Post-medieval house and gardens at Willey Court, 450m south east of Willey House


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


Ordnance survey map of Post-medieval house and gardens at Willey Court, 450m south east of Willey House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SO 32614 68181, SO 32718 67999, SO 32968 67944

Reasons for Designation

The post-medieval house and gardens at Willey Court, 450m south east of Willey House survive well and incorporate a number of features typifying the middle range developments provided by the country gentry in a period when fashions and technology were changing and many medieval and Tudor building complexes were redeveloped along with a substantial area of the surrounding property, including formal gardens and the wider emparked landscape. Many houses constructed during this period incorporated remnants of an earlier manor house, or occupied its site and will preserve buried remains of its foundations. Although rarely of the first rank, these developments represent a considerable investment of resources and many attempted to incorporate innovations of style and technology seen in the greater houses of the land. Although remnants of earlier developments may be preserved at Willey Court, the remains are believed to relate largely to the 18th century and to have survived for a very limited time span before being abandoned and have remained largely undisturbed by later developments. In addition the remains of the formal garden will show evidence of changing landscape fashions and aspirations among the landed gentry of the period. Whilst much of the monument survives as building remains and upstanding earthworks, providing information upon the size and form of the house, gardens and ponds, those areas of the monument which survive as buried remains will be expected to preserve earlier deposits, including evidence of construction and any alterations, accompanied by a range of boundaries, refuse pits, wells and drainage channels, all related to the development of the manor. The arrangement of agricultural and domestic ancillary buildings in relation to the residential quarters, will illustrate the relationships between the different classes of occupants of the estate and their daily activities and routine areas and methods of work. Artefacts buried in association with the buildings will provide further insights into the lifestyle of the inhabitants and assist in dating the changes through time. Environmental evidence may also be preserved, illustrating the economy of the estate and providing further information about its agricultural regime.


The monument includes the buried, earthwork and upstanding remains of the post-medieval house and gardens at Willey Court. The house, gardens and two fish ponds are in three separate areas of protection. Willey Court is located on the north east side and valley bottom of the steep narrow valley of the Lime Brook, and is geographically isolated in a hill and valley landscape, close to the Welsh border. The house and terraced gardens were located in order to exploit the extended landscape views down the valley and across the adjacent hills to the south and east. The first area includes the remains of the house and gardens which stand on a substantial artificial stone revetted terrace, of rough grey stone walling, aligned north west to south east and approximately 300m long and up to 3.5m high. The terrace varies from 10m to 40m wide being widest in the centre and tapering at both ends. The remains of the southernmost access road or drive run along the base of the revetment and include traces of a paved surface and stone edging. To the south of the drive are slighter earthwork remains of at least two smaller terraces leading downslope to the Lime Brook and fishponds in the valley below. At the north western end of the drive are the remains of a formal stone edged path leading down the slope from the terrace below the house and heading towards the site of a former bridge, crossing to the retaining dam of the uppermost pond. The main house, constructed of local grey freestone, stood slightly to the north west of the centre of the terrace with a large service courtyard consisting of stables and outbuildings lying further to the north west. There are no surviving dressed features or imported masonry, although some areas of inserted brick work survives. The bricks vary from small hand made bricks of probable 17th century date to 19th century machined bricks. A small, partly restored outbuilding known as `the stable', lies furthest to the north west and is excluded from the scheduling. The walls of several buildings stand to over 2m high, and parts of the chimney wall of the house to over 3m high. To the south east of the house were at least two walled courtyards or gardens occupying the south eastern half of the main terrace. There are the remains of a circular corbelled icehouse and a well with a probable ornamental spring head or housing. Several exotic ornamental trees survive in and above the main terrace as remnants of the formal gardens. The remains of a second approach drive terraced into the hillside and walled on either side, in the vicinity of the main terrace and house, survive immediately upslope and behind the house. A third and final driveway is located 80m upslope from the lowest driveway and is also terraced into the hill side and aligned east to west. It too has traces of a paved or cobbled surface and dwarf retaining walls and survives as an earthwork extending to the west into the adjacent field. A 15m sample of this extension is included in the scheduling to preserve its relationship with the house and gardens. Between the area defined by the three driveways, the hill side slopes steeply to the north east and includes the earthwork remains of at least six further terraces, aligned east to west and occupying the ground behind the building complex. The stone foundations of several small structures believed to be small gazebos, look outs and other garden features survive among the terraces behind the house. The most prominent of these is an earthen mound or tump supporting a plantation of four beech trees planted to grow as a single massive landscape feature. The mound is approximately 6m in diameter and 2.5m high. An avenue of at least six yew trees was aligned to lead between the mound and a small stone structure which projected from the terrace immediately below the mound and must have formed part of an impressive garden arrangement. A chain of three large fishponds occupy the line of the Lime Brook in the valley bottom, running south west to north east towards the site of the house and gardens. The second area protects the south westernmost pond which remains waterlogged. It is roughly square in plan and water was retained by distinct earthen banks, measuring up to 1m high and 1m wide, on the northern, eastern and southern sides. A substantial dam retained the water against the fall of the valley on the western side and measures up to 3m high and 3m wide with a wide shallow ditch immediately on the southern, outer edge, from which material for the dam was quarried. The remains of a large stone, iron and concrete sluice, of probable 19th century date survive midway along the dam. Approximately 300m to the north east along the line of the Lime Brook are the remains of a second fishpond protected in a third area. These are less regular in shape, being sub-rectangular and defined by a waterlogged hollow with the remains of a sluice along its northern edge. The third pond lies approximately 200m upstream to the north east and is closest to the site of the house. This pond has been substantially dredged and reinstated and is not included in the scheduling. It is approximately square in plan and retained by a substantial dam on its south western side. The Lime Brook and a number of springs which issue further up the valley sides formed the water source for the series of fishponds. The origins of the fishponds are unknown, although their form suggests that they may have been medieval structures adapted for use in the formal gardens of the later house when they formed a significant element in the formal pleasure gardens. Substantial dams and sluices were inserted in order to provide an impressive cascade of three large ponds filling the valley floor and in clear view of the house and terraces. The line of the Lime Brook also appears to have formed an important landscape feature acting to separate the more formal garden arrangements on the north eastern side of the valley surrounding the house, from the less formal pleasure grounds or park on the south western slopes of the valley facing the house. This area of less formal park land is not included in the scheduling. The origins of the Willey Court estate are obscure. There are a few surviving references to the parish of Wilelegh from the 12th century, by 1259 it formed part of Wylileg Welshry, suggesting that its proximity to the Welsh borders may have caused alterations in ownership leading to the lack of surviving documentation. The post-medieval house was certainly extant by 1792 when Thomas Legge Esq of Willey Court died there, suggesting that at the very latest the house and gardens were of mid-18th century date. By the 19th century the estate formed part of the 1300 acre Willey Court estate, being offered for sale. The house is described as being `down' in the sale documents and forms part of a lot with a `garden, pleasure ground, etc.' The accompanying plan shows the terraces, drives, walled gardens and fishponds surviving intact and the plan of the two main building complexes, domestic and ancillary were recorded. Local tradition suggests that the house was gutted and stripped following the sale, with architectural features being incorporated into other houses in the area.

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


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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.

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