Late C18 country house surrounded by contemporary landscape park and pleasure grounds, and C19/early C20 garden, with outstanding mid to late C18 grotto overlooking the house and lake.
In 1726 the estate was sold to Andrew Lindegren, a Swedish ironmaster (d 1783), after whose death the estate was sold to Daniel Agace (d 1828) in 1787. Up to the late C18 the main house on the estate was the present (1998) Garden and Quince Cottages, standing adjacent to the stable yard, aligned on the south drive and probably part of a small manor farm related to the walled gardens beyond, one of which was then a cattle yard. At some time, probably in the 1770s or 1780s, the present Ascot Place was built and the surrounding landscape park laid out with it, possibly including the extensive grotto, although this may be earlier work. Following Agace¿s death his ward and relative Miss Ann Ferard (d 1850) inherited the estate, which upon her death passed to the children of Agace¿s cousin, John Ferard. It is thought that Miss Ferard and C C Ferard laid out the pleasure grounds (Berkshire SAR). After this the estate passed through many hands, the house being much altered and extended (the extensions now gone, 1998) and the gardens to the north and east being constructed c 1900-10. The estate remains in private ownership.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Ascot Place lies 1km north of North Ascot, close to Windsor Forest. The 110ha site is enclosed largely by narrow belts of trees, bounded to the north by Pigeonhouse Lane, to the south by Forest Road, and on the other two sides by agricultural land. The land is largely level, bisected east to west by a small stream, widened out to form several lakes, with a further stream running south from the north-east corner of the park to join the lower lakes. The setting is partly rural, with the mid C20 suburban settlement of North Ascot adjacent, and several other landscape parks close by, including Foliejohn and Fernhill Parks, and Windsor Great Park (qv) and Forest 2km to the east.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The main entrance lies 600m south-east of the house at the south-east corner of the park, off the B3034 Forest Road, marked by iron railings flanked by low brick piers. East Lodge stands just inside the entrance, a single-storey building of brick in Classical style, with an ornamented central chimney stack. From here the east drive curves north-west through Old Grove flanked by evergreen shrubs, crossing the east end of the small central stream 500m south-east of the house, via a bridge with stone balustrade. The drive emerges here into the park, continuing along the north side of the lake, crossing the northern stream via a bridge in similar style to the previous one lying 150m south-east of the house. The drive continues west from here, overlooking the lake and rocky mound of The Grotto to the south, passing below and to the south of a curved terrace lawn extending south from the forecourt, and curving north to the forecourt on the south front, entered from the west via an iron gateway set between clipped yew hedges. The paved court is partly enclosed by yew hedges, opening to the south onto the curved terraced lawn which runs down to the east drive and beyond this down to the north shore of the lake. The house is entered via steps up to a central covered portico overlooking the lake and Grotto. The east drive appears to be a late C19/C20 feature (OS 1883, 1912).
The north drive enters 450m north of the house, off Pigeonhouse Lane, past North Lodge (rebuilt C20), running south through the park flanked by grass and occasional trees. Some 200m from the house the drive enters the wooded pleasure grounds, crossing 150m north-west of the house a path linking the pleasure grounds to the west with the garden to the east. Here the drive is carried by the rendered brick Monkey Bridge in Gothic style (?early C19) which encloses the path below within a tunnel. The drive continues south, passing the walled gardens and stable yard to the east, turning east 100m west of the house to join the east drive as it arrives at the house. Formerly a spur off the north drive 200m north-west of the house continued south-east, encircling the North Lawn to arrive at the north front. This spur has been grassed over.
The south drive enters off Forest Road, between C18 brick piers (rebuilt C20) supporting iron gates, flanked by pedestrian gates, set within short lengths of brick wall. The drive, now (1998) disused, runs north through the south park, flanked by the remains of avenue trees, carried across the stream between the upper and lower lakes by a bridge above an adjacent cascade to the east. The drive continues north to join the north drive 50m west of the house. An extension of the south drive, Coach Road, runs 750m south from the present south entrance, flanked by grass and beyond this narrow belts of trees. It formerly gave access from the lane to the south (now part of North Ascot). The south end of this drive has been blocked by C20 housing and is presently the access for Mill Ride Golf Club.
Both north and south drives were in place by 1800 (Pride, 1800), but the southern extension was a later C19 addition, in place by the 1880s (OS 1883).
Ascot Place (late C18, possibly by Thomas Sandby, listed grade II) stands towards the centre of the site, consisting of a central block with linked flanking pavilion set back to the north. It is of two storeys, built in Classical style of brick, and was extensively restored during the 1960s. The stable yard, situated 75m west of the house, contains a variety of brick service buildings (C18, listed grade II) enclosing the brick-paved courtyard, including stables, coach house and the small former manor house, Garden Cottage, this last probably remodelled in the C19.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The garden is divided into two sections: the area to the north and east of the house which seems to have been largely developed during the late C19 and early C20, and the pleasure grounds lying west of the kitchen gardens and north drive, probably created in the late C18 or early C19.
