Bowling Green House and Two Urns on Pedestals 5m to the south-east and north-east


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Central Bedfordshire (Unitary Authority)
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Bowling Green House, a bowling pavilion, of c 1735 by Batty Langley for Henry de Grey, 12th Duke of Kent and a pair of urns 5m to the north-east and south-east of it, of c 1720, probably by John Van Nost the younger, copied from carved urns, one by Edward Pearce and the other by C G Cibber.

Reasons for Designation

Bowling Green House, a bowling pavilion of 1735 at Wrest Park, and two urns of c 1720 5m to the north-east and south-east of it, are designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Architecture: Bowling Green House, designed by Batty Langley a renowned landscape designer and architect, has more than special quality in the exterior classical design with a distinguished hexastyle portico and use of materials; * Interior: the interior decorative features, fixtures and fittings are contemporary with the construction of the building and possess more than special quality in their artistry and craftmanship; * Rarity: Bowling Pavilions of the early C18 are a rare surviving building type; * Artistic: the urns are early C18 copies, probably by Van Nost the Younger, of distinguished marble urns carved by Pearce and Cibber; * Historic interest: the association with Henry, 12th Duke of