Gawsworth Hall gardens


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Gawsworth Hall gardens
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 89104 69606

Reasons for Designation

Country houses of the Elizabethan period comprise a distinctive group of buildings which differ in form from those of earlier and later periods. Built or created from modified earlier great houses after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, they are the product of a newly-emerged Protestant elite of lawyers, courtiers, diplomats and other officials with close contacts at court who would compete with each other to demonstrate wealth, taste and loyalty to the sovereign. Their houses are a development of the medieval hall with flanking wings and a gatehouse, often looking inwards onto a courtyard. Later examples tend to be built outwards, typically on a `U' or `H' plan. Country houses of this period were often constructed under the supervision of one master mason or a succession of masons advised by the owner or employer. Symmetry in both plan and elevation was an overriding principle and this extended to the layouts of the surrounding gardens, sometimes carried to extremes of Elizabethan architectural conceits in which geometric forms were employed to express religious and philosophical ideas. Most early houses had gardens associated with them. The major development in gardening took place in the late medieval and post-medieval periods when the idea of a pleasure ground developed. Some gardens involved significant water management to create elaborate water gardens which could include a series of ponds and ornamental canals. Planting arrangements were often in elaborately shaped symmetrical beds accompanied by raised walkways and prospect mounds which provided vantage points from which to enjoy the design and layout of the garden. Continued occupation of the houses in subsequent periods has often resulted in the extinction of these early forms of gardens and so examples of surviving early remains are uncommon. The early garden at Gawsworth includes many features which were developed during the Elizabethan period. The inclusion of both water gardens and an ornamental canal, together with planted areas and a wilderness, and a raised walkway with two prospect mounds, make this a rare and important earthwork site. The garden scheme continued to be developed for a further 50 years before becoming part of a relict garden within the enclosing walls. The maintenance and survival of the original walls adds greatly to the importance of the remains.


