Bath House and Cascade


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II*

List Entry Number: 1113790

Date first listed: 10-Jan-1985

Date of most recent amendment: 18-May-2012



Ordnance survey map of Bath House and Cascade
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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: TL0888535350


Bath house or plunge pool and cascade; designed for The Duke of Kent's heir, the Marchioness Jemima c.1769-71 by Edward Stevens.

Reasons for Designation

The Bath House and Cascade are designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: they are of more than special interest for their early date, and their association with the Duke of Kent's granddaughter and heir, Jemima, Marchioness de Grey; * Architectural interest: their construction, which employs large and occasionally massive roughly hewn ironstone, is unusual and demonstrates considerable engineering skill and craftsmanship. The Bath House combines a rustic exterior with a more refined aesthetic to the interior; * Materials: they successfully combine a range of materials; * Group Value: these structures set around a water feature make a significant contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and they are associated with many other listed buildings.


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, by 1710, had become 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 the 1720s additional land was acquired, various alterations to the canals were carried out and several garden buildings were commissioned, from the Italian architects Filippo Juvarra and Giacomo Leoni, but also from others, predominantly Nicholas Hawksmoor, William Kent and James Gibbs. Of these the Temple of Diana (now demolished), the West Half House (Grade II) and the East Half House (Grade II) were built. The allees (avenues) and squares, either side of the Great Canal, were also created by 1726 marking the peak of the formal garden at Wrest. Two plans drawn by Rocque in 1735 and 1737 illustrate some of these changes. In 1729 work resumed with additions including an amphitheatre to the north of the bowling green and the creation of the serpentine canal. A greenhouse (on the site of the current Orangery) and the addition to, and enlargement of Bowling Green House (Grade II*) were also completed, both by Batty Langley.

The Duke died in 1740 and the estate passed to his granddaughter Jemima who had recently married Philip Yorke, the son of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke. They showed great interest in the garden and had great influence in its development, In 1758 Jemima commissioned Lancelot (Capability) Brown but he was constrained by her high regard for the existing landscape and reluctance to make significant alterations to the garden created by her grandfather. Brown's alterations were limited to laying the waters together around the garden and making the previously straight canals meander in a more naturalistic manner. Various buildings including the Chinese Summerhouse (Grade II) and Chinese bridge and the Bath house (Grade II*) were added under Jemima's instruction. The Bath House and Cascade was designed for Jemima c.1769-71 by Edward Stevens. Cascades and plunge pools became fashionable in the later C17 and late C18 respectively; the fashion for plunge pools waned in the early C19 with the growing preference for outdoor swimming.


MATERIALS: ironstone, thatched roof to north-west room, ashlar and concrete lining to pool.

PLAN: the Bath House and Cascade are to the south of the walled garden, beside a pond created as an arm of the meandering canal that forms the south, west and east boundaries to the gardens; the Cascade is at the north end, and the Bath House on the north-west bank. In plan the Bath House forms a figure of eight, with an octagonal room to the north-west and a round bath or plunge pool to the north-east.

EXTERIOR: Bath House: up to lintel height and below the eaves the stone to the north-west room is coursed; between these two zones the walls are constructed of large blocks of random rubble; the pool room is entirely made of larger more roughly hewn blocks of stone. This room is designed as a romantic semi-ruin, the domed roof with three large, irregular, rough edged openings, the wall with three wide arched openings with massive keystones. The north-west room also has three narrower arched openings, one of which is the entrance; all these openings have large block keystones.

Cascade: to the north-east of the Bath House the Cascade is set under a mound crossed by stone lined paths. At the summit a rough stone arch facing the Bath House lines the opening to the Cascade, beyond which is a stone lined channel with a niche set into its north wall.

INTERIOR: Bath House: the interior of both spaces is lined with carefully coursed regularly shaped ironstone. The north-west room has a cobbled floor with a radiating pattern of deer bones, and has arched niches set in the wall. The bath to the south-east is lined with ashlar and concrete, with steps down into the bath from the entrance flanking a central ashlar block. Set into the block is a lead spout in the form of a lion's head.

Cascade: the stone lined channel leads under a low pointed arch into a chamber which holds a lead lined tank, from where stored water presumably cascaded out under the rough stone arch.


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

Legacy System number: 37719

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Roscoe, I, Hardy, E, Sullivan, M G, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660-1851, ((2009))
Smith, N, Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, English Heritage Guidebook, (2008)
Curnow, P E, 'Archaeological Journal' in Wrest Park, , Vol. 139, ((1982)), 34
Cole, D, Beresford, C and Shackell, A, Historical Survey of Wrest Park, (2005),
Davies, J P S , Report on the Garden Ornaments at Wrest Park 1700-1917, (2007),
Donald Insall Associates, Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, Conservation Management Plan, (2009),

End of official listing