In 1583, the Sussex portion was sold by Queen Elizabeth to two brothers called Adams who sold it on to a Mr Barham from whom it descended to another Browne family, apparently unconnected with Lord Montague. In 1714, Ambrose Browne sold the estate to Sir John Pratt, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, a younger son of whom became Lord Chancellor and later the first Earl Camden. Bayham passed from Sir John to his eldest son in 1724 and then to his grandson, another John, in c 1740, who extended and gothicised the present Dower House which was admired by Horace Walpole in 1752 (guidebook).
In 1797, Bayham was inherited by John Jeffries, the second Earl Camden, who in 1799 commissioned Humphry Repton (1752-1818) to advise on improvements to the estate and to provide designs for a new house. The principal proposals in Repton's Red Book for Bayham, dated 1800, included the creation of a lake towards the western end of the valley with the new house sited on its north-east bank, a new approach drive from the west along the south side of the lake, the reduction of the gothic Dower House to a cottage, and the development of the valley landscape to retain its character of forest to the west and of a more highly dressed lawn fed by cows and sheep but not deer, to the east. Repton made a second visit in 1814 by which time only the proposal fro the lake had been adopted, although later maps suggest his proposals influenced the valley landscape. His suggestion of a new site for the house, further to the north-east on a spot more elevated than the first, was later adopted by the third Marquess when, in 1870, he built the present house and laid out the surrounding gardens. Bayham remained with the Camden family until 1961 when the fifth Marquess placed the abbey ruins in the guardianship of the state; these are now (1998) managed by English Heritage. The house and c 16ha of gardens, ancillary buildings, and grounds were sold in the mid 1970s then divided into separate private ownerships and resold in 1977. The majority of the estate remained in hand until 1993 when that also was divided and sold into several private ownerships.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Bayham is situated c 1.5km east of Bells Yew Green village, on the north side of the B2169 which runs south-east from Tunbridge Wells to Lamberhurst. The 368ha site comprises c 14ha of formal and informal gardens around the house and 354ha of woodland, farmland, lakes and ponds, and the ruins of the abbey. It lies in the west to east valley of the River Teise, occupying the steep north- and south-facing valley slopes and the ridge crests above, the floor of the valley broadening into a more open landscape at the eastern end. The site is bounded along the south side by the B2169 and by a minor lane in the south-east corner but otherwise, its wooded and farmed slopes merge into a surrounding landscape of similar character. The Teise forms the administrative boundary between East Sussex and Kent, the site lying half in each county.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The approach to the site is from the B2169 to the south. This road was constructed in 1799 by the third Marquess as a turnpike to replace the former public road which ran parallel, c 300m further north and within the estate and which emerged on the eastern boundary to the north of the former late C19 Bayham church (now converted to a private house). The drive enters at a lodge cottage mid-way along the southern boundary and runs north-north-east, through the site of the former Home Farm, to cross a bridge over the dam at the east end of the lake. It then swings north-west up the valley side before turning eastwards to enter the gardens through wrought-iron gates hung on stone gate piers at Garden Lodge (lodge and gateway both by David Brandon 1870-2, listed grade II). Some 200m further east the drive terminates at a grassed turning circle on the north, entrance front of the house. The entrance and drive as far as Home Farm were established by 1820, as was the section of the drive up the valley side north of the lake, this latter comprising part of an extensive system of drives laid out through the estate by that date (estate map, 1820). The section from the farm to the lake had appeared as a route by 1873 (OS).
Bayham Abbey (listed grade II) stands towards the east end of the valley, on a level platform, halfway up the south-facing slope and with extensive views within and beyond the site both southwards and eastwards, the ruins of the former abbey forming the focus of the vista to the south-east. The main portion of the house, which is built in Jacobean style of coursed, hammer-dressed ragstone, is of three storeys with projecting gables on both the entrance and garden fronts and with a slate roof. The lower, three-storey service wing to the east has a shaped gable and a bell tower. The house was built in 1870-2 by the architect David Brandon on the site suggested by Repton on his second visit in 1814 (letter of that date to the second Earl). To the immediate north-east of the house is the two-storey stable courtyard (listed grade II), also by Brandon, built in red brick with ashlar dressings and with a central clock tower. Both the house and stable courtyard, and a number of ancillary buildings to the north, were converted to separate private apartments and dwellings in 1977.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The formal and informal gardens lie to the west, south, and east of the house. The south front opens onto a series of four descending levels of narrow terraces, laid out with the house in 1870-2, which are retained by steep grassed banks and lined with walks. The terraces are linked by flights of steps axial on the south front and are enclosed from the park by a perimeter pierced, parapeted wall. The lowest terrace level extends southwards in the form of a bastion with a stone fountain as a central feature. The top level of terrace and the perimeter wall extend around to the west front of the house to form a square lawn laid out with rose beds and with a central sundial. From the west side of the lawn, steps lead down to a 150m long west-running walk which is lined with an avenue of cherry trees.
