Heritage Category: Park and Garden
List Entry Number: 1000317
Date first listed: 11-Jun-1987
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: East Hertfordshire (District Authority)
District: East Hertfordshire (District Authority)
District: East Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TL 31671 18545
A late C18 landscape park with a lake and pleasure grounds, surrounding a country house, with mid C19 formal gardens.
The Boteler family acquired the manor of Watton in the C14, and later erected the brick building that was to remain the principal seat of the family until 1774. Philip Boteler (d 1592) obtained a license to create a park around the house, that park being increased in size during the early and late C17 (Debois 1985). During the latter period the gardens around the house were redesigned, and a grand formal approach created (The Avenue), 660 yards long and 100 feet wide. By the mid C18 (Dury and Andrews, 1766), when the estate was owned by John Boteler (1684-1774), the square, enclosed garden was laid out in formal enclosures around the house.
Sir Thomas Rumbold bought the estate, c 1777, from John Boteler's grandson, also John, for £85,000. Rumbold, who worked for the East India Company, demolished the remains of the house which had partly burnt out in 1771, building a new one designed by Thomas Leverton by c 1780, at some distance to the north. In 1782-3, when Rumbold returned from several years abroad, an extensive planting programme was put in hand, with plants supplied by the firm of William Malcolm and Son, Royal Nurserymen and 'Surveyors, Nursery and Seedsmen' of Stockwell, together with the construction of the walled kitchen gardens, also designed by this firm (Debois 1985). Malcolm probably laid out the landscape park which was developed at about this time, when the Broad Water lake was formed with ornamental features at both ends, but there is no direct evidence for this. A ha-ha enclosed the new house, taking in a c 3ha pleasure ground which was planted with oaks and shrubs, with a walk through a pleasure ground to the new kitchen garden to the east.
Rumbold sold the estate to Paul Benfield in 1794, who sold it on to Samuel Smith (d 1834) in 1801. Joseph Paxton (1803-65) was an apprentice gardener for him at Woodhall, briefly, from 1818. By the 1820s (Bryant, 1822) the park had taken on much of its present form, with a wooded pleasure ground linking the house and kitchen garden, containing a regular network of rides. Upon Smith's death his son Abel Smith inherited the estate, which continued in the family into the C20. The house has been occupied by Heathmount School since the 1930s, and playing fields and school buildings overlie part of the pleasure grounds.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Woodhall Park lies 6km north of the centre of Hertford, at the south-east edge of the village of Watton-at-Stone. The c 150ha site is bounded to the north and north-east by the A602 Ware Road linking Ware to the south-east and Stevenage to the north-west, and to the west by the A119 Hertford to Stevenage road. The other sides are bounded by agricultural land and woodland. A brick park wall, built c 1839, encircles the roadside boundaries. The park occupies undulating ground with two valleys enclosing the high ground in the north-east corner on which the house and pleasure grounds lie. The west valley, running from north to south through the west section of the park, contains the River Beane, which widens out into the Broad Water. The south valley runs from east to west through the south section of the park and contains a tributary of the River Beane, the two joining just south of Home Farm.
The setting is largely agricultural, with the village of Watton-at-Stone adjacent to the north-west. The north-west tip has been separated from the main body of the park by a late C20 diversion of the A119, forming the south end of the Watton-at-Stone bypass.
Views extend westwards from the hillside on which the house stands, towards agricultural land beyond the A119 and Bramfield Woods, these views being framed by Brickclamps and Hanginghill Woods (these three woodlands lying outside the area here registered). Views also extend from the west drive (west of the Broad Water), south along the River Beane valley towards Stapleford, and north from this valley, framed to the east by Clusterbolt Wood (outside the area here registered), towards the house.
