Trentham Gardens

Overview

Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
Grade:
II*
List Entry Number:
1001168
Date first listed:
01-Dec-1984
Date of most recent amendment:
25-Jun-2021
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Swynnerton, Staffordshire

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
Swynnerton, Staffordshire

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
District:
City of Stoke-on-Trent (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
County:
Staffordshire
District:
Stafford (District Authority)
Parish:
Swynnerton
National Grid Reference:
SJ8617140183

Summary

A landscaped park with C16 origins, that includes remaining elements of the work in the mid-C18 by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and the mid-C19 Italianate pleasure grounds by Sir Charles Barry. The associated Trentham Hall is now largely demolished.

Reasons for Designation

Trentham Gardens, an evolved landscaped park and garden laid out for the Leveson-Gower family (later the Dukes of Sutherland) during their ownership from the C16 onwards, and including work by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in the mid-C18, and Sir Charles Barry in the mid-C19, is registered at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* associated with the Leveson-Gower family (later the Dukes of Sutherland) it is a good example of an evolved landscape design that is well-documented from the C17 onwards, and illustrates the changes in garden design through the centuries, particularly from the mid-C18 naturalistic parkland landscape to the formal gardens of the mid-C19; * for its retention of a significant proportion of landscape features from its two principal phases of development in the mid-C18 and mid-C19, as well as retaining some elements of its early C18 landscape design;

Design interest:

* for its mid-C18 association with the England’s most influential and best-known designer of the informal landscape, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown; * as an early and ambitious example of a formal Italianate garden designed by Sir Charles Barry and planted by George Fleming that was of great influence in the development of taste and fashion through both its reputation as a demonstration garden and through its numerous references in art and literature;

Group value:

* associated with the remains of Trentham Hall, as well as other Grade II* and Grade II listed buildings, many of which are garden structures that were an integral part of Barry’s mid-C19 Italianate design, as well as other buildings largely associated with the earlier phases of the garden.

History

Trentham Hall and Gardens were established on the site of a C12 Augustinian priory in the C16 by wool merchant James Leveson, who purchased the dissolved priory in 1540. The estate remained in the family’s (later known as the Leveson-Gower family and the Dukes of Sutherland) ownership until 1979, and during that time the house and grounds were re-designed multiple times.

A new house was built for Sir Richard Leveson in the 1630s and included gardens comprising a series of walled enclosures, a pool, a fountain, dovecotes, arbours and an orchard. By the 1680s there was also a bowling green and a greenhouse. During the 1690s the park was remodelled for Sir John Leveson-Gower (created 1st Baron Gower in 1703) to the plans of his chaplain, George Plaxton. The works included the cutting of twin canals divided by a central walk from the house to Kings Wood to the south west. In 1707 to 1709 the hall was re-designed by William Smith of Warwick, and in 1720 the 2nd Baron Gower is thought to have commissioned Charles Bridgeman to extend and improve the land. There is some dispute about the accuracy of the attribution to Bridgman, which is based on surviving unsigned drawings, nonetheless it is clear that works to the garden were undertaken and included the enclosure of Kings Wood, the creation of an intricate network of rides, and the construction of a brick wall around the boundary of the park; some remnants of these features survive. Around this time there was also the patte d’oie (paths that radiate from a central point, resembling the appearance of a goose’s foot) at the west entrance comprising four tree-lined avenues, and a kitchen garden to the north-west of the house; hot beds and a hot wall are known to have been built in this garden in 1732. Trentham Hall was remodelled again in 1737 to 1738 by Francis Smith of Warwick, and in the 1740s a further overhaul of the landscaping was undertaken, including the removal of the long walk between the two canals to accommodate a lake, and the creation of a new kitchen garden to the east of the house.

The 2nd Baron Gower, who also acquired the title Earl Gower and Viscount Trentham, died in 1754. He was succeeded by his son Granville Leveson-Gower, a leading political figure who was created Marquess of Stafford in 1786. He continued the improvements to the landscape and in 1759 commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to re-work and enlarge the parkland. Brown provided a plan for his proposals that same year, which marks the first of three commissions at Trentham over a 20-year period. His work included increasing the size of the lake and naturalising its shape, adding earth mounds and specimen trees to the bank to enhance the natural topography, as well as planting numerous trees to screen the village from the landscape. The formal gardens adjacent to the house were removed and replaced with a wide lawn separated from the parkland by a ha-ha. Brown also created a new approach drive from Tittensor to the south of the park and is credited with the design of Monument Lodges. During this period Henry Holland, Brown’s son-in-law and business partner, remodelled the house and extended the nine-bay south elevation to fifteen bays.

