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Old Thorndon Hall and gardens

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Old Thorndon Hall and gardens

List entry Number: 1021226

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Brentwood

District Type: District Authority

Parish:

County: Essex

District: Brentwood

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Herongate and Ingrave

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 24-Feb-2004

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 32473

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The manor of Thorndon has an illustrious and well-documented history which the above and below ground remains of the hall and gardens elucidate. Successive overlays of house and associated landscaped gardens bring to life the history of the manor of Thorndon from its medieval origins through to the end of the 18th century when it was abandoned in favour of a new site to the north. The transformation of the small medieval moated site of the early 15th century into a large and rambling medieval house, next remodelled into a splendid Elizabethan country residence by the first Lord Petre and finally modified into a Palladian mansion by the eighth Lord is clearly demonstrated in the archaeological record. Although partly excavated, much remains undisturbed for future investigation.

Both archaeological and historical records demonstrate the architectural qualities of the Old Hall. The Elizabethan house was undoubtedly a very fine example of its period: a typical brick mansion with a skyline broken by chimneys, towers and gables. The Palladian house was never completed but would also have been impressive in its day. The gardens demonstrate changes in landscape design over the centuries. The Elizabethan landscape reflects the style of the period: squared gardens laid out in quarters, frequently with open and closed knots within view of the important reception rooms of the house. The `Orchard' dominates the area of garden on the west side of the mansion, a smaller orchard adjoins the entrance courtyard. The occupation of roughly half the immediate grounds of Old Thorndon Hall by plantations of fruit trees signifies the importance of orchards in early English gardens. The importance of the landscaping innovations of the eighth Lord Petre cannot be underestimated. Petre's undisputed achievements in the field of importation and naturalisation of exotic species and his unrivalled hot-house collection were unparalleled. His skillful arrangement of form and colour within his gardens were praised eloquently by contemporary writers and proved a powerful influence on subsequent garden design; Thorndon was the setting for gardens and nurseries that became famous throughout England.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes the above and below ground remains of Old Thorndon Hall and its associated gardens, including remains of the moated medieval manor and Old Hall and the area of gardens around the house which formed the original landscaped gardens of the 16th century, partially redesigned in the 18th century. The site is located on the summit of a steep south facing slope (giving views over the Thames estuary) within a small wood (Old Hall Wood) which forms part of Thorndon Country Park (South). To the south of the park is the A127 connecting Basildon and Southend; two miles to the north is the town of Brentwood. The underlying geology of the park is London Clay.

The history of the estate of Thorndon dates back to the Domesday Survey of 1086 when the Saxon manor of `Torninduna' was held by Suain of Essex. In 1414 Henry V gave licence to the then owner, a vintner called Lewis John, `to empark 300 acres, to surround his lodge within this park with walls and to crenallate and embattle the lodge'. In 1573 Sir John Petre of Ingatestone (later first Lord Petre) bought the estate from a family friend Lord John Mordaunt and immediately set about rebuilding the house and redesigning the gardens. Over the next 20 years the house and gardens were transformed and the final results are accurately depicted on a map of 1598 by John Walker and a drawing of 1669 (the latter by an artist accompanying Duke Cosmo of Tuscany on his visit to England).

In 1734 the eighth Lord Petre, Robert James, a renowned enthusiast for botany and horticulture, undertook an ambitious project to rebuild the hall and landscape the gardens. A Venetian architect, Giacomo Leoni, was hired to redesign the house, and a French surveyor called Bourginion was employed to draw up a plan for a new landscape garden. The resultant garden design was complex and included a water garden, menagerie, colossal hot-houses (called `stoves') and a huge nursery of plants. The stoves were reputed to be the largest in size and number in England, incorporating a pineapple stove and others, for exotic fruits such as guava, ginger, lime and bananas. An avid plant collector and a pioneer in the naturalisation of these exotics, the estate boasted a collection of over 700 different species, with over 40,000 trees planted between 1741-42. The premature death in 1742, from smallpox, of the eighth Lord Petre curtailed the project, and although much was implemented, it was then left to decay for many years until the ninth Lord Petre reached his majority. In 1763 the ninth Lord Petre took the radical decision to abandon and demolish the Old Hall and build a completely new mansion some distance to the north.

The succession of houses and formal gardens at Old Thorndon Hall are contained within the site of a much larger early 18th century park and woodland, which is itself Listed Grade II* on the Register of Parks and Gardens. Known as Thorndon Park, the grounds were further landscaped in the mid-18th century by Lancelot "Capability" Brown, with minor additions in the 1790s, probably by Richard Woods.

