Heritage Category: Park and Garden
List Entry Number: 1001369
Date first listed: 30-May-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Bedford (Unitary Authority)
District: Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: TL1346948695
A late C18 park for which Humphry Repton drew up proposals, a number of which were implemented, presenting these in the form of a Red Book dated 1792.
Godfrey Thornton, banker and partner in Down, Thornton & Co, inherited Moggerhanger Lodge, a small country villa, from his brother Robert in the late 1780s. Thornton called on Sir John Soane (1753-1837), who he had met at the Bank of England (of which Thornton was a director) while Soane was working there in the 1790s, to remodel the existing house between 1790 and 1799. The improvements included moving the entrance from the south-east to the north-east side of the house, as a result of the enlargements. Godfrey's son Stephen inherited the estate on the death of his father in 1805, and he too called on Soane to remodel the house further, from 1806 to 1811. This phase of work included changing the entrance to the north-west front, in line with comments made by Repton who remarked on the inconvenience of the main rooms of the house looking out immediately onto gravel and waiting carriages.
Godfrey Thornton called in Humphry Repton to advise on improvements for the grounds, Repton's proposals being recorded in the Red Book produced following his visit to the site in May 1792. This document shows that the basic outline of the park had already been established, and indeed the house is shown set within parkland on Jefferys' county map of 1765. In his recommendations, Repton discusses the desirability of a new, more imposing focus for the park, 'a house of superior stile' (Red Book), referring to the existing building, neither a farmhouse, country seat, nor villa, as a 'sporting-seat'.
The estate was owned by the Dawkins family from 1857 to the end of the 1880s. For a short time in the 1920s the house became Godwin College, then was used as an isolation hospital and subsequently an orthopaedic hospital, Park Hospital, which closed in 1987.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Moggerhanger Park lies to the south-west of the village of Mogerhanger, 1.8km east of Willington and 3km to the west of Sandy. The c 53ha park is roughly triangular in shape, tapering to a point 200m south of the house. The eastern edge of the park is formed by the public road from Cople to Northill. To the west and north the site merges with farmland, the western edge following the parish boundary between Moggerhanger and Willington.
The house stands at the northern end of a slight spur, on the Greensand Ridge, with the ground falling gently away to the north-west and south-east.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES A drive, now no longer in use, leads off the Bedford Road 1.1km west of the village of Mogerhanger and runs south across farmland to enter the north-west corner of the park. From here, marked by a row of limes, it runs south to the house. The line of this drive across the farmland is shown as a tree-lined approach on the plan which accompanies the 1857 sale particulars, but the drive across the parkland is not marked.
Currently (1997) the main approach is from the south end of Park Road, west of Park Farm, this continuing as a track south-west to join the north drive.
The footings of an octagonal lodge (demolished c 1960), stand on the northern boundary of the park, 200m to the west of Park Road. This lodge was built to the designs of Soane and accompanied the entrance to the former main north drive which was laid out following one of Repton's main proposals. As suggested, this branched off the Bedford Road where it meets Park Road, crossing farmland to enter the park at the lodge, then leading south through the park to the north-west front of the house. Repton recommended that the drive then continue, looping back through a plantation screening it and the home farm beyond from views from the house. Several small ponds north of the house were filled in also at Repton's instigation, to improve the approach. Although shown on the map of 1857, the drive was no longer in use at the beginning of the C20 (2nd edition OS map published 1902).
Both the plan of 1789 and Repton's map of three years later show a south drive entering the southern tip of the park opposite the junction of the public roads. This is not shown on the map of 1857 or on subsequent documents.
PRINCIPAL BUILDING Park House (listed grade I) stands approximately in the centre of its level park, the main views being to the south-east and south, out over the park and the farmland beyond. Repton recommended that in order to secure the vista out to the gently rising land of Beeston Leasow beyond, this land should be purchased in order that it might be kept as pasture rather than planted with corn. The park pale could then be replaced by a section of ha-ha where it was in line with the view from the main rooms of the House. The Thorntons do not however appear to have acquired this land, although Repton was called back by Col William Thornton in 1798 to sketch some improvements for the Leasow (Carter 1982).
