Heritage Category: Park and Garden
List Entry Number: 1001168
Date first listed: 01-Dec-1984
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: City of Stoke-on-Trent (Unitary Authority)
Parish: Non Civil Parish
District: Stafford (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SJ8617140182
Formal gardens, pleasure grounds and a landscaped park with work by Lancelot Brown, Sir Charles Barry and W A Nesfield associated with a now largely demolished country house.
Trentham, formerly an Augustinian priory, was purchased in 1540 by James Leveson, a wool stapler. Over the next two centuries the family prospered commercially and gave service to the Crown and parliament, acquiring various titles that culminated in 1746 with the creation of John, Lord Gower, as Viscount Trentham and Earl Gower. By that time the house made from the priory buildings had been replaced by a much larger building, accompanied by an extensive formal landscape. Earl Gower died in 1754 and was succeeded by his third son, Granville (d 1803), a leading political figure who in 1786 was created Marquess of Stafford. He undertook extensive works at Trentham, in 1759 commissioning Lancelot Brown (1716-83) to rework the lake and park and later bringing in Brown and his son-in-law Henry Holland (1745-1806) to enlarge the south, garden front of the house. His son, the second Marquess (d 1833), was immensely rich, his father having wed thirdly the Bridgwater heiress Lady Louisa Egerton while he himself married Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, the greatest heiress of her generation.
After 1833 the family's huge wealth was more than matched by the extravagance of the second Marquess' son, the Duke of Sutherland, and especially that of his wife. In 1833-4 they engaged Charles Barry (1795-1860; kt 1852) to transform what was already a large house into an Italian-style palace and to lay out before it a great formal garden. Although some building continued until 1849 the main phase of work was complete by 1842. However, by 1907 the pollution of the River Trent, which runs through the site, had made the house uninhabitable, and it was demolished in 1910-11. Nevertheless, the gardens continued to be maintained as a public park, and from the 1920s huge crowds came to what was marketed as 'The Versailles of the Midlands'. In 1981 the trustees of the estate of the fourth Duke sold the estate to a local businessman; Trentham Gardens remains (1997) a commercially owned and operated leisure facility.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Trentham Gardens and Pleasure Grounds lie west of Trentham village, on the southern fringe of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Running north/south down the east side of the Gardens is the River Trent. To the east the park is bounded by the A34, to the north by the minor Whitmore Road, while to the west the park abuts the M6 motorway. The southern boundary of the park follows field edges north of Beech Lane. The registered area is c 450ha.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The main entrance into the Trentham Pleasure Gardens in the late C20 was off the A34 adjoining the south-east corner of the former kitchen gardens.
Some 400m to the north-west, also on the A34 and opposite the Mausoleum designed by C H Tatham (1772-1842) in 1808, is an entry with a pair of small, heavily rusticated lodges and iron gates (listed grade II). Also designed c 1808 by Tatham, a pupil of Holland, the complex formerly stood at the south entrance to the park but was re-erected here c 1926. From these gates a drive approaches the church and the service buildings north of the Hall site.
The main approach to the Hall in the C18 was from an entrance at the south end of the park, at the north end of Monument Lane, Tittensor. The drive north from this is grassed over. It formerly ran 700m north-west, through permanent pasture with mature parkland trees, to Monument Lodges (listed grade II), a pair of lodges with screens and gate piers designed c 1775-6 by Joseph Pickford of Derby (c 1736-82) to which flanking wings were added in the C19. From here the drive ran up the west side of the lake to enter a courtyard on the west side of the Hall, now a rough yard. The original C19 stone gate piers remain on the west side of the yard.
There was also an approach drive from the north edge of the park, via a drive down the east side of Hargreaves Pool. Hargreaves Lodge (listed grade II) stands at the north end of the drive.