The landscape park of Goldings (qv) lies 4km south of Woodhall Park, both estates having been in the ownership of the Smith family during part of the C19.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The main approach to the house is via the north drive, which enters c 250m north-north-west of the house, off the Ware Road, at Watton Lodge. The entrance is flanked by brick piers and a brick screen wall, set slightly back off the road. The single-storey brick lodge has a steeply pitched tiled roof with ornamental bargeboards, and was built c 1860s on the site of an earlier lodge building (Watton-at-Stone Tithe map, 1839). From here the drive curves south through lawns, with views south-west over the park and Broad Water to agricultural land beyond the A119, framed by woodland. The southern part of the drive extends through part of the pleasure grounds, opening out onto a lawn which it crosses to arrive at the carriage sweep adjacent to a late C18, single-storey portico which encloses the main entrance at the centre of the north-east front. The carriage sweep overlooks a broad lawn to the north-east, now (1999) largely given over to playing fields, framed by the mature trees of the pleasure grounds, including several cedars of Lebanon.
The south-west drive enters off the Hertford Road, 800m south-west of the house, its entrance being marked by Hertford Lodge East (c 1870, listed grade II) which stands on the north side of the drive on the site of an earlier lodge (Watton-at-Stone Tithe map, 1839). The single-storey lodge, erected by Abel Smith, is built of yellow brick with stone dressings in French Classical style and has a timber balcony. From here the drive extends east, overlooked by the house to the north-east, with views south along the River Beane valley. The drive skirts the south end of the Broad Water 650m south-west of the house, the Water terminated by a cascade and weir (listed grade II) overlooking the drive to the south. The drive is carried across the River Beane below the Broad Water and weir by a single-arched bridge (W Malcolm c 1780, listed grade II) built of yellow stock brick with stone dressings. From here the drive curves east, skirting around the north side of Home Farm, overlooked by the house to the north, and turns north-east to the former stable block, situated 350m from the house. The drive curves northwards from the stable block, entering the pleasure grounds c 120m south-east of the house. From here the drive curves north-west, passing a car park to the south set in the pleasure grounds, to the carriage sweep on the north-east front of the house. Formerly (OS late C19, early C20) a spur extended north-west off the drive, 200m south-east of the house, skirting the south side of the pleasure grounds enclosure, which it entered 50m south of the house, leading to the south-east front of the southern pavilion of the house.
The east drive enters the estate 1.35km south-east of the house, off the Ware Road. From here the east drive extends west through woodland to Ware Lodge (c 1840, listed grade II), built by Abel Smith and standing 1.1km south-east of the house, marking the entrance to the parkland. The single-storey lodge is built of stuccoed brick in Greek Revival style, and forms a Greek cross on plan. From here the east drive, flanked by the c 650m long Avenue, sweeps north-west down through the park, crossing the eastern tributary of the Beane 700m south-east of the house, carried partly on an embankment and cutting. The drive and Avenue ascend the hillside beyond the stream, terminating 350m south-south-east of the house at the south-east front of the stable block, at which point the east drive joins the south-west drive.
A further approach to the park enters at Southend Gate on the south boundary, 850m south of the house, giving access from Southend Farm to Home Farm, and several further drives cross the park.
By 1720 The Avenue had been created, carrying the east drive (1999) to the south-east front of the former house which stood where the stable block was subsequently constructed in the 1770s. The remainder of the present drive system was laid out in the late 1770s/early 1780s by Thomas Rumbold during his programme of major landscape works (Debois 1985).
PRINCIPAL BUILDING Woodhall Park (T Leverton 1777-82, altered 1794, listed grade I) stands in the northern half of the park at the top of a hillside, overlooking the Broad Water to the south-west and with views beyond to the distant Bramfield Woods being framed by woodland lying adjacent to the west boundary. The central three-storey block is flanked by two-storey wings, the whole built of yellow brick with stone dressings. The house, built in Neoclassical style, is entered via the single-storey portico (1794) on the north-east front, with a garden door at the centre of the south-west front giving access to the formal garden beyond. It has been used as a school since the 1930s. The house replaced an Elizabethan house formerly standing on the site of the present stables, which was partly destroyed by fire in 1771 and demolished in the late 1770s.
