Park and pleasure grounds laid out in 1768 to the design of Thomas White, possibly incorporating existing parkland features.
There were two estates at Houghton in 1066, both held in demesne by the Houghton family. The estate passed through marriage to the Langdales in the C14 who retained the manor and estate until the death of Philip Langdale in 1814. Langdale's cousin Charles Stourton inherited and took the Langdale name. In the mid C20 it passed by marriage to the Watson family, barons of Manton, and it remains in private ownership (1998). The grounds were laid out to a design of 1768 by Thomas White (1736-1811), which is shown in a map prepared by White in that year.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Houghton Hall lies c 1km west of Sancton in a rural and agricultural setting. The c 100ha site is on land which slopes slightly to the south. The south boundary is formed by Houghton Lane, while the by-road between North Cliff and Market Weighton forms the west boundary. Fences divide North Park from fields and the east side is bounded by tracks and fencing around the Presbytery.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The main entrance, which has a C19 lodge called White Lodge, is on the east side of the North Cliff to Market Weighton road. A drive runs eastwards to the Hall, sheltered on its north side by Lodge Plantation, and then curves north-eastwards as an avenue, turning to the south-east to a point where five drives or tracks leading from other entrance points to the north and east converge, c 80m north-west of the Hall. A drive leads south-east from this point to the north side of the Hall. The line of the drive runs slightly north of the route proposed by White who shows drives radiating from a turning circle immediately in front of the Hall, as they appear on the 1910 OS map. The avenue is not on White's map, which shows clumps and drifts of trees alongside the drive, but it is shown on the 1854 OS map.
A house at Houghton is mentioned in 1321, and the present building, Houghton Hall (listed grade I) was designed c 1765 by Thomas Atkinson for Philip Langdale, and remodelled 1957-60 by Francis Johnson. White's 1768 map shows an L-shaped area south-east of the present building which probably indicates the position of the old house. The Hall is a symmetrical neo-classical mansion with a central block flanked by pedimented pavilions. To the west of the Hall is the home farm of late C18 origin and an C18 octagonal dovecote (listed grade II). This complex is not shown on White's plan.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
There are gardens on each side of the Hall. The south front overlooks lawns and flower beds divided from parkland by a gently curving ha-ha (listed grade II). This runs from a point south of the south-east corner of the kitchen garden to a point c 300m to the east at the edge of the wooded pleasure grounds on the east side of the Hall. It follows a similar but slightly less sinuous line to that shown by White. There are views southwards over level parkland with lakes in the middle distance. To the west a path leads between the ha-ha and the outer south wall of the kitchen garden, where there is a herbaceous border. It continues past C20 tennis courts to a gate at the western edge of the pleasure grounds which leads to a path called Sand Walk. On the east side of the Hall there are lawns, and paths lead eastwards from them through woodland, as shown on White's map.
On the north side of the Hall there are lawns divided from the park by cast-iron fencing. A number of topiary yews are ranged around the front of the Hall. There are views across North Park and open land beyond.
There is parkland all around the Hall. It consists largely of open pasture land with scattered mature trees and clumps. Some parts of the south-west side of the park are in use for arable cultivation.
The parkland south of the Hall, called South Park or South Lawn, has planting on the east side, called The Grove, which runs as a shelter belt along the eastern side of the park to the south-east corner where there are planted banks concealing the road and track from the park. The banking is spoil from two large lakes which lie in the southern part of the park c 300m south of the Hall. These were formed by damming the Coldwell Spring which runs from east to west across the southern part of the park. The eastern lake is smaller in size than that to the west, and a cascade shown on the 1854 OS map connects the two. An island is shown at the east end of the smaller lake in 1854 and this is now connected to the shore where the channels have silted up. On the north side of the western lake there is a clump of woodland called Sandwalk Plantation, and a path called Sand Walk runs north-east from this through a band of woodland to the west side of the pleasure grounds. There are views of the Hall within the park from the south side of the lakes. The lake shown by White is a single narrow serpentine, but the position of the lake and pattern of planting in the South Park is almost exactly as shown on his plan.
North Park, also known as North Lawn, is sheltered by belts of trees along the east side of the park and a block of planting immediately north of Home Farm and the kitchen garden area, as proposed by White. A rectangular orchard within a clump of trees is shown c 300m north-west of the Hall on White's plan, but this does not appear on the 1854 OS map and it is not known if it was ever constructed.
The grounds of Houghton Hall have been described as 'a perfect example of a mature landscape in the natural style' (Pevsner and Neave 1995).
The kitchen garden lies c 30m from the Hall where there is a doorway leading to it immediately north of a courtyard on the west side of the building. It is a rectangular brick enclosure with a range of coach houses and stables (listed grade II) along the outer north wall. A gateway with ornamental iron gates gives access to it from the walk on the west side of the pleasure grounds, and the wall is stepped down on each side of the brick gate piers. Access can also be gained from an opening leading through the stable range from a path leading westwards from the Hall to Home Farm.
Country Life, 138 (23 December 1965), pp 1734-7; (30 December 1965), pp 1782-6
D Neave and D Turnbull, Landscaped Parks and Gardens of East Yorkshire (1992), pp 35-9, 78
N Pevsner and D Neave, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire, York and the East Riding (1995), pp 667-9
T White, Plan of Alterations Designed for Houghton the Seat of Phill Langdale Esq., 1768 (private collection)
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1854
OS 25" to 1 mile: 2nd edition published 1910
Description written: June 1998
Amended: March 1999
Register Inspector: CEH
Edited: November 1999