PRINCIPAL BUILDING The site of the main block of Barry's house of the 1830s is now a lawn. To the west survives his curving, Italianate, Grand Entrance, incorporated within which is Tatham's orangery of 1808 (all listed grade II*). On the east side of the lawn stands the most substantial surviving portion of Barry's work, a two-storey L-shaped block (listed grade II) with a corner tower with behind a service range, all part of a phase of work planned in 1840 and incorporating a sculpture gallery, riding school, dairy and offices. Originally concealed from the garden by the main house, but now forming the main range at the north end of the gardens, is the church of St Mary and All Saints (listed grade II*), rebuilt by Barry in 1844.
The history of the earlier houses on the site is complex. The house converted from priory buildings c 1540 was replaced by a new building on the south side of the parish church in the 1630s. That itself was much enlarged c 1700, emphasising the south front. That was extended by a further six bays in 1776-8 by Lancelot Brown and Henry Holland. In 1806-8 Tatham added projecting wings to the south front. It was that house which Barry began to enlarge and reorder in 1833, creating a series of state rooms and improved accommodation for what was eventually a large family.
The main building at Trentham now (late C20) is a large mid C20 ballroom on the east bank of the River Trent, along the site of the west end of the kitchen gardens.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The space between the Hall site and the lake to the south is divided into two great formal flower gardens. Many of the beds are now grassed over, but their outlines and internal divisions remain clearly visible. The more northerly, the Rose Garden (in 1857 called the Parterrre Garden), is c 60m square. Paths run around the edge as well as dividing it into quarters. At the centre of the garden is a circular bed divided into eight segments. A statue known locally as 'The Lady of the Sea' (listed grade II) formerly stood on a pedestal at its hub. Golden yews stand on the quarter lawns.
The break in the centre of the Rose Garden's west wall (listed, like the east wall, grade II) gives access to a large, late C20, industrial-style building used in the 1980s as a go-cart arena.
From the centre of the balustraded south side of the Rose Garden semicircular steps (listed grade II with balustrading) lead down to the main axial path through the great Italian Garden, overall c 200m north/south by c 150m east/west. The path terminates at the balustraded terrace (listed grade II) which runs across the south end of the garden overlooking the lake; in an apsidal projection at the centre of the terrace is a bronze statue of c 1840 of Perseus (listed grade II*), a copy of that by Cellini in Florence. Below the east end of the terrace is a boathouse. To either side of the axial path are three slightly sunken gardens, the long rectangular middle gardens having raised octagonal stone pools in their centres. Large clipped evergreen shrubs survive from the C19 planting, and others stand in concrete tubs. At the north-west corner of the garden is a triple-arched pavilion of c 1840 (listed grade II); that at the north-east corner has been demolished. Ramped grass terraces with statue bases lie down the east and west sides of the garden; Arbour Trellis, a 4m high and c 130m long cast-iron pergola or tunnel arbour (listed grade II) of 1843 runs down the central section of the east terrace. East and west of the main formal gardens are lawns with specimen trees and shrubberies; within the former is a C19 cast-iron bandstand.
To the south of the upstanding east portion of the Hall is a lawn with an octagonal fountain basin and golden yews. A stone-edged raised bed runs along the front of the Hall and along the base of the terrace to the west. To the south is a lawn with flower beds and specimen trees.
South of the site of the kitchen gardens is an arboretum, begun c 1850, within which in the later C19 was a large, circular, formal tree nursery. In the 1990s the arboretum ground was used as a golf putting course.
About 100m south of the gates opposite the Mausoleum, in an area of rough grass and specimen trees, is The Duchess's Cottage (listed grade II), an early C19 cottage orné of painted brick and timber frame. In the later C19 a circular formal garden lay south-west of the cottage.