The garden is entered from the forecourt on the south front, from which a broad gravel path flanked by lawn extends east, terminated at the east boundary with the park by a stone seat backed by a low yew hedge, overlooking the lake and Grotto to the south-west. From here the east lawn extends north, flanked to west and east by shrubberies containing mature trees. At the north-east corner lies the pool garden (C20) containing a swimming pool and changing rooms and surrounded by clipped hedges. West of the east lawn lies the north lawn, flanked by mature trees and shrubs and terminated at the north end by a long narrow pond. The north front overlooks this lawn, with a garden door at the centre of the front giving access down stone steps to a paved terrace leading onto the grass.
A path runs along the west edge of the north lawn, running from its north-west corner into the east edge of the pleasure grounds. From here a path leads west through the gothic tunnel of the Monkey Bridge, emerging into the main body of the pleasure grounds. This area contains open glades amongst mature trees underplanted with shrubs, including many rhododendrons and azaleas, the whole encircled by inner and outer grass paths. Towards the north edge, 250m north-west of the house, stands a domed, classical rotunda (late C18/early C19), the Corinthian Temple, and at the east edge, 175m from the house, stands the large, partly enclosed Gothic Seat (late C18/early C19) aligned on a straight, wooded walk. An orangery formerly stood towards the south boundary, overlooking an open lawn and the park beyond, from which it was separated by a ditch or ha-ha (OS 1883). At the south-east corner of the pleasure grounds, adjacent to the park, lies an enclosed rectangular garden, largely laid to lawn and surrounded by stone paving and borders which formerly housed the first indoor tennis court in England, the foundations of which remain beneath the lawn.
In the 1760s (Rocque, 1761) the park was undeveloped, but by the 1790s (Pride, 1790) the house had been built and the stream widened into lakes surrounded by parkland. Nothing is shown at this time on the site of the pleasure grounds. By the later C19 (OS 1883) the house was linked to the north-east corner of the pleasure grounds by a narrow neck along the east wall of the walled gardens. The north and east lawns were created out of former parkland c 1900-10 (OS 1912).
The park encircles the house and gardens, being laid largely to pasture, with single trees, clumps, and copses, and enclosed by The Belt. The park is divided into north and south halves by the stream, broadened out during much of its course into ornamental lakes. The middle lake is the largest, overlooked by the house to the north, from which it was formerly reached by an avenue of conifers leading down to the stone landing stage (c 1900).
The west end of the middle lake is dominated by The Grotto (Robert Turnbull c 1750-70, listed grade I), lying 150m south-west of the house, it being one of several ornamental features in this area, including the stone cascade adjacent to the north, the bridge, and a rock garden linking these features. The Grotto is an outstanding example of an ornamental romantic grotto, containing several chambers within a built-up mound of rocks and boulders, chiefly Sarsen stones, ascended on the outside via stone steps leading to the top where flat stones are provided for sitting and admiring the view over the lake to the park and house. Within, a narrow, rocky passage leads to the largest, quatrefoil-shaped chamber, dimly lit by an octagonal lantern in the roof. The walls are covered with small, glittering white quartz crystals, all placed longitudinally, with some outcroppings of purple and pink quartz crystals in large clusters. All around the edges of the roof artificial stalactites of varying length descend in an irregular double row, also covered with crystals, with some darker crystals arranged in a tall, zig-zag pattern. From here passages lead to two smaller chambers, including a tea chamber, both facing north-east and overlooking the lake and house, with decoration in similar style to the main chamber.
A rock bridge (possibly C18) formerly stood at the east end of the middle lake; this has now gone except for the flanking approach mounds above the lake. A C20 rotunda stands to the north of this. At the south-east corner of the south park the Old Grove contains the remains of paths and ornamental planting within mature woodland. A narrow, linear pond formerly (OS 1883) ran west from here almost as far as the south drive, but this has now gone.
The kitchen gardens lie 50m north-west of the house, enclosed and divided by brick walls forming several rectangular compartments. Those two running along the north boundary are service areas, formerly containing glasshouses and frames, entered from the north-west corner off the north drive via a gateway in the wall adjacent to a small brick tower, this formerly being used for fruit storage. The former gardener's cottage forms the south boundary of the westernmost service yard. To the south lie two large open areas, that to the east now an ornamental and vegetable garden containing a hard tennis court, and that to the west containing ranges of derelict ornamental glasshouses (C19/early C20) along the north and east walls. A glass pavilion projects from the centre of each range. An C18 timber-framed, lean-to cow house stands against the inner side of the west wall, divided from the glasshouse area beyond by a further brick wall. The south-east compartment is now laid to lawn with specimen quince trees.
Victoria History of the County of Berkshire 3, (1923), pp 86-8
N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Berkshire (1966), p 70
B Jones, Follies & Grottoes (1974), pp 160-3
Country Life, no 15 (13 April 1989), pp 100-3
J Rocque, Map of Berkshire, 1761
T Pride, A topographical map of the Town of Reading and the County adjacent to an extent of 10 miles, 1790
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1883
OS 25" to 1 mile: 2nd edition published 1912
Description written: September 1998
Register Inspector: SR
Edited: March 2000