In 1803 the estate was inherited by George Granville Leveson-Gower. Between 1805 and 1809 he commissioned Charles Heathcote Tatham, a pupil of Holland, to do further works to Trentham Hall, which included the addition of wings to the south elevation of the house, and lodges to the west entrance. George Granville was immensely wealthy, his father having married the heiress Lady Louisa Egerton, while he himself became the 1st Duke of Sutherland on his marriage in 1785 to Lady Elizabeth Sutherland, Countess of Sutherland.

The Duke of Sutherland died in 1833 and Trentham was inherited by his eldest son, also George Granville, the 2nd Duke of Sutherland, and his wife Harriet (nee Howard). The family’s huge inherited wealth was more than matched by their extravagance and in 1833 Charles Barry was commissioned to undertake another large transformation of both the house and grounds. Barry, greatly influenced by the Renaissance architecture and gardens of Italy, was an important country house architect and a passionate architectural gardener, and his work at Trentham played a significant role in the popularisation of the Italianate style.

To Trentham Hall he created the grand west entrance, erected a belvedere tower over the old kitchen, and added an orangery, sculpture gallery and clock tower, as well as rebuilding the stables and service quarters. To the gardens, he replaced the shrubberies and wide lawn between the house and the lake with Italianate formal gardens. These comprised two terraces leading down to the lake, with pavilions, parterres, balustrading, statues, urns, and fountains as features. The gardens then became increasingly more natural on progression into the park and the wider estate.

Barry's pleasure gardens at Trentham were the first of a series of gardens he designed based on both his studies of the Italianate style and his recognition of the demands of aristocratic families to have pleasure gardens with architectural features close to the house. It is thought that Barry discussed and showed his plans for Trentham with many of his contemporaries including W S Gilpin, W A Nesfield and J C Loudon. It is difficult to establish their distinct contribution to Barry’s designs, if any, and it is generally agreed that the gardens are Barry’s scheme. Barry’s creation of the formal terraces between the house and the lake, on what was a virtually flat site, was a particularly impressive feat, attracting the comments of J C Loudon, the influential horticulturist and critic. This, combined with the work of the head gardener George Fleming, appointed in 1841, brought Trentham to the public’s attention.

Fleming was able to turn what was a barren site into a rich and fertile one. This was achieved by laying a network of drains to a depth of six feet, enriching the soil, and improved heated greenhouses. The management of the gardens at Trentham became well known for being a showcase of his innovative and experimental planting schemes, gaining a reputation as a teaching garden. His work at Trentham was instrumental in the popularisation of the bedding system and included innovations such as the ribbon border and colour schemes based on Berlin wool work to create a gradual shading effect, culminating in one of his major additions to the gardens, the ‘rainbow walk’.

Trentham Hall and Gardens feature in numerous paintings and publications of the C19 and the period of Barry and Fleming represents Trentham at its height when it was at the forefront of both architectural and garden design. This is captured in Benjamin Disraeli’s novel ‘Lothair’, published in 1870, which gives an evocation of Trentham in its heyday:

‘It would be difficult to find a fairer scene than Trentham offered, especially in the lustrous effulgence of a glorious English summer. It was an Italian palace of freestone; vast, ornate, and in scrupulous condition; its spacious and graceful chambers filled with treasures of art, rising itself from statued and stately terraces. At their foot spread a gardened domain of considerable extent, bright with flowers, dim with coverts of rare shrubs, and magical with fountains.’

The third Duke succeeded in 1861 and sought to reduce expenditure, particularly in the gardens. Fleming was succeeded by Zadok Stephens who, during the 1860s and 70s, simplified Fleming’s work and toned down the colour schemes as the popularity of more pastel shades developed, and by 1871 it is thought that all Fleming’s work had been removed.

By 1907 the pollution of the River Trent, which runs through the site, had made the house uninhabitable and it was largely demolished in about 1911. Remains of its grand west entrance and conservatory; orangery, sculpture gallery and clock tower; and stable block and service quarters survive. In the 1920s the entrance lodges were relocated from the west entrance of Trentham Hall to their present site opposite Tatham’s mausoleum on Stone Road where they marked the main entrance for Trentham Gardens in their use as public pleasure grounds. From this period huge crowds came to what was marketed as 'The Versailles of the Midlands’ and known as the ‘Playground of the Potteries’. The various structures built for entertainment in the early to mid-C20 such as the tennis courts and the ballroom on the site of the former kitchen gardens to the east and an Art Deco open-air swimming pool to the western shore of the lake have since been demolished.

The Sutherland Family sold the estate in 1979 and since 1996 it has been operated as a commercially owned leisure attraction. In the early C21 the site of the former kitchen garden to the eastern extent of the site was developed as a commercial retail park. Also, at this time, within the framework of Barry’s design, the upper terrace of the formal garden was restored, and the lower terrace re-imagined to the designs of Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf. Nigel Dunnett’s wildflower meadow is the latest evolution of the garden. Whilst the new garden designs are noteworthy, they cannot yet be considered as part of its special interest.