Brown's work of the 1750s destroyed or altered substantially what had gone before. The house of the 1630s was provided with a garden which included a fountain, and by the 1680s there were walled courts to the south with other formal grounds further to the south and to the west. Major works were done in the years after 1695 under the Rev George Plaxton, the family's agent 1685-1700, when construction of a 460 yard dam transformed the existing pool to the south of the Hall into a small lake. It was crossed by a causeway which carried a long walk from the Hall to King's Wood beyond, through which it was carried as a ride. In the 1740s the Hall's surroundings began to be made less formal by the removal of the causeway, and in 1759 Lancelot Brown produced his design for landscaping the whole park. In the mid C19 responsibility for the gardens lay with George Fleming, the Head Gardener, who planted up Barry's designs.
PARK Trentham Hall lay in the north-east corner of a trapezoidal park c 4km long from north to south and 1.5km wide. There was a paled park by the early C18, but Brown's improvements included laying out the landscape park and devising new approach drives across it. The main feature of the park is the lake, which runs south for c 1.35km from the terrace at the south end of the parterre garden. A contour dam retains the east side of the lake, in which there are four wooded islands, the largest near the lake's centre. Brown's improvements of 1759-80 included extending the lake northward to nearer the Hall and constructing an island within it. In the 1830s and 1840s the line of the lake and the planting around its edge were amended by Barry and Nesfield. Running along and rising from the west shore of the lake is the 1.5km long Kingswood Bank, covered with Ancient Woodland of oak, beech and silver birch. Some mature ornamental species lie within the woodland, and are especially notable along the fringes of the northern part of the lake. King's Wood provides the main backdrop to the lake when viewed from the Hall and gardens, along with Jervis Wood to its south and The Oaks. The last is the name of the woodland crowning Tittensor Hill which forms the south end of the park, on top of which and forming an eyecatcher at the end of the view down the lake is the Sutherland Monument (listed grade II*) of 1836, a plain stone column bearing a colossal bronze statue by Chantrey of the first Duke of Sutherland. Drives and rides run through the woodland, and there is a walk up the Spring Valley which separates King's Wood from Jervis Wood.
South-west of the crest of Kingswood Bank the ground falls away and is open grassland; Black Lake, a roughly circular 200m diameter pool lies at the bottom of the slope, against the west boundary of the park. On the west side of the north end of Kingswood Bank is a disused quarry.
Running parallel with, and c 50m east of the east edge of the lake, is the River Trent, here c 15m wide. Between the two is a drive, set back from the lake edge within trees and shrubs in the 500m approach to the south-east side of the pleasure grounds. It leads to a C20 fishing lodge at the south end of the lake. Also within the trees and shrubs on the east bank of the lake, 200m from the north-east corner, is a modern boathouse group. The east boundary of the park lies c 250m east of the River Trent; between the two is rough grassland.
West of the pleasure grounds are several single-storey buildings, variously housing attractions and services for the caravan site and camping ground north-west of the north end of the lake, below Kingswood Bank. A C20 modernist lodge lies at the south end of the caravan site.
The northernmost kilometre of the park is occupied by Trentham Park Golf Club's course. This retains much of the parkland character with trees and shrubberies. Towards its east side, below Hargreaves Wood, is a 400m long pond, Hargreaves Pool.
KITCHEN GARDEN The kitchen gardens, new in the early C18, lay c 300m east of the formal gardens. Almost all trace of the gardens has gone, and the area is occupied by a car park. What survives is the rusticated stone gateway, now free-standing, which lay in the centre of the kitchen garden's south wall.
REFERENCES Trentham and Its Gardens (1857) Country Life, 3 (5 March 1898), pp 272-5; (12 March 1898), pp 304-7; 18 (16 December 1905), pp 880-2; 143 (25 January 1968), pp 176-80; (1 February 1968), pp 228-31; (8 February 1968), pp 282-5; no 19 (9 May 1996), pp 68-71 D Stroud, Capability Brown (1975), pp 149-51, 180, 207, 243, pls 48a & b
Maps OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1889-90 OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published c 1880
Archival items Barry drawings for Trentham, (Stoke on Trent Museum)
Description written: July 1997 Register Inspector: PAS Edited: September 1999
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 2172
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