Heritage Category: Park and Garden
List Entry Number: 1001481
Date first listed: 13-Nov-2000
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Maidstone (District Authority)
District: Maidstone (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TQ 77806 54849
An C18 and C19 landscape park created from an earlier deer park, set at the east edge of Maidstone. The park surrounds a 1790s country house with informal, mid C19 pleasure grounds. The earthwork remains of an earlier formal garden of the early to mid C18, related to the site of the former mansion, lie within the park.
In the C14 Mote Park was imparked and the manor house castellated, this being one of the earliest deer parks in Kent. In 1589 Queen Elizabeth I gave the estate to John Nicholas and John Dixon, it then passing through several more hands until by 1690 it had come into the possession of Sir John Marsham, first Baronet. In 1716 Sir Robert Marsham, nephew of Sir John, was created the first Baron of Romney, and carried out considerable improvements to the estate. By 1750 (Badeslade) the mansion was set on a platform of formal terraces and parterres, and approached via a grand double avenue incised into the hillside to the north. A further main vista led west from the mansion into the park. To the north-east of the mansion a cascade led to a series of rectangular basins which stepped down the hillside. The water left the lowest basin beneath a summerhouse, falling into a canal. The layout of the gardens and park is shown on the Andrews map of 1769. By 1783 the second Baron of Romney had remodelled the garden and park in the informal landscape style, with an informally planted lawn sweeping up to the mansion (Elizabeth Banks Assocs 1997).
The second Baron died in 1793, and his son, the third Baron (cr first Earl of Romney, 1801), at once began to erect a new mansion on higher ground to the north-east of the park. The park itself was extended and new drives were laid out. The old mansion was demolished c 1800. Estate accounts for the period 1793 to 1802 show that over £1900 was spent on the kitchen garden, park wall, the Great Bridge over the lake, and boathouse. The first Earl died in 1811 leaving large debts.
By 1835 the estate was cleared of debt, and a further phase of landscape improvement began c 1839 at the behest of the second Earl (d 1845), following the acquisition of further land. The alterations included the extension and enlargement of the lake, the demolition of the Great Bridge, and the realignment of the principal approach from Maidstone.
In 1895 the estate was sold out of the family to Sir Marcus Samuel (later first Viscount Bearstead) and, following the death of his father in 1927, the second Viscount sold the park to Maidstone Corporation. Mote Park was opened to the public, and the mansion was used first as a school, then during the Second World War by the army, and most recently as a Leonard Cheshire Home. The park remains (2000) in use as a public amenity and the mansion is unoccupied.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Mote Park lies adjacent to the east edge of the Kent county town of Maidstone, 1km from the town centre, in rolling land. The c 200ha site is bounded to the south and west by C20 housing, to the east by Willington Street, and to the north by Turkey Mill and the A20 Ashford Road. The park boundary is marked in part by a wall alongside the north boundary, which turns south along the east boundary with Willington Street, and turns from here westwards as far as Forge Lodge at the centre of the south boundary. The site occupies the valley of the River Len which runs from the centre of the east boundary, north-west through the park. A further valley runs up to the south-west corner of the park close to the south boundary. The immediate setting is largely urban, with views from the southern half of the park northwards to distant hills.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The main approach enters from Mote Avenue, 1.2km north-west of the House at the north-west corner of the park, giving direct access from Maidstone town centre to the west. To the north of the entrance stands a lodge. From here the north-west drive extends east through the park, flanked by loosely scattered parkland trees set in mown grass. The drive, carried by a bridge, crosses the course of the River Len c 850m north-west of the House, the river being set in a cutting. From here the drive descends a slope to run alongside the north bank of the lake, passing, 700m from the House, a large stone boathouse which also houses the lake sluice. Some 250m north-west of the House the drive crosses a stone bridge and waterfall, shortly before turning south to run past the west side of the stables and on to an informal carriage sweep on the west, entrance front of the House. From the point at which the drive turns south to the House a further arm of the drive continues south-east, giving direct access to the stables and service yard to the south. This arm then enters the pleasure grounds to skirt the north side of the walled kitchen garden before emerging on the east boundary at Willington Street, 550m east of the House, at a single-storey stone lodge and stone gateway.
