Walled Garden immediately West of Wrest Park House, including Linking Screen Wall


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1113787

Date first listed: 10-Jan-1985

Date of most recent amendment: 18-May-2012



Ordnance survey map of Walled Garden immediately West of Wrest Park House, including Linking Screen Wall
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. 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.

District: Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Silsoe

National Grid Reference: TL0893135517


Walled Garden and linking screen wall; 1834-39 with incorporated early-C18 sculpture; designed by Thomas Earl de Grey and James Clephan with sculptures by W Kelsey and Peter Scheemakers.

Reasons for Designation

* Architectural interest: they are of special architectural interest for the quality of design and craftsmanship, particularly of the north wall and the three main gates; * Artistic interest: the sculptural detail to the gates, including that to the East Orchard gate, is of special interest for the quality of conception and realisation; the two sculptures to either side of the Ceres Gate are of particular note for their early date, and as the work of the reputable sculptor, Peter Scheemakers; * Historic interest: they are of special interest for their assocation with Thomas, Earl de Grey, whose role in the enlargement and embellishment of the gardens at Wrest is recorded in the inscription above the Ceres Gate. The walled garden and its surviving potting sheds are also of interest for its functional role in the life of the house and the estate. * Group value: they contribute to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I registered Park and Garden and is associated with many other listed buildings and structures.


Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. In 1702 Wrest became the property of Henry de Grey who, in 1702, became the Duke of Kent. Henry was determined to improve the status of Wrest. At this time the gardens to the south were enlarged, alterations made to the water courses and a number of garden buildings were constructed. A summer house was placed by the mill pond and a greenhouse was added to the Orange Garden. The architect Thomas Archer was responsible for many of these structures including the Pavilion (Grade I) which marked the southern limit of the garden as defined by the Old Brook. The alignment of the Old Brook is still maintained as the boundary between the parishes of Silsoe and Gravenhurst. Cain Hill was incorporated into the landscape as an eye catcher, its presence emphasised by the geometric axis which, eventually led east from the house and north-east from the Archer Pavilion partly in the form of avenues.

In 1833, Thomas Phillip Weddell, later Earl de Grey, inherited Wrest, having already spent much time there as a young man demonstrating his early abilities as an amateur architect in the design of the two lodges at Silsoe in 1826 (both Grade II). Although he had great respect for the gardens this did not extend to the house, which he demolished. The present house was constructed approximately 200m north of the old house in 1834-9 by the Earl with the assistance of James Clephan. The stable buildings to the east (Grade II) and the walled gardens (Grade II) to the west (the subject of this assessment) were also added to the new house between 1834 and 1839.

The site of the former house was laid out to include the present parterres and south lawns and a rectangular arrangement of walks centred on an ornate fountain. An inscription above the south-east gate states that 'These gardens were enlarged and decorated by Thomas Earl de Grey in the year 1836'. Certain decorative elements: the C18 head of the river god to the east orchard gate, the early-C18 statues of Bacchus and Flora by the Ceres Gate and the reclining figure of a Naiad above that gate may have been relocated from other parts of the garden. It is possible that the two sculptures in particular had been purchased by Henry de Grey, Duke of Kent for his garden. The Naiad was modelled for Coade by the sculptor John Bacon (1740-1799), and is illustrated in its catalogue of 1777-79 and subsequent catalogues. Originally there were urns, mounted at intervals along the tops of the north kitchen and other walls, most of which have been removed. Of about 30, possibly four survive.


MATERIALS: constructed mainly of cream-coloured brick in Flemish bond, with some pink brick in the subdividing walls, and with ashlar dressings and stone sculpture.