Details

A landscaped park with C16 origins, that includes remaining elements of the work in the mid-C18 by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and the mid-C19 Italianate pleasure grounds by Sir Charles Barry. The associated Trentham Hall is now largely demolished.

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES: the Trentham Estate lies to the west and south of the village of Trentham, which is located to the south of Stoke-on-Trent. The southern boundary of the park follows the northern field boundaries north of Beech Lane, whilst the west side is bounded by the M6, the north side by the minor Whitmore Road and Park Drive, and to the east by the retail park known as Trentham Shopping Village (not included); to the east side of the estate, running north to south, is the River Trent.

The registered area is approximately 437 hectares.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES: the main entrance into the estate today (2020) is to the east side, off the A34, through the site of the former kitchen gardens. This area is now occupied by a commercial retail development and the associated buildings are not included within the boundary of the registered park and garden.

Further to the north-west, also on the A34 and opposite the Mausoleum (listed at Grade I) is a pair of entrance lodges (listed at Grade II). The entrance lodges, designed by Tatham in about 1808, formerly stood to the west of the grand entrance to the house and were re-erected in their current position in the 1920s when it became a public pleasure ground.

In the early C18 the main approach to Trentham Hall appears to have been from the north along Park Drive, which runs to the north of the boundary of the registered park and garden, via an C18 stone bridge (listed at Grade II) over the River Trent and leading to a pair of early C18 gate piers (listed at Grade II) attributed to William Smith of Warwick, and over another stone bridge (listed at Grade II) leading to the west entrance. Later in the C18 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown set out a longer approach from an entrance at the south end of the park, beginning at the north end of Monument Lane in Tittensor. The drive north from this is grassed over, but it formerly ran approximately 750m north, north-west through permanent pasture with mature parkland trees to Monument Lodges (listed at Grade II) dating from 1775 and attributed to Brown. From Monument Lodges the drive ran up the west side of the lake to Trentham Hall. In the early C19 a single lodge was added on the main road to the north of Tittensor, shortening the approach road.

In the mid-C19 a new western drive was laid out toward Gravel Pit Lodge (listed at Grade II with its adjoining gate piers, and both outside the boundary of the registered park and garden), allowing the 2nd Duke of Sutherland easier access to his other estate Lilleshall Hall (listed at Grade II*) and located about 17 miles to the south-west.

From the late C19 there was also an approach drive from the north edge of the park from the late C19 Hargreaves Lodge (listed at Grade II) that continued through Hargreaves Wood to the east side of Hargreaves Pool, continuing over a C19 bridge (listed at Grade II) to the west entrance.

PRINCIPAL BUILDINGS: the site of the main block of Trentham Hall is now a lawn. To the west survives the remains of Barry’s semi-circular, single-storey grand entrance which incorporates Tatham's wing of 1808 (all listed at Grade II*). On the east side of the lawn stands Barry’s former orangery, sculpture gallery and clock tower (listed at Grade II), to the north of which is the former stable block and service quarters (listed at Grade II).

Originally concealed from the garden by the main house, but now forming the main focal building at the north end of the gardens, is the Church of St Mary and All Saints (listed at Grade II*) that was rebuilt by Barry in 1844, and is not included within the boundary of the parkland.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS: the area between the remains of Trentham Hall and the lake to the south is divided into two formal parterre gardens designed by Barry. To the north, the upper terrace, also known as the flower garden, is about 60 square metres and is divided with paths into quarters and enclosed by walls to the north, east and west side (listed at Grade II) with kerbs to the flower beds. At the centre of the garden is a circular bed divided into segments, on which formerly stood a C19 bronze statue, known locally as 'The Lady of the Sea'. The statue is no longer extant and was de-listed in 2010.

To the south side of the upper terrace is a balustraded retaining wall with semi-circular steps (listed at Grade II) leading down to the central axial path of the lower terrace. To the south-west corner, connecting the upper and lower terrace, is the triple-arched pavilion (listed at Grade II) and the last surviving of four garden pavilions erected as part of Barry’s garden scheme; two were triple-arched pavilions and were sited at either end of the retaining wall and the other two were single-bay domed pavilions located at the southern corners of the lower terrace. The lower parterre garden measures about 200m north to south and 150m west to east with ramped grass terraces to either side. Running north to south along the east side is the arbour trellis (listed at Grade II), a linear feature measuring about 4m high and about 130m long, built of wrought iron and originally planted by George Fleming, Head Gardener. To either side of the central axial path are three slightly sunken gardens; the long rectangular middle gardens having raised octagonal stone pools in their centres, with circular pools to the end gardens. Some large clipped evergreen shrubs survive from the C19 planting scheme. The axial path terminates at the balustraded retaining wall (listed at Grade II) which runs across the south end of the garden overlooking the lake; below the east end is a boathouse. There is a break in the centre of the wall and a semi-circular projection with steps leads down to the water’s edge. In the apsidal projection stands a bronze statue of ‘Perseus with the Head of Medusa’ (listed at Grade II*), a cast of the mid-C16 bronze by Benvenuto Cellini in Florence.