A further, north drive enters off Ashford Road at a lodge and gateway standing 450m north of the House. From here the north drive curves south-west through the park, to join the north-west drive 400m north-west of the House. A second drive enters off Ashford Road, 400m east of the present north entrance, its entrance formerly having been marked by a lodge (now gone). From here the drive extends south-west through a small valley, alongside a stream which feeds the lake at the stone bridge and waterfall, to join the north-west drive at the point where it turns south to the west front of the House.
Three further entrances stand on the east boundary (in addition to the east end of the north-west drive), giving access to drives crossing the east half of the park and pleasure grounds. The northernmost one enters 550m north-east of the House, giving access to a Park and Ride car park immediately to the south, lying adjacent to the park wall. The drive curves south-west through the pleasure grounds, crossing the north-west drive 100m west of the kitchen garden, then continuing south-west to give access to the east, service entrance to the House. The south-east drive, also known as the Cheshire Road, enters 700m south-east of the House at Otham Lodge, next to the entrance of the River Len into the park. From here the drive curves north-west through the river valley, carried across to the north side of the river by a small stone bridge standing 400m south-east of the House. The drive ascends the north valley side, turning north 150m south of the House to reach the entrance on the west front. Further drives enter 800m south-east of the House, at Church Lodge, and 800m south of the House off School Lane, these drives running north-east to join the south-east drive 150m north-west of Otham Lodge.
Forge Lodge stands 900m south-west of the House at the centre of the south boundary, on high ground overlooking the House and park, and is reached via the Shepway housing estate. The Lodge consists of two two-storey stone lodges with porticoes, flanking the stone gate piers of a gateway which provides access to a drive running north through an enclosed yard. The west and east sides of the yard are bounded by stone walls and sheds, and on the north side stand two single-storey stone lodges and large stone gate piers which flank the drive as it reaches the edge of the park. The drive however does not extend into the park. From here panoramic views extend across the House and park to distant hills.
The present drive system developed from the 1770s, being modified as the park expanded. The former south drive, which entered at Forge Lodge, was lost when the north-west drive was created in the mid C19, at which time the Great Bridge, which had carried the south drive north across the lake to the House, was demolished. The course of the early to mid C18 great avenue and drive which approached the former mansion is still visible, cut into the park to the north of Forge Lodge.
PRINCIPAL BUILDING Mote House (Daniel Alexander 1793(1801, listed grade II*) stands in the east half of the park, on a promontory which faces west and south. The three-storey house is faced with stone on all but the north front, which is of white brick. The main square block has two wings which project east from the north-east and south-east corners. A C20 extension continues the wing at the south-east corner eastwards. The House enjoys extensive views west towards Maidstone, and south across the park. This house replaced the earlier mansion which stood c 800m to the south-west.
Some 50m north of the House lies the service yard, with an L-shaped stable block (early C19, listed grade II) enclosing a stable yard, which together form the west side of the service yard. The south side is marked by the former brewhouse (C18, listed grade II), and to the south of this the detached, sunken kitchen block. The north side of the service yard is bounded by cottages, with a wall along the east side.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The approximately triangular, c 14ha pleasure grounds lie to the east of the House. They occupy level high ground in the north-east corner of the park, and enclose the kitchen garden. They are bounded to the east by Willington Lane, to the west by the House and service yard, and to the south by a short, steep terraced slope which leads down to the park. The pleasure grounds are now (2000) largely overgrown, but much of the formerly extensive path system remains, together with a collection of mature trees. A tree-lined path extends east from a lawn to the east of the House, along the south boundary of the pleasure grounds, overlooking the park and valley. The late C20 Park and Ride car park occupies 1.5ha of the north corner of the pleasure grounds.
The pleasure grounds were laid out in woodland during the campaign of works from 1839, when land to the north of the House was acquired and the main, north-west drive laid out. During the following thirty years the pleasure grounds were laid out with a network of paths, including a perimeter path, which divided up a series of green glades. The paths were planted up with flanking trees and ornamental shrubs, and specimen trees were planted in the glades. By 1888 there were twenty-five gardeners employed in the pleasure grounds and kitchen gardens, tending a large collection of exotic plants as well as substantial areas of orchard (Elizabeth Banks Assocs 1997).
