A landscape park and gardens laid out in part by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown from 1765, and with landscaping, planting and structures by James Paine and John Webb, all under the direction of Sir Henry Bridgeman, Earl of Bradford. The park has had later additions and alterations, most notably the incorporation of Tong Knoll, the landscape feature that dominates the views to the south from Weston Hall and its formal gardens.
Reasons for Designation
Weston Park, a landscape park and gardens laid out by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and John Webb in the mid-C18 to early-C19 under the direction of Sir Henry Bridgeman Earl of Bradford, and with further development throughout the C19 and C20, is Registered at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: a designed landscape laid out over a number of centuries and associated with Weston Hall and from 1855 including Tong Knoll. Sir Henry Bridgeman, whose overall vision fed the original scheme, was a notable improving farmer in the region. His contribution to the built fabric and landscape both within Weston Park and in the wider estate is still legible and of some note;
* Designers: it is associated with a number of influential and/or prolific landscape architects, including Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and John Webb, and architects incuding James Paine;
* Planting and landscape: the park uses its natural topography to great and dramatic effect, planted with mature trees, lawns and formal gardens giving distinctive character to different areas within the park;
* Group value: together with Weston Hall (listed Grade I), the Temple of Diana (listed Grade I), and other listed and unlisted buildings within the park and gardens, it forms an important group.
There were two deer parks at Weston Park and its immediate environs by 1346 and veteran trees survive from the manor’s early years when it was held by the De Westons. A manor house and church occupied the current site of Weston Hall and the Church of St Andrew under the Myttons from the C15 to C17. Elizabeth Mytton inherited the manor in 1638, at the age of 6 years old, and married Sir Thomas Wilbraham in 1651. The former manor house is shown on an estate plan of 1658 as a four-bay gabled building with the church, a plantation and two pools to its north and west. A road to Weston Hall followed the line of the later Shrewsbury Walk. To the east of the house were enclosures with two buildings and further east were the two deer parks: The Upper Parke to the east and The Lower Parke to the south. Lower Parke had a building marked within a square, a possible hunting lodge on a moated site.
The Wilbrahams embarked on the rebuilding of the house from 1671, probably to the designs of architect William Taylor of London, although both the hall and the adjoining church (rebuilt around 1702) have been attributed to Lady Wilbraham. Taylor may also have designed the nearby stable block. The stone used for the building of the house was apparently quarried from the north face of Tong Knoll, which terminates the south view from Weston Hall, but was then part of Tong Castle Estate. The Weston Estate passed to Lady Wilbraham’s daughter Mary in 1703, who married Richard Newport, Second Earl of Bradford. Weston Park is shown on a Rocque Map of 1752 with the estate open to Lizard Hill in the west and a large wooded enclosure marked as ‘Weston Park’ to the south-west of Weston Hall. The park is connected to the hall by avenues of trees through a wooded area. A further avenue is shown to the west of the hall and a sketched lane, probably latterly Mill Lane, leading south around Tong Knoll (‘Tong Noule’). The map shows a road passing east/west over Tong Knoll and at its east end dividing Weston Park and a plantation marked ‘Boxobel Wood’ to the south. A slightly earlier 1739 parish map of Tong and Tong Norton shows ‘Tong Knowl’ with no apparent road across it, and abutting the boundary of Weston Park, the latter labelled as ‘Belonging to the Earl of Bradford’. A meandering lane on the approximate course of the current Mill Lane appears to be shown.
In 1763 the estate passed to Sir Henry Bridgeman, later Lord Bradford. Bridgeman spent over £12,000 on improvements to the house, grounds and home farm buildings, bringing in, among other contractors, Lancelot Brown (1716-83) who at the time was providing plans for the landscape at Tong Castle, a few miles to the south. While it is uncertain precisely what Brown actually designed, and responsibility for the final designs ultimately lies with Bridgeman, the two contracts for Brown's works at Weston (1765 and 1766) that were made, and a plan of around 1765, do give some indications. The contracts mention a number of existing park and garden features, most of which disappeared over the next few years: the Square Pond; the Fountain Pool; the East Avenue; and a Bowling Green. The first contract, dated September 1765, included the construction of a ha-ha “to sweep round the south side of the house, and to be of sufficient length to ‘keep out the deer’; along with preparation for planting ‘all the trees and shrubs that may be deemed necessary for ornament or use’.” The plan, attributed to Brown, leaves little doubt that the general outlines of the two pleasure grounds and their main features were designed by him, even though Bridgeman’s architect James Paine (1717-89), was brought in as the main architect. The landscape park associated with the Hall was created at about the time of and presumably in association with Brown's work on the pleasure grounds and the Hall's surrounds in the later 1760s. Further buildings such as the model Woodlands Farm (not listed) were constructed, possibly to Paine’s designs, as part of Bridgeman’s improvements to his extensive landed estates across Shropshire. Weston Park continued to form a well-connected landscape with wider estate at this time. The ‘Old Park’, outside the formal boundary wall of Weston Park to the south-east, was still a discrete entity in 1775.