The monument includes the extensive earthwork remains of a 16th century garden, surrounded by a wall, together with a flight of five ornamental pools created around Gawsworth Hall. The monument also includes the remains of structures beneath the present Gawsworth Hall. The garden and ponds were probably created for the family of Sir Edward Fitton III (1550-1606), at the height of their success and popularity in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Gawsworth Hall dates to the medieval period but was extensively remodelled during the Elizabethan period with the addition of south and west ranges. The garden, which is in the Garden Register Listed at II*, was designed as a pleasure ground and the complex included a watchtower on a prospect mound (later a pigeon house and now a residence which is not included in the scheduling) overlooking a line of five pools, a possible tilting ground, a gravelled walk, prospect mounds in the south west and south east corners, formal beds and in the north west corner a formal planting of lime trees. The garden, with the exception of the flight of pools, is enclosed by a high wall which encompasses an area of 8.62ha. The complex was designed for the provision of entertainments for visiting aristocracy and contains elements of a geometrical and allegorical layout. The following description details the garden remains from north to south. At the northern end of the monument lie a flight of five large pools originally designed to be viewed from the dove house on a prospect mound to the east of the Wall Pool. These were trapezoidal in order to exaggerate the perspectives from this view and create the impression of a far larger scheme. The Wall Pool is the largest on the eastern side of the line. The next pool has been partly cut back to accommodate the spinney which now screens the view from the New Hall to the north. The pool on the north side of `the rookery' has also been reduced at its east end to accommodate the more recent entrance arrangements. The pool next to St James' Church has also been curtailed to enlarge the graveyard. The fifth pool was drained in the late 18th century and although briefly repaired in the 1950s has not held water since. These pools may have been fishponds for the earlier medieval hall, but the present arrangement is that of an impressive and formal water garden feature. To the immediate south of these ponds, details of the original Elizabethan gardens have been somewhat obscured by modern development and land use. However, a gatehouse lying to the north east of Gawsworth Hall, now occupied as a house, may have been built as a garden banqueting hall. This house is not included in the scheduling. To the west, south and east of the hall is the large walled garden defined by a wall which stands up to 3m high, capped by outward-sloping coping stones. On the south side there is a semi-circular walled area called the `half moon', built in the centre and 100m wide and 30m deep. This has been taken to represent the allegorical figure of Queen Elizabeth I as she was featured in much contemporary literature and architecture. The west wall is exactly 300 yards long and this indicates the preciseness of the whole garden layout in its original scheme. Within this enclosure, on the west side there is a raised walk, originally gravelled, running down the length of the wall. In the south west corner is a prospect mound rising to the level of the enclosing wall. From this walk and the prospect mound, views extend to survey the entire garden and outside to the Peak and to the Welsh hills. The prospect mound was paired with another in the south east corner which has now been largely quarried away. To the east of the long gravelled walk there are three features. On the north side is the `rookery'. This was a group of trees; four of the most ancient limes are set at the four corners of the group. To the south of this feature was the area now called the `wilderness garden'. Around its eastern and southern edges was a brick wall and this also enclosed a formal planting of beds in a lawn with a possible bowling green at the southern end. To the south of this area is a rectangular sunken feature with three terraces to the north, three to the west and a single terrace facing out into the centre of the garden. Excavation has revealed that each terrace provided a platform for grass walks and formal planting and the sunken area was a knot garden with a water feature in the centre. The highest terraces, on the northern side, were found on excavation to be brick revetted. Those to the west and south were only revetted with clay. They also had clay lined planting holes for small trees. The central area of the garden had a water-filled canal running north to south, with a circular pond at the southern end. This measured about 100m long and 10m wide with the pond 20m in diameter. Excavation has revealed that a pleached lime hedge once connected the terraces of the knot garden to the edge of the canal. To the north of this canal is the scalloped brick retaining wall of the present kitchen garden, and an earthwork to the east continues the line of this wall to enclose the southern quarter of the platform on which the hall is built. On the west side of the hall is a more modern enclosed garden layout, but within it are elderly yew trees which hint at a former formal layout in Elizabethan times. The eastern side of the garden is low-lying, possibly designed to have been flooded for special displays, with a raised terrace running inside the wall for 140m to the north of the missing prospect mound in the south east corner. The north east quarter of the enclosure is obscured by modern planting and the gardens attached to the gatehouse and stable block, which are now converted into dwellings. This area is not included in the scheduling. In the north east corner, forming part of the garden of Gawsworth Court, which is one of these conversions, there are traces of ridge and furrow cultivation which have survived the making of the Elizabethan garden and the 20th century levelling of the area to the north to make tennis courts. The possibility that the southern garden earthworks were the remains of a tilting ground with terraced raised banks around it has been postulated in the recent past by several authorities but the recent excavations have not supported this idea. The present hall, which is Listed Grade I, incorporates medieval and later fabric and has been much altered and remodelled over the centuries. The building is timber-framed of shallow `U'-shaped plan. Originally the building was ranged around a courtyard but in 1701 the southernmost bays of the great hall and, it is assumed, the west range of the hall were demolished. The northern and eastern ranges, which are in part medieval, and a southern range with a three-decker bay window with exuberant decoration of c.1580 looking into the courtyard, still survive. Foundations and evidence of the demolished buildings will be preserved beneath the terraces to the west and south of the present hall. These remains are included in the scheduling as well as other remains of earlier structures lying beneath the present hall. Gawsworth Hall, the concrete shed, the Grade II Listed gateposts at the entrance to the hall, the summerhouse on the south western side of the hall, and the post and wire fence which separates the present garden from the earthwork remains on the south western side of the hall are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Turner, R, Gawsworth Hall and Gardens, (1990), 7
Turner, R, Gawsworth Hall and Gardens, (1990), 5
Turner, R, Gawsworth Hall and Gardens, (1990), passim
Turner, R, Gawsworth Hall and Gardens, (1990), 14
Turner, R, Gawsworth Hall and Gardens, (1990), 12


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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