North-westwards from the avenue and the house, informal lawns laid out either side of the main drive in the late C19 are dotted with a few mature trees which survive from the extensive scatter shown on the OS editions of 1909 and 1939. The lawns are enclosed to the north and west by belts of trees and from the entrance forecourt to the east by informal rhododendron shrubbery. Northwards beyond the lawn, some 100m north of the lodge is a dell containing the remains of a rock and water garden with a central pool, now (1998) in an overgrown and derelict state. North of the rock garden and east of the walled kitchen garden, rising grassy slopes are partly planted as an orchard which is shown covering a more extensive area in 1909 (OS). To the south-west of the house, the slopes down towards the lake are under grass and open in character, the former scatter of ornamental trees and shrubberies, which in 1909 extended southwards around the rocky weirs in the river below the dam, now largely gone.
North of the house the forecourt is enclosed with further shrubbery around the stable block while to the east, further informal gardens extend 300m eastwards from the terraces. These are enclosed from the park by iron park paling and are largely laid to open grass with, c 150m from the house, two north to south sections of yew hedge surviving from the late C19 maze which was removed in the 1950s. East of these is a hedge-enclosed swimming pool and a dell planted with clumps of mature trees.
The western half of the park is largely wooded while the eastern half is open in character, the general disposition of the surrounding woodland blocks similar to that shown on Thomas Budgen's estate map of 1800. West of the house the north- and south-facing slopes of the Teise valley are planted as mixed woodland; this suffered damage in the storm of 1987 and was replanted in the 1990s. The open land between Furnace and Forge Woods and that to the south of Great Coppice Wood is under arable cultivation and it is unclear how much of Repton's proposals for softening their surrounding woodland edges, as shown on the map in his Red Book, were ever carried out. Bayham lake, constructed in the first decade of the C19 to Repton's proposal although to a less serpentine form, is largely tree-fringed except towards the western end where recent dredging, the re-forming of the lake shore, and the construction of Lake House (c 700m west-south-west of Bayham Abbey) in 1998, has left the north shore open.
The valley floor and slopes in the eastern half of the park are under mixed arable cultivation, interspersed with a few small areas of wood and with a few isolated mature oaks surviving from the scatter of parkland clumps and individual trees shown on the estate plan of c 1820. The parkland character appears to have been created between 1815 and c 1820, the estate map of land in hand in 1815 still showing most of the former field pattern. Some 600m south-east of the house the ruins of the former C13 Bayham Abbey stand on the south side of the river, which flows through an elongated, former monastic fishpond, now heavily silted. Bayham Abbey (scheduled ancient monument, listed grade I), became a ruin following its dissolution in 1536-7 and served as a picturesque feature in the landscape in the late C18 (watercolour by James Lambert, 1785), while in the early C19, the interiors were laid out as a flower garden (Loudon 1822). To the immediate west of the abbey stands the Dower House (listed grade II), a two-storey house with the north and east fronts built in Tunbridge Wells stone rubble and the south and west fronts in red brick with tile hanging above. The early C18 south wing was extended before 1752, with a north wing designed as a small villa in a Gothic style, the south wing being refaced to create a principal front facing the ruins to the east between 1799 and 1814, possibly to designs by Repton (guidebook). The grounds of the house to the south-west are laid to lawn with islands of evergreen shrubbery and mature yew trees.
The kitchen garden lies 360m to the north-west of the house and is of late C19 origin. It is laid out on a south-facing slope, now (1998) laid to grass, and comprises a 110m x 90m compartment enclosed by high, red-brick walls. Two lean-to glasshouses on the south-facing wall, under restoration in 1998, survive from three shown in 1909 (OS), while on the north side of the wall is a range of lean-to, brick-built garden stores, also under restoration in 1998. The former bothy and gardener's house to the west and north of the garden were converted to private dwellings in the mid 1970s.
J C Loudon, Encyclopaedia of Gardening (1822), p 1230
Country Life, 94 (1 October 1943), pp 596-9; (8 October 1943), pp 640-3
D Stroud, Humphry Repton (1962), pp 102, 124
J Newman, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald (1969), p 139
P Carter et al, Humphry Repton (1982), p 155
Bayham Abbey, Draft Landscape Report, (Cobham Resource Consultants 1984)
Bayham Abbey, Historical Survey, (Land Use Consultants 1985)
Bayham Abbey, guidebook, (English Heritage 1985)
Inspector's Report: Bayham Abbey, (English Heritage 1988)
J Andrews, A Dury and W Herbert, A Topographical Map of the County of Kent, 2" to 1 mile, 1769
T Budgen, Bayham Estate, 8" to 1 mile, 1800 (reproduced in LUC 1985)
Farmland in Hand at Bayham from a Survey of Bayham Estates, 1815 (reproduced in LUC 1985)
Bayham Abbey, estate map, 4 chains to 1", c 1820 (reproduced in LUC 1985)
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1873
3rd edition published 1909
OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1873 (Sussex portion only)
3rd edition published 1909
James Lambert, watercolour, 1785 (British Library)
Pratt MSS of the Bayham Estate (KAO U840), (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)
Humphry Repton, The Red Book for Bayham, 1800 (private collection)
Description written: April 1998
Amended: January 1999
Register Inspector: VCH
Edited: October 2003