Risby Jacobean gardens, hall and medieval settlement remains


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


Ordnance survey map of Risby Jacobean gardens, hall and medieval settlement remains
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. 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.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 00666 35075

Reasons for Designation

Post-medieval formal gardens are garden arrangements dating between the early 16th and mid-18th centuries, their most characteristic feature being a core of geometric layout, typically located and orientated in relation to the major residences of which they formed the settings. Garden designs of this period are numerous and varied, although most contain a number of recognisable components. For the 16th and 17th centuries, the most common features are flat-topped banks or terraces (actually raised walkways), waterways, closely set ponds and multi-walled enclosures. Late 17th and 18th century gardens often reflect the development of these ideas and contain multiple terraces and extensive water features, as well as rigidly geometrical arrangements of embankments. Other features fashionable across the period include: earthen mounds (or mounts) used as vantage points to view the house and gardens, or as the sites of ornate structures; `moats' surrounding areas of planting; walled closes of stone or brick (sometimes serving as the forecourt of the main house); and garden buildings such as banqueting houses and pavilions. Planted areas were commonly arranged in geometric beds, or parterres, in patterns which incorporated hedges, paths and sometimes ponds, fountains and statuary. By contrast, other areas were sometimes set aside as romantic wildernesses. Formal gardens were created throughout the period by the royal court, the aristocracy and county gentry, as a routine accompaniment of the country seats of the landed elite. Formal gardens of all sizes were once therefore commonplace, and their numbers may have comfortably exceeded 2000. The radical redesign of many gardens to match later fashions has dramatically reduced this total, and little more than 250 examples are currently known in England. Although one of many post-medieval monument types, formal gardens have a particular importance reflecting the social expectations and aspirations of the period. They represent a significant and illuminating aspect of the architectural and artistic tastes of the time, and illustrate the skills which developed to realise the ambitions of their owners. Surviving evidence may take many forms, including standing structures, earthworks and buried remains; the latter may include details of the planting patterns, and even environmental material from which to identify the species employed. Examples of formal gardens will normally be considered to be of national importance, where the principal features remain visible, or where significant buried remains survive; of these, parts of whole garden no longer in use will be considered for scheduling.

Many early houses had gardens associated with them. The creation of gardens has an early history in England, the earliest examples known being associated with Roman villas. During the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods, herb gardens were planted; particularly in monasteries where the herbs were used for medicinal purposes. However the major development in gardening took place in the late medieval and early post-medieval periods when the idea of the garden as a `pleasure ground' developed. Early gardens take a variety of forms. Some involved significant water-management works to create elaborate water-gardens which could include a series of ponds and even ornamental canal systems. At other sites flower gardens were favoured , with planting in elaborately shaped and often geometrically laid out beds. Planting arrangements were often complemented with urns, statues and other garden furniture. Such sites were often provided with raised walkways or prospect mounds to provide vantage points from which the garden layout could be seen and fully appreciated. Whilst gardens were probably a common accompaniment to high status houses of the late medieval to early post -medieval period, continued occupation and subsequent remodelling of gardens in response to changing fashions means that early garden designs rarely survive undisturbed. Gardens provide a valuable insight into contemporary aesthetics and views about how the landscape could be modified to enhance the surroundings. Their design often mirrors elements of the design of the associated house; particularly following the symmetry of the buildings. In view of their rarity, great variety of form, and importance for understanding high status houses and their occupants, all surviving examples of an early date will be identified to be of national importance. The 17th century garden earthworks at Risby are well preserved and a fine example of Jacobean garden design. Their importance is enhanced by the early 18th century print depicting the gardens and mid-18th century description by Arthur Young. The earthwork survival of the hall's predecessor at Cellar Heads, along with fragments of the deer park boundary and medieval village, also add to the importance of the monument.


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the 17th century gardens laid out around Risby Hall together with the site of the hall itself. It also includes the earthworks of part of the medieval settlement of Risby. The rest of the settlement has been levelled by ploughing, with parts now lying below the modern farm. These areas are not included in the scheduling. The ornamental lakes, the brick built folly and other features to the east of the monument relate to the extension to the gardens in the late 18th century which are also not included in the scheduling , nor is the site of the range of buildings to the west of the hall site demolished in the 1980s. The medieval moated site centred 500m to the NNW at Cellar Heads is the subject of a separate scheduling. The settlement of Risby was recorded in the Domesday Book as having been sold to the Archbishop of York and then granted to Beverley Minster. The manor passed into the hands of the Ellerker family in 1401 and Sir Ralph Ellerker is known to have entertained Henry VIII and his court at Risby in 1540. In c.1550 a deer park was created at Risby by enclosing some of the settlement's open fields and this was enlarged several times up to the late 17th century. Risby passed to Sir James Bradshaw following the death of the last male Ellerker in 1655. He built Risby Hall and laid out the surrounding gardens in the mid- 1680s to replace the moated manor house at Cellar Heads to the north. An early 18th century print shows the southern elevation of this house along with the terraced gardens spread down the hillside to the north. In 1742 the estate was inherited by Easton Mainwaring Ellerker who entertained Arthur Young at Risby in 1769. In Young's 1770 `Tour through the North of England' a series of improvements to the grounds of Risby Hall are described, but these were halted by the death of EM Ellerker in 1771 and that of his son four years later. The hall was destroyed by fire in the late 1770s, rebuilt and burnt to the ground a second time in the early 1780s. A range of buildings with a 1760 date stone to the west of the hall site are thought to have included the library, range of offices and two lodges described in 1787. This range, still shown on Ordnance Survey maps, was demolished and the site levelled in the 1980s. The site of the 1680s hall lies just to the east of Yewtree Plantation and is chiefly marked by the depressions left by the house's cellars. The earthworks of the gardens shown in the early 18th century print extend SSE from a raised walkway alongside this house site, as a series of four level terraces down the hillside. The earthworks are well defined with slopes between terraces typically being both straight sided and at about 45 degrees to the vertical. The print shows other features that are readily identified as earthworks, including the ornamental pond in the bottom of the shallow valley, the building platforms of a pair of pavilions flanking the upper two terraces, a carriageway running around the western side of the terraces and the platform of a third larger outbuilding beyond. The carriageway can be traced south eastwards, following a hollow way up the opposite hillside heading towards the modern farm which truncates it. To the north of this hollow way there is a group of small building platforms which are interpreted as part of the medieval village of Risby. To the south west of this area and the hollow way there is a pair of narrow terraces and a broad bank running along the hillside which are identified as further remains of the formal garden. To the south of the broad bank there is a narrower bank which continues as a bank and external ditch north westwards. This is interpreted as the garden boundary. To the east and north of the hall site, lying within Blackdike and Yewtree Plantations, there is a set of water garden features including two canals, long straight ponds flanked by raised walkways, and an area of smaller, now mainly silted ponds. At the north end of the longer of the two canals there is a bank and ditch forming the remains of a deer leap. This is a surviving section of the boundary around the deer park at Risby. It now marks the northern boundary of Blackday Ice Plantation. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern fences and walls, all stiles and gates, water troughs and the platforms that they stand on, and telegraph poles, 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:


Ed Dennison, Risby Jacobean garden earthworks, 1998, Unpublished research survey
Record card, SMR, 13308,
Record card, SMR, 3525,
Record card, SMR, 3526,


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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