In addition to the ha-ha, the 1760s saw the laying out of the pleasure grounds to the east (Temple Wood) and west (Shrewsbury Walk), along with the Town Pool and kitchen garden to the north of the Hall and Church, and extensive clumps of tree planting across the park. The site of the Temple of Diana is shown on the 1765 plan with a rectangular building and a clearing in the woods marked as ‘Menagerie & Dairy’. The birds of Sir Henry and Lady Bridgeman’s aviary were recorded by artist William Hayes in a series of paintings (1762-3). The aviary took the form of netted enclosures to the north of the Temple, and there are references to the repair of the nets in estate papers of 1768-71. Paine, who was called in to replace the hall interiors and design the Home Farm buildings including the Great Barn (now the Granary building) designed the garden structures including the Temple of Diana and Roman Bridge.
Additions made to the park and pleasure grounds in the later C18 and early C19 were largely carried out by landscape gardener John Webb. An estate map of 1806 shows the principal layout, features and buildings of the park and garden close to the Hall created for Bridgeman. These include Temple Wood with its Temple of Diana, pool, bridge and Pink Cottage, and Shrewsbury Walk, as well as the kitchen garden and Great Barn to the north of the house. In addition, a further area was landscaped by Webb on land to the north of Watling Street, outside the walled extent of Weston Park, and known as The White Sitch or Sytch. The lake and associated buildings were used by the Bridgeman family for picnicking and other leisure activities.
The park wall most probably dates from 1832-6 (estate papers), although the southern stretches of wall presumably post-date the acquisition of Tong Knoll by the second Earl in 1855, when the area was subsequently planted with trees. A ride was then apparently created from Tong Lodge for the use and enjoyment of the pleasure grounds in the adjacent Tong Norton Mere beyond the park wall and the current designated registered park boundary, as referred to in the journals of Lady Charlotte Bridgeman. This land had previously been in agricultural use as Norton Middle Farm, as shown on a map of Tong from 1739. The Obelisk to the west of Newport Plantation was apparently built in around 1815 to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo, in which the first Earl’s son Hon Orlando Bridgeman served with General Lord Hill.
A later major phase of alterations to the house and grounds was undertaken by Orlando Bridgeman, third Earl of Bradford, who succeeded the title in 1865. The house was reconfigured and extended by William Burn and John MacVicar Anderson. The formal gardens to the south and west of the hall, including the southern terrace of Italianate gardens, appear to be the work of William Brodrick Thomas (1811-1898) and were laid out by Mr Hope, who was Head Gardener from 1865 until at least 1899. Other C19 alterations to the park included the addition of buildings such as the boathouse and cottage to Park Pool and boathouse to Temple Pool, the Pheasantry buildings to the south east of the Park, and further lodges and gates to the principal entrances. From 1855 the purchase of part of the Tong Castle Estate enabled the park to be extended to the south by around 1km, to take in the high ground rising up to Tong Knoll, which provides exceptional views to the Shropshire Hills. The Knoll Tower was erected in 1883, close to the site of an earlier building that had been demolished in 1844. Tree planting was carried out by the Earls from the mid-C19, and within some clumps and copses are dated sandstone plinths.
Further additions and adaptions were made to the park, notably around the Temple Pool, by the fifth Earl who succeeded in 1915. He created a memorial pool to his daughter in the 1930s. The late-C19 and early-C20 improvements to Weston Park were made in response to the high status of the Earls Bradford in society and government, with the fifth Earl serving as Private Secretary to two Prime Ministers. Weston Park is the suggested inspiration for the grounds of P G Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle, probably the best example in popular fiction of the quintessential English country estate. The sixth Earl was a keen forester and carried out intensive planting of conifers in the park from the mid-C20.
The wider estate remained in the family in the later 1990s, although in 1986 the house, garden and park were vested in the Weston Park Foundation in order to ensure their conservation and their presentation to the public. Since 2000 the Foundation has carried out restoration work and planned management, including the removal of conifer trees and the reversion of the arable cultivation in East Park to pasture. The former granary was converted to a café, exhibition space and offices from 2007, and an adventure playground created in the pleasure ground within and the model railway to the north east. During the summers of 1998-2017 the V Festival was located at the park, and in 1998 Weston Park played host to a G8 Summit of world leaders.