PLAN: the garden walls include those that surround and subdivide the kitchen gardens and orchard, as well as the screen wall between the house and kitchen gardens that forms the north wall of the Italian Garden. This screen wall joins the house at its north-west corner and travels west before turning south to form the north-west corner of the Italian Garden. It then turns west again to form the north wall of the orchard, turning north and west again to become the north wall of the kitchen gardens. At the Garden Cottage it turns south to form the west wall of the gardens, turning east after the Coachman's Cottage. The south-east corner is curved and holds the Ceres Gate. The wall rejoins the Italian Garden at the East Orchard Gate. There are two other main entrances into the gardens from the north; the Strangers Gate at the north-west corner of the Italian Garden, and the Eagle Gate about half way along the north wall of the kitchen garden. The kitchen garden wall encloses an area of about 250ha. This space is subdivided by walls between the orchard and the kitchen gardens; between the kitchen gardens and the area to the west; between the two square kitchen gardens; and between these and the long garden to the south.

DESCRIPTION: the walls stand about 2.5m to 3m high. The face of the west, south and east walls is plain on both sides, but the north face of the north wall, visible from the carriage drive, has rusticated pilasters at intervals separated by three square raised panels. On top of the north kitchen garden wall are three urns, and another urn surmounts a stone scrolled pediment on top of the wall above a door in the screen wall close to the house.

Detail and ornament is concentrated in the main entrances and gateways. The Strangers Gate and the return wall immediately to the west are entirely faced in stone externally, but inside the garden only the central section, the surround to the main gate, is stone. The entrance consists of a central tall double door with Rococo decoration of carved panels and swags on the outer face under a segmental arch flanked by rusticated pilasters. To either side are doors under segmental arches; all three arches have ornate keystones. The gateway is surmounted by an ornamental stone sculpture by W Kelsey. Above each pilaster is an ornate urn, between which, to the centre of the arch, is a cartouche bearing the Coat of Arms of the de Grey family, surmounted by a coronet. To either side are wyverns (heraldic elements from the family coat of arms) mounted by putti.

To the west of the Strangers Gate is the entrance to the orchard. This consists of a simple round arch supported on pilasters with plain capitals containing an elaborately decorative wrought iron gate. Its most significant feature is a late-C18 Coade-stone keystone with a relief of the head of a river god.

Half way along the north wall the Eagle Gate gives access to the kitchen gardens. This consists of a central double doorway flanked by smaller doors, that to the west blind; the outer face of the central doors contains panelled Rococo decoration. There are rusticated pilasters to either side of the gateway, with urns above, and to either side of the central doors which are surmounted by a stone eagle carrying festoons.

The Ceres Gate is the main gate from the garden into the walled garden, and gives access to the orchard. It curves around its south-east corner, and contains a segmental-headed double doorway with panelled Rococo doors. Surmounting the gateway is an inscribed plaque with a Coade-stone statue of a Naiad above, possibly remodelled as Ceres, her vase overflowing with flowers rather than water. The plaque and statue are flanked by urns. To either side of the doorway are early-C18 statues of Bacchus and Flora respectively standing on C18 stone plinths set into the gateway's brickwork. An inscription at the base of each statue records their maker, the notable Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers (PET:SCHEEMAKER FECIT). Bacchus is leaning on a tree stump entwined with vines, and has a faun's skin thrown over his left shoulder; in his left hand he holds a vine covered staff. Flora's head is turned to the left, away from her right hand which clasps a posie of flowers cradled in the folds of her dress. Behind her is a tree stump with leaves growing from the base.

The two square kitchen gardens contain modern greenhouses and other structures, but the original potting sheds survive to the centre of the west garden. These are aligned west-east, and form a long lean-to structure against the central wall, at the top of which are a line of chimneys, the remnants of the heating system for the sheds and the greenhouses, now demolished, on the other side of the wall. The sheds are built of pink and cream brick, the slate roof sweeping around the curve of the east corner. The only elevation faces north, and has doors at regular intervals with pairs of windows between, all with flat arches. These have small square panes and are hinged at the top and open from the bottom.


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

Legacy System number: 37710

Legacy System: LBS

End of official listing