The large stable block (probably T Leverton 1777-82, converted 1957-8 to dwellings, offices and garages, listed grade II) stands 350m south of the house, on the site of the earlier house. Three brick-built, two-storey ranges surround a square stable yard. The yard is entered via a central pseudo-triumphal arch surmounted by a clock tower, set into the south-east range, standing close to the junction of the east drive and The Avenue (on which the arch is aligned) with the south-west drive from Hertford Lodge. A c 1ha garden was laid out by Brenda Colvin c 1958 to the west and south of the stables, after their conversion (Bisgrove 1978). By the mid C18 (Dury and Andrews, 1766) there was an extensive formal, compartmentalised garden around the Elizabethan house, of which nothing remains above ground.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS Formal gardens and associated informal pleasure grounds surround the house, and are dominated by a formal Italianate garden (c 1860s) to the south-west which is surrounded by a ha-ha retained by a sunken brick wall. The central garden door on the south-west front gives onto a flight of stone steps which leads down the grass terrace on which the house stands to a broad gravel path extending along the length of the south-west front. From here broad views extend west towards Watton-at-Stone, and south towards Stapleford. The view south-west across the Broad Water, beyond the park, extends across farmland towards the distant Bramfield Woods, framed by woodland.
The gravel path is flanked above, to the north-east, by the grass terrace on which the house stands, and to the south-west by a lower grass terrace, down which a further central flight of stone steps and two lesser, flanking flights of steps at either end of the terrace lead to a grass parterre. At the centre of north-east side of the parterre, 30m from the house and set in gravel, lies a complex circular stone fountain (c 1862, listed grade II), with a central raised bowl on a bulbous stem, the lower level now (1999) partly filled with earth and planted. Two circular grass panels, enclosed by gravel paths, lie equidistant to the north-west and south-east of the fountain, close to the garden boundary. The panels, which formerly each held a mature cedar tree (now gone), were originally joined to the fountain by two parallel gravel paths (also now gone) (OS 1898). Two flights of steps, aligned on the fountain and grass panels and marked by iron gates, lead down across the garden wall to the north-west and south-east, to the park beyond. A level lawn extends south-west from the fountain to the edge of the garden.
North-west, north-east and south-east of the house the pleasure grounds are laid to lawn and planted informally with mature trees and shrubs. The north-east lawn is crossed by the north and south-west drives as they approach the carriage sweep on the north-east front. An C18 icehouse formerly lay at the north-east edge of the north-east lawn (Debois 1985; gone, 1980s). A car park and school service buildings have been placed in the area immediately to the south and south-east of the house, and school buildings have been erected adjacent to the north-west front.
In the mid C19 (Watton-at-Stone Tithe map, 1839) the house stood on a rectangular platform, enclosed by pleasure grounds to the north-west, north-east and south-east. Through these pleasure grounds, which were set within a ha-ha, the drives ran to the entrance front. To the west the park appears to have extended up to the formal edge of the platform. By the late C19 (OS 1898) the formal garden had been constructed, and the pleasure ground north of the house contained an orangery set on the lawn with a fountain to the south (both gone, 1999), the latter features aligned on the centre of the north-west front. A further small garden building (gone, 1999) lay south of the house, adjacent to the west side of a path which led into the park and across to the stable block (OS 1898).
From the north end of the terraced garden a path (possibly a late C18/early C19 drive to Watton-at-Stone, Debois 1985) extends north-west across the park to The Springs, a narrow, wooded former pleasure ground containing paths and bounded to the south by the River Beane. The Springs is now (1999) bisected by the A119 Watton-at-Stone bypass. A dry pond lies close to the east end of The Springs, with the remains of a brick-reinforced spring close by to the west. This pleasure ground was presumably laid out during Thomas Rumbold's landscaping campaign of the late 1770s/early 1780s (Debois 1985).