A landscape park with pleasure grounds, kitchen gardens, agricultural estate buildings and park walls with lodges, in part laid out by Lancelot Brown in 1760s for Sir Henry Bridgeman around Weston Hall, with later landscaping, building work and planting, and adjoining Italianate gardens devised in the later C19. The park includes parts of two former deer parks and earlier formal gardens on the estate, and also accommodates Tong Knoll, formerly part of the Tong Castle Estate to the south.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
The village of Weston-under-Lizard lies on the A5 (Watling Street) close to Staffordshire's border with Shropshire. The village lies largely on the north side of the road, while to the south is Weston Hall, its service courts and buildings, and its park. The park is an extensive one, extending approximately 2.5km south of the Hall and measuring the same from east to west, the west boundary being Mill Lane. On the east side the park wall cuts across the landscape following no obvious natural features. The area here registered comprises around 400ha, and essentially represents the park as established in the later C19 following successive extensions to the south.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
There are several approaches to Weston Hall. The main entrance is from the A5 (Watling Street) to the north of the Hall, past the Weston lodges, pairs of mid-C19 sandstone ashlar buildings with gothic-style window glazing (listed at Grade II). Some 300m to the east of that entrance is a service entrance (used by public visitors) to the farm and stables complex (the mid-C19 gates are listed at Grade II), on the west side of which is the Blymhill Lodge (listed at Grade II), a late-C19 red-brick building.
Five further lodges, all of sandstone ashlar, stand at more distant entrances to the park, with drives that run across the park on scenic approaches to the Hall. At the north-west corner of the park is the C18 Shrewsbury Lodge (reoriented in the C19 due to a changed road and entrance layout) and mid-C19 gateway (both listed at Grade II); at the north-east corner is the mid-C19 Lichfield Lodge (listed at Grade II as Stafford Lodge, with gateway separately listed at Grade II); midway down the east side of the park is Brewood Lodge (listed at Grade II); midway down the west side is the mid-C19 Tong Lodge (not listed). Towards the south-west corner is Knoll Lodge (listed at Grade II). There are further access points in the south-east wall both pedestrian gates and wide entrances, some of which may have been historically used for hunting in the Old Park. There are gated entrances to Mill Lane at intervals.
Weston Hall (listed at Grade I), which lies in the centre of the northern part of the park, was almost entirely rebuilt in 1671 by William Taylor in red brick and stone, with three three-storey ranges enclosing an open courtyard to the north. Thomas Rickman designed the west wing, which was added in 1830-33. Substantially this is the building which survives to this day. In the years after 1865 the principal entrance was moved from the south to the east side to which a classical portico was added. At the same time a new wing and an orangery by William Burn and John MacVicar Anderson (listed at Grade II) were built to the west, and the infilling of the courtyard with buildings began.
The Parish Church of St Andrew (rebuilt in 1702, listed at Grade I) lies immediately north-west of Weston Hall, behind and linked to the orangery. To the east of the Hall are brick stables of 1688 (listed at Grade II), with behind (north) of them large and impressive home farm buildings including the Granary (listed at Grade II) of 1765.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The main formal gardens lie south of Weston Hall, principally the work of W B Thomas with Mr Hope, the Head Gardener in the mid-late C19. In front of the brick-with-stone-detailing south front is an 80m wide, rectangular, terraced and balustraded Italianate garden (listed at Grade II), with edged flower beds, urns, a fountain, and a circular basin. It is laid out as a set of three terraces running the length of the house and was altered in 1887 when the walls were heightened and balustrading added. Linked to the south and projecting into the park is a great semi-circular balustraded arc, now (2020) laid down to lawn but when constructed surrounding a mature plane tree. To the west, before the Orangery, is another Italianate compartment part of the gardens formed in several phases in the later C19, and reinstated in the late C20. Edward Kemp designed the carriage ring and approach drive in the later C19, which served the new eastern entrance front designed by John MacVicar Anderson for the third Earl.
The pleasure grounds extend north-west and east of the Hall; the main elements were planned and laid out by Lancelot Brown in 1765-8 and, later, laid out by John Webb. Extending north-west from the Hall to the A5 is the Shrewsbury Walk, a broad gravel walk with lawns to either side and specimen trees including yews and mature sweet chestnuts, perhaps survivals from the earlier formal layout. The Walk, around 450m long by 50m wide, is bounded to the south by a stone-walled ha-ha, and to the north by a stone wall. Some 300m from the Hall, on the south side of the Walk, is Pendrill's Cave (listed at Grade II), a cave or grotto claimed to be the occasional residence in the C18 of Penderell, a mendicant. The Shrewsbury Walk was modified and extended to the reoriented Shrewsbury Lodge in 1845.