The Elizabethan garden is accurately depicted on the Walker map of 1578. The whole garden, some 200m north-south by 400m east-west, is enclosed within a brick wall which has two gatehouses, one along the northern circuit and one in the southern (the latter providing access to the courtyard). Archaeological resisitivity surveys in 1997 have shown that the foundations of these brick walls and the gatehouses still survive below ground. Within this walled enclosure, the garden is further subdivided into smaller enclosures (these internal garden walls also survive below ground): the `Great Garden' was to the immediate north of the Hall, `The Orchard' to the west and stables were to the east. The layout of the `Great Garden' incorporated terraced walks with steps leading down to sunken geometric plots. In the centre was the `Great Vault', a circular basin providing the water supply to the house. `The Orchard' had regular plantations of fruit trees (145 trees in all) subdivided by paths. Although the subsequent Georgian landscaping removed some of the Elizabethan garden features, the survival of its wall foundations facilitates its reconstruction and suggests that archaeological levels from this period survive well.

The Georgian landscaping changed `The Orchard' into an area of formal gardens with a central mound, known as the `Pigeon Mount'. Archaeological excavations in 1995 following a resisitivity survey revealed the foundations of an octagonal structure on the mound; finds included substantial quantities of baked clay, presumably the remains of nesting boxes. It is therefore likely (also given the mound's name) that a large dovecote (6.5m in dimeter) stood atop the mound during the 18th century. Terracing shows that a path ascended the dovecote, and its central position within formal gardens suggests a probable dual function of viewing platform and dovecote. The 18th century landscaping retained the stables to the east and added a kitchen garden and a number of stoves or hot-houses; this area has not yet been the subject of a resisitivity survey; however, it is thought that there is likely to be good below ground survival of archaeological levels (as there is to the west of the house) and the area is therefore included in the scheduling.

At the centre of the area of protection are the remains of the house itself. Archaeological excavations carried out from 1956 to 1959 confirmed the three main periods of construction: the early 15th century house of Lewis John; the Elizabethan mansion of the first Lord Petre, and the 18th century rebuild by the eighth Lord Petre. The earliest building was fairly small and moated; by the mid-15th century the house had extended over the moat and transformed from a compact moated hall into a large rambling country mansion represented in the archaeological record by massive foundations of brick with buttresses and curved bastions.

The Elizabethan mansion walls survive in places above ground to a height of approximately 0.5m and are solid brickwork of English bond with alternate courses of headers and stretchers. An elaborate sewer system also survives from this period.

The excavations identified an 18th century addition in the form of a chapel and associated wall which used Flemish as opposed to English bond. The Elizabethan mansion was not completely pulled down, although the east wing was rebuilt, the rest was remodelled room by room and enlarged by the construction of a bakehouse range, new farm buildings and a banqueting house. The late 17th century demolition of the house left only the brick foundations and subterranean features of the hall, as much of the masonry was carted to the site of the new Thorndon Hall and incorporated in that building. The six pillars in the south front of the New Hall are most probably those prepared for the portico of the Old Hall.

All modern gates, turnstiles, fencelines and posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

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

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Duchars, A, Thorndon Country Park, (1980)
Duchars, A, Thorndon Country Park, (1980)
Duchars, A, Old Thorndon Hall, (1970)
Essex County Council, , Country Parks Archaeological Survey, (1994)
Garwood, A, The Pigeon Mount, Thorndon Hall, Archaeological evaluation, (1995)
Garwood, A, Thorndon Park, Brentwood, Essex, (1994)
Garwood, A, Thorndon Park, Brentwood, Essex, (1994)
Magalotti, Count , Travels of Cosmo III Grand Duke of Tuscany: Old Thorndon Hall, (1669), 463-4
Peet, I, Old Thorndon Pastures: Contour Survey, (1995)
Peet, I, Old Thorndon Pastures: Contour Survey, (1995)
Ward, J C, Marshall, K, Old Thorndon Hall, (1972)
Wardill, R, Thorndon Park Gatehouse (West) Geophysical Survey, (1997)
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, , Vol. 8, (1976), 180-2
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, , Vol. 8, (1976), 180-2
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, , Vol. 8, (1976), 180-2
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeol.' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, (1958), 202
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeol.' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, (1958), 202
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, , Vol. 3, (1959), 315
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, , Vol. 3, (1959), 315
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, , Vol. 3, (1959), 315
Other
Collis, C V, Thorndon Park Phoenix of an Age, 1994, Post. grad. dissertation
Collis, C V, Thorndon Park Phoenix of an Age, 1994, Post. grad. dissertation
English Heritage, List of Registered Gardens, (2003)
English Heritage, Registered Gardens, (2003)
English Heritage, Registered Gardens, (2003)
English Heritage, Registered Parks and Gardens, (2003)
In Essex SMR, Collis, CV, The Pigeon Mount, (1994)
In Essex SMR, Cott, PJ, The Pigeon Mount, Thorndon Country Park, A Resistivity Survey, (1994)
In Essex SMR, ECC Landscape Officer, Pigeon Mount, (1994)
Title: D/DP P5 West and East Horndon Source Date: 1598 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: In Essex Record Office
Title: ERO D/DP P5 Source Date: 1598 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: In ERO
Title: Plan of Thorndon Estate Source Date: 1733 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: ERO D/DP P23/1

National Grid Reference: TQ 62362 89827

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 24-Nov-2017 at 05:11:34.

End of official listing