PARK The park encloses the House and pleasure grounds to the north, west, and south, and is overlooked by the west and south fronts of the House. It is laid largely to pasture and mown grass, with playing fields occupying parts of the west side, and a late C20 leisure centre set into the west boundary (outside the area here registered) on high ground. The park contains many clumps and single trees, including a good collection of exotics, with extensive perimeter belts. Panoramic views extend from many of the upper parts of the southern hillside over Maidstone to the west, and to the north towards distant hills.
The park is dominated by the 11ha lake which occupies much of the River Len valley. Its serpentine form 'is so judiciously managed that the whole of it cannot be seen from any one place' (JHCG 1868). Several small islands lie in the south half of the lake. The river enters the park close to the centre of the east boundary, broadens out to form the lake, and leaves via a cutting at the north-west corner of the park, running via a mill pond into Turkey Mill. This pond, lying close to the north-west end of the lake, is divided from Turkey Mill by the park wall. The environs of the pond are ornamented with walks and woody planting, and two stone boathouses. To the north of the mill pond the Maidstone to Ashford railway runs close to the inner side of the north boundary of the park for 500m, built in 1865 after strenuous efforts by the third Earl of Romney to prevent its incursion into the park.
The lake divides the park into two unequal halves, the larger to the south-west and the smaller to the north-east; both are traversed by a network of paths cut through the sward. At the lower, east end of the small valley at the south-west corner of the park stands the Pavilion (1801, listed grade II). This Portland stone temple consists of a central circular building with three high doorways and a domed roof supported by a colonnade of fluted Doric columns. It overlooks the House 750m to the north-east across the lake, and beyond this distant hills. The Pavilion was built on the knoll where King George III's tent was pitched during his visit of 1799 to inspect the Kent Volunteers, the building having later been erected by the Volunteers as a tribute to the Earl of Romney.
East of the Pavilion lie the well-preserved and finely cut earthwork remains of the C18 formal garden and the associated mansion. These extensive earthworks step northwards from the site of the former mansion down the hillside through the parkland towards the present lake.
The landscape park was laid out over the former medieval deer park by the second Baron of Romney in the 1770s or early 1780s, as part of his remodelling of the formal gardens around the old mansion. The park was enlarged to the north in the 1790s by the third Baron, who erected the park wall, created the lake crossed by the Great Bridge, and built the stone boathouses. In 1839 the second Earl of Romney bought further land to the north enabling the extension and reshaping of the lake and the demolition of the Great Bridge during the construction of the new approach from the north-west.
KITCHEN GARDEN The octagonal kitchen garden lies 300m east of the House. It was laid out by Lord Romney in the 1790s (Elizabeth Banks Assocs 1997) and is presently (2000) disused. The garden is enclosed by a stone wall faced with brick on the interior, which formerly supported two extensive ranges of glasshouses on the south sides of the north and south walls. The two-storey stone gardener's cottage stands at the centre of the north wall, with the remains of potting sheds and offices on the north side of this wall. Two main entrances, flanked by large stone piers, stand at the centre of the west and east walls, with a path connecting them, this having formerly been a direct continuation of the east end of the north-west drive. A former slip garden to the north incorporated a frameyard and other glasshouses (OS 1897). The area is now overgrown and the structures have largely gone (2000).
T Badeslade, Thirty-Six Different Views ... of Kent (1750) J Horticulture and Cottage Gardener, 40 (29 October 1868), pp 319-21 Gardeners' Chronicle, ii (10 October 1885), p 458; ii (29 September 1888), pp 349-51 P Stanford, A History of Mote Park, Maidstone, 1267-1990 (1990) Mote Park Historic Landscape Appraisal, (Elizabeth Banks Assocs 1997)
Maps J N O Andrews, Topographical Map of the County of Kent, 1769 T Brown, Proposals for new roads and footpaths to be laid in the park, belonging to the Right Hon'ble Lord Romney, 1794 (copy in Elizabeth Banks Assocs 1997) Plan contained in Sale particulars for the Mote Estate, July 1895 (Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery)
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1870(1 OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1870(1 2nd edition published 1897 3rd edition published 1908
Description written: October 2000 Register Inspector: SR Edited: April 2001
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 4556
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