PARK The park is laid to arable and pasture and contains many clumps and single trees, with extensive perimeter belts. It is divided into two parts, that to the north-west and that to the south-east. The north-west half is bisected by the River Beane running from the north-west corner to the south boundary, and is dominated by the enlargement of the river into the Broad Water lake, overlooked across a gentle slope laid to pasture by the house above to the north-east. The serpentine Broad Water extends 600m south-east from The Springs to the lake's termination at a weir, cascade and sluice (W Malcolm c 1780, listed grade II) which overlook the south-west drive to the south-east. The cascade face is built in an irregular brick and stone pattern, with stepped setts on one side, and is flanked by water channels which shoot the water into a pool below known as Tumbling Bay. From here the river continues south-east beneath the bridge carrying the drive, to encircle an island, before joining the eastern tributary 650m south of the house, the tributary having entered the park at the east boundary 1km south-east of the house. From the confluence the river flows south to leave the park 900m south-south-west of the house.
The south-east half of the park, flanking The Avenue, is the older half (Debois 1985) and contains many ancient pollards set largely in pasture. Incorporating the C16 deer park, it runs down the hillside from the house to the tributary of the Beane which extends through this area in serpentine fashion, and beyond this to the south boundary. On the north side of the tributary, an artificial and formal water channel known as The Cuts runs approximately parallel, possibly dug in the 1690s as a channel to drain hillside springs away from the pasture (ibid). The springs have dried up since the 1950s. The canal formed is divided by several walls which may be the remains of weirs. The Cuts is overlooked by the stable block, and seems to have been designed to be viewed from the old house which formerly stood on this site, doubling as an ornamental canal feature.
By 1720 the old deer park had been extended to 355 acres (c 148ha) and The Avenue had been planted (ibid). An informal layout may have been begun in the 1760s, but this was abandoned when the house partially burnt down in 1771. Following Thomas Rumbold's purchase of the estate in 1777, the park was extended and landscaped in the early 1780s and The Springs pleasure ground laid out. It was at this time that the park was enclosed with belts, the lake dug and new drives constructed. Malcolm supplied plants and may have supplied the designs for the park and other landscaping activities. By the 1820s (Bryant, 1822) a wooded pleasure ground had been constructed north-east of the house, between the house and walled garden, where now the school playing fields lie. The pleasure ground had a concentric network of paths crossed by radiating paths, creating a pattern reminiscent of a spider's web, and appears to have been connected to The Springs pleasure ground to the west via a belt along the north boundary. Few further changes occurred until c 1839, when the park wall was built and the park extended to its present size (Inspector's Report).
KITCHEN GARDEN The rectangular, walled kitchen garden (William Malcolm c 1782, listed grade II) is built of plum stock bricks, with stone dressings and iron gates. It is divided by internal walls into four separate areas, those two to the north-east being smaller and having contained service areas and glasshouses since the C19 (Bryant, 1822; OS 1886). The walled garden is enclosed by an outer area, formerly under nursery cultivation (OS C19). The Garden House is built into the north-west wall, close to the north corner, and The Beehive Cottage into the east corner.
J Horticulture and Cottage Gardener, 26 (30 April 1861), pp 78-9; (14 May 1861), pp 114-15 Country Life, 57 (31 January 1925), pp 164-71; (7 February 1925), pp 198-205 B Cherry and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire (1977), pp 407-8 R Bisgrove, The Gardens of Britain 3, (1978), pp 194-5 Woodhall Park, Hertfordshire: A Survey of the Landscape, (Debois Landscape Survey Group 1985) Woodhall Park: Inspector's Report, (English Heritage 1988)
Maps Dury and Andrews, A topographical Map of Hartford-shire, 1766 A Bryant, The County of Hertford, 1822 Tithe map for Watton-at-Stone parish, 1839 (Hertfordshire Record Office) Tithe map for Sacombe parish, 1839 (Hertfordshire Record Office)
OS 1" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1834 OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1884 2nd edition published 1899 3rd edition published 1925 OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1886 2nd edition published 1898
Description written: October 1999 Register Inspector: SR Edited: October 2000
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 1259
Legacy System: Parks and Gardens
This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.
End of official listing