During the time that the House was in use as a hospital it became surrounded by a sprawl of huts and corridors, now (1997) cleared away. To the south-west of the House is an outbuilding (listed grade II), probably also by Soane for Stephen Thornton; to the west of the House stands an icehouse.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The House stands in an area of pleasure grounds, divided from the park to the south by a sunk fence, now (1997) seen as a ditch and accompanying hedge. North of the House is a level expanse of lawn, planted, like the rest of the pleasure grounds, with a number of specimen trees, including several non-native species. The mature blue cedar, London plane, copper beech and Magnolia acuminata on the south lawn are of particular note.
The form of the pleasure grounds is much as shown in Repton's proposals. An apron of ground divides the dressed ground from the park to the south, a band of planting runs westwards from the north-west front of the House to the north side of the kitchen garden, and a walk round this side of the kitchen garden leads into the woodland beyond further to the west. Repton advised that every advantage should be taken of the beauty of this woodland by cutting through a series of walks leading to chosen views out, particularly that to 'Hasells House' (The Hazells, qv) a property at which he had worked for Godfrey Thornton's friend and neighbour, Francis Pym, in 1790.
PARK The park divides into two main areas, both of which are currently (1997) intensively farmed with few surviving parkland trees of the once well-wooded landscape (1857 map; 1902 OS) except in the vicinity of the House. To the south-east the park slopes gently down away from the edge of the pleasure grounds to the public road. Within this area, 250m to the east of the House, a large bund has been created (mid C20) which sits uncomfortably in the landscape.
The north park is enclosed by a belt as recommended by Repton to hide the park pale, which now runs much of the length of its northern edge, but in the last century ran the full length of this boundary, screening Park Farm. Most of the current trees are young (1997). Forming the west side of the north park is an area of woodland called Bottom Wood, again a young plantation but representing a continuity of use. Repton considered this Wood too to be a valuable amenity and proposed a sweeping ride be cut through, in addition to the formal rides then already in existence. The 2nd edition OS map (1902) shows just such an improvement to have been carried out. As part of his advice, Repton advocated that the plantations of the park be kept as copse, in which form they would screen the park pale while not obscuring views out.
Repton also considered that for variety in such flat land, the two paddocks in the north park to the east and to the south of Bottom Wood should be retained, rather than the hedges and surrounding plantings being cleared and the field incorporated into the park. Later maps show that this suggestion was followed, and traces of this layout remain visible.
Midway between the House and Bottom Wood, west of the north drive and at the south-east corner of the former paddock, stands a mid C20 bungalow. A pair of houses have also been built within the park at the northern end of the east drive off Park Road, and there has been some housing development within the park to the east of Park Farm (all mid C20).
KITCHEN GARDEN The kitchen garden lies 50m to the west of the House, within the pleasure grounds. Pre-dating Repton's involvement at Moggerhanger by a few years (not shown on the plan of 1789), it takes the form of one high-walled enclosure, with a second rectangular area enclosed by a lower brick wall to the north. Adjoining its western end is a small Tudor building of wood and brick. To the south is an area used as an orchard from before the 1790s until the C20; no fruit trees remain.
The present condition of the landscape is poor, particularly that of the park, but the late C18 layout is still basically intact.
Bedfordshire Magazine, 5 (autumn 1956), pp 249-52 G Carter et al, Humphry Repton, Landscape Gardener (1982)
Maps T Jefferys, The County of Bedford, 1765 Plan of Moggerhanger Lodge and Park in the County of Bedford, 1789 (Soane Museum 3/3/14) Sale Particulars, 1857 (Bedfordshire Record Office)
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1881 2nd edition published 1902
Archival items Repton?s Red Book, 1792
Description written: January 1998 Register Inspector: CB Edited: May 1999
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 4026
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