Early-C17 brick garden walls built for Thomas Wilbraham enclosing the north, east and south sides of a rectangular-plan walled garden, formerly associated with Townsend House.
Reasons for Designation
This early C17 walled garden is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historical interest: the walled garden was built by Thomas Wilbraham 2nd Baronet of Woodhey, probably between 1622 and 1638 to enhance and extend the pre-existing gardens of Townsend House, a substantial high-status late C16 dwelling;
* Architectural interest: the building of the walls shows great care in construction, with projecting plinths, ashlar dressing, decorative copings, and the inclusion of bee boles within the depth of the wall;
* Date: the garden walls date from the early C17 and substantially predate the proliferation of detached walled gardens in the mid-C19;
*Materials: the walls are chiefly built of hand-made clamp bricks, with good quality sandstone ashlar dressings.
The walled garden was laid out in the grounds of Townsend House, a substantial high-status property, built for Richard Wilbraham between 1575 and 1580. In 1612, the house passed to Richard’s grandson, Thomas Wilbraham, who proceeded to alter and enlarge the house, possibly in anticipation of a visit by King James I in 1617. Between 1622 and 1638, Thomas undertook extensive works to enhance the garden, establishing an upper and lower garden, a mount, an orchard, an arbour, and a banqueting house. Records held at the Cheshire County Records Office includes an inventory of the materials purchased for the work, including the quantities of bricks required for the construction of the garden walls; consequently, although the garden walls have been accepted as dating to the time of the completion of Townsend House in 1580, in all probability they date to the early C17.
Townsend House was twice destroyed by fire and reconstructed, and by 1818 part of it had become a brewery. During the early-C19 a terrace of ten houses was built on the eastern side of King’s Lane attached to the north elevation of Townsend House; the garden wall that ran the length of these properties formed the western wall of the walled garden. A map produced in 1851 at a scale of 1:528, depicts the extent and layout of the garden at this time. In 1855, the house became a clothing factory and by 1876, the southern garden was occupied by a police station and magistrates’ court, with associated cells and yards. A portion of the gardens remained in between the cells and the southern wall of the walled garden, and a police house was built on this land sometime during the mid-C20. The use of Townsend House continued to evolve during the C20 and by 1906 it had become a shoe and boot manufactory. The house was occupied until 1965 when it was demolished to make way for the re-building of an adjacent commercial garage and petrol station. This in turn was demolished and the site was cleared for the building of the King’s Court housing development in 1997.
During the early-C20, a single-storey double-pile timber-framed summerhouse / dwelling was built within the walled garden towards its north-western corner; this house was associated with a green house and a number of lean-to buildings that were built against the north and south walls of the walled garden. During the mid-C20, a rectangular-plan single-storey steel-framed shed was built within the walled garden towards the north-eastern corner. The garden remained in cultivation until the mid-1970s before it was abandoned and used by a farmer for grazing livestock, a use that came to an end c2001, ahead of a housing development being built on the adjacent farmland known as Kingsley Fields. Late in 2001, an archaeological assessment was made at Kingsley Fields by The University of Manchester, in advance of the development. Two 1m square test pits were also dug within the walled garden as part of the assessment, producing an abundance of C18 - early C20 pottery, glass fragments, pipe clay, and two medieval pottery shards in the garden soil.
Early-C17 brick garden walls enclosing the north, east and south sides of a rectangular-plan walled garden.
MATERIALS: small red clamp bricks (250 mm wide x 50mm high x 120mm deep) in English Bond set in lime mortar with red sandstone ashlar dressings.
PLAN: approximately 60 x 30m rectangular plan walled garden, with a slight stepping out of the wall alignment at the south-west corner.
The northern wall is 2m high and approximately 60m long; the lower section of the wall has a two-brick thickness and forms a plinth that projects out from the northern exterior elevation, which is capped by a canted red sandstone ashlar band. The wall reduces in thickness above the plinth to one and a half bricks and rises to an ashlar sandstone coping that over-hangs the wall. The lower course of the coping is formed by a pair of parallel blocks with a canted outer surface with a coved lower section. The space between the two parallel blocks is filled with mortar and brick fragments. The upper course of the ashlar coping is formed by a triangular section block with canted sides and a central roll apex. There is no projecting plinth to the southern interior face of the wall. The western termination of the north wall has been truncated and the intersection of an early-C19 west wall over-rides the lower courses of brickwork. The eastern termination has been remodelled and terminates in a brick pier for a gateway. A section of collapsed wall exists close to the north-west corner where a former pedestrian gateway with massive stone jambs and lintel once stood. The ground level along the north wall rises from east to west and the wall steps up in height at four points along its length; where the step ups occur, the coping rise at 90º, and the plinth band rises at 45º.
The east wall is approximately 27.4m long and has an identical construction to that of the north wall, with the exception that it does not step-up in height. The northern termination of the wall stops 2.28m short of meeting the north wall, leaving a space to form a gateway. The plinth in the eastern exterior elevation is broken by the position of a blocked pedestrian doorway beneath a brick basket arch. The brickwork in the blocking matches the rest of the wall. The intersection of the east wall and the south wall at the south-east corner of the garden forms a brick pier that projects from the exterior elevations.
The south wall is approximately 64.8m long, with the alignment of the westernmost 11.7m length of wall being displaced by approximately 0.9m to the south. There are three bee boles with pointed two-centred brick arches set into the depth of the interior elevation of the wall. The majority of the brickwork matches that found in the north and east walls, although there has been some patching towards the western end with different bonds. A straight join exists to the west of the bee boles and the bricks beyond this point are 10mm thicker than those used elsewhere, but like the remainder of the wall, are laid in English bond. The western termination of the wall has sandstone ashlar quoins, suggesting that at one time, the walled garden was open to Townsend House on its western side and was not fully enclosed; it also indicates that this section of the south wall pre-dates the early-C19 west wall that was associated with the former terrace of houses in King's Lane. The coping stones on this length of wall differ from the remainder, consisting of triangular-section ashlar blocks laid on narrow base slabs.
The interior of the garden was heavily over-grown and could not be inspected. The exterior elevation of the south wall was visible in the garden of 96a Welsh Row, but access was not possible to inspect the remainder of the wall in adjacent gardens.