Brown’s ha-ha extends to the east and defines the Temple Wood Pleasure Grounds, passing to the south-east of the stables block by the 10m long, late C18 or early C19, Pauslip's Tunnel (listed at Grade II), which leads under a drive and gives access to the eastern pleasure grounds. Temple Wood is around 750m long by up to 450m at the east end. Walks from the Hall lead through the pleasure grounds, well planted with specimen trees ranging from sweet chestnut (probably the pre-Brown East Avenue), via Beech (possibly Brown period) to more modern exotics, and around a chain of pools. Much the largest of these is the triangular Temple Pool, created around 1770-91. At the apex of the triangle, to the east, is Roman Bridge (listed at Grade I), completed in 1793 to a design by James Paine. Close to the north and south ends of the bridge are urns (both listed at Grade II and apparently moved here by the fifth Earl from Brown’s Tong Castle Park). Also designed by Paine is the main feature of the pleasure grounds, the Temple of Diana (listed at Grade I), which stands to the south of Temple Pool overlooking the park and Tong Knoll to the south, and Lizard Hill and The Wrekin beyond the park to the west. Constructed in about 1770 the Temple is of ashlar with a lead dome above, and comprises a three-bay orangery to the front (south), a tea room, a music room, and basic accommodation. The other main structures in the east pleasure grounds are the Ionic Aedicule, a stone seat of 1938 at the west end of Temple Pool (by Lord Gerald Wellesley); Swiss (or Pink) Cottage (listed grade II) at the east end of the pleasure grounds, constructed about 1770 and with later alterations; a mid-C19 sandstone boathouse (listed at Grade II) midway along the south side of Temple Pool; and a 1930s memorial pool with ornamental cascade the north end of the Pool.
A miniature railway runs along the north side of the east pleasure grounds, and there is an adventure playground to the ground's north-west.
The park at Weston is roughly triangular. The A5 (Watling Street), which here runs almost due west/east, forms the 2.5km long northern boundary to the park the whole circuit of which is walled. The west side of the park, of about the same length, runs north/south alongside Mill Lane, the minor road to Tong Norton. Broad plantation belts screen these roads from the park within.
The Hall lies in the centre of the northern part of the park, looking south across permanent pasture with specimen trees and clumps falling for around 1km to a drain which carries water south-east to north-west across the centre of the park to the 500m long Park Pool (created 1828-9) which lies on the west side of the park north of Tong Lodge. A late-C19 boathouse and cottage (both listed at Grade II) in Swiss Cottage style stand on its west side. Extending around the south side of the Pool is Cow Hey Wood, which includes some of the earliest planting in the park. Adjoining the east side of the park at about the same distance from the Hall is Newport Plantation. North-east of that plantation is The Pheasantry, a mid-C19 timber-framed estate cottage, to the south-east of which is the Head Keeper's Cottage. That is approached from the south by an oak avenue planted in around 1870, a ‘claire voie’ to Old Park Pool. Some 350m south-west of The Pheasantry is a 10m high, early-C19 obelisk (listed at Grade II). A moated site (Scheduled Monument) 150m south-east of The Pheasantry may mark a lodge site.
North of The Pheasantry the compartment known as the East Park, to the north and east of Temple Wood, is under grazing in 2020.
To the south of the drain to Park Pool, the ground rises up onto Tong Knoll, on top of which is the four-storey Knoll Tower (listed at Grade II) with views across the park to the Hall and Temple of Diana, and to the south and west over to the Shropshire Hills.
A number of the tree clumps across the park have stone markers inscribed (not listed) with the year of planting in the mid-late C19. There are two rubble stone buildings (not listed), possibly former deer shelters, one to the south of Temple Wood and one to the north of the wood, by the wall to the A5.
KITCHEN GARDEN & NORTH ESTATE BUILDINGS
The walled kitchen garden (listed at Grade II) is around 150m east/west by 120m north/south. It lies north of the Hall, Church and Town Pool, and with the A5 as its northern boundary. It is probably of the later-C18 date, and may have been constructed on Brown's advice; building work is recorded in 1770 and it is shown on the plan of 1765. Running from east to west across the centre of the gardens is a heated wall with pavilions, boiler houses and sheds, including a former Pinery (not in its original use in 2020).
To the west and north-west of the Town Pool are a number of estate buildings arranged around a partly brick-walled and hedged drive to the formal entrance of the Weston Lodges and Gates (listed at Grade II). A C19 glasshouse with low sandstone walls (not listed) faces the pool, behind which is a sandstone garden wall with ball finial to an end pier, and behind that is Garden Cottage (listed at Grade II) with four tall pairs of brick ridge stacks. To the rear of Garden Cottage are late-C20 single-storey structures known as Bothy and Potting Shed. To the west of the entrances gates is The Poultry House (listed at Grade II as The Pheasantry), black-and-white in appearance and set in a large plot including a rose garden and gate to Shrewsbury Walk to the rear. To the south-east is The Curatage (listed at Grade II) and the garden wall to Shrewsbury Walk and the churchyard.