To the west and east of the main formal gardens are lawns with specimen trees and shrubberies, as well as grasses planted by Piet Oudolf in 2004.

To the south side of the former orangery, sculpture gallery and clock tower is a lawned area with an octagonal fountain basin, golden yew trees, flower beds and specimen trees.

About 100m south of the gates opposite the Mausoleum, in an area of specimen trees, is The Duchess's Cottage (listed at Grade II), formerly used as a child's playhouse; this area now forms part of the garden centre.

PARK: Trentham Hall lay in the north-east corner of a trapezoidal park about 3.5km long from north to south and 1.5km wide. By the early C18 there was a paled park, rides and a patte d’oie. In the mid-C18 Brown’s improvements included the laying out of the landscaped park and devising new approach drives across it, as well as enlarging the main feature of the park, the lake, which is about 1.35km in length and has four wooded islands. In the 1830s and 1840s the line of the lake and the planting around its edge were amended by Barry, and along the fringes of the lake, particularly towards the northern part, are some mature ornamental tree species.

To the west and south shore of the lake are Kings Wood and Jervis Wood with oak, beech and silver birch, and which together provide the main back drop to the lake when viewed from the site of Trentham Hall and its formal gardens. Drives and rides run through the woodland, and south-west of the crest of Kings Wood bank the ground falls away to open grassland with Black Lake, a roughly circular 200m diameter pool, lying at the bottom of the slope against the west boundary of the park. To the north is a disused quarry. The north-western part of the park is occupied by Trentham Park Golf Club. This area retains much of the parkland character with trees, shrubberies and bridges and towards its east side below Hargreaves Wood, is a 400m long pond, Hargreaves Pool.

Tittensor Hill forms an elevated viewpoint at the south end of the park, on top of which, the Sutherland Monument (listed at Grade II*) stands, forming an eyecatcher when viewed from the formal gardens.

Running parallel with, and about 50m east of the east bank of the lake, is the River Trent, here about 15m wide; between the two is a drive with some mature and specimen trees along its east side. The east boundary of the park lies between 150m and 250m east of the River Trent and the southern end of this area is rough grassland. The site of the former kitchen garden to the east is largely occupied by early C21 commercial development; the buildings of this development are not included in the registered boundary.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
2172
Legacy System:
Parks and Gardens

Sources

Books and journals
Elliot, B, Victorian Gardens, (1986), 75-77, 90-93, 150, 152
Mowl, Timothy, Barre, Diane, The Historic Gardens of England: Staffordshire, (2009), 36-41, 60-66, 173-175, 230-233, 296-299
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire, (1990), 283-285
Tringham, NJ, The Victoria History of the County of Stafford: Volume XI, (2013), 225-243
Websites
Documents relating to Trentham Gardens held in The Sutherland Collection, Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service, accessed 29 January 2021 from https://www.search.sutherlandcollection.org.uk/Details.aspx?&ResourceID=1293&PageIndex=1&KeyWord=Trentham%20Gardens&SortOrder=2
Other
Brown, L, 'Plan of proposed alterations at Trentham' 1759 (Staffordshire Record Office D593/H/13/1)
Cornforth, J, 'Trentham, Staffordshire - I: formerly a seat of the Dukes of Sutherland' in Country Life, (25 January 1968), 176-180
Cornforth, J, 'Trentham, Staffordshire - II: formerly a seat of the Dukes of Sutherland' in Country Life, (1 February 1968), 228-231
'Country homes and gardens old and new: Trentham, Staffordshire. The seat of the Duke of Sutherland' in Country Life, (12 March 1898), 304-307
Dr Rutherford, S, Evans, C, Shields, S, 'Capability Brown’s Drawings: A Reference Catalogue of Drawings by Brown or his Office (c.1740s–83)', (2019), Historic England Research Report Series no. 64 - 2019, p 8, 9,17, 119, 120.
Gregory, S, 'A Brief History of Trentham Gardens in the Sutherland Papers', (2008) The Sutherland Collection at Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service
Hall, M, 'At Risk of Ruin' in Country Life, (9 May 1996), 68-71
Kathryn Sather & Associates, 'Trentham Conservation Area Appraisal' (2013)
Leyland, J, 'Country homes and gardens old and new: Trentham, Staffordshire. The seat of the Duke of Sutherland' in Country Life, (5 March 1898), 272-275
OS Map 6” (1883 edn)
OS Map 6” (1900 edn)
OS Map 6” (1924 edn)
Staffordshire Historic Environment Record, 'Trentham Park, Swynnerton', (MST6193 / 40086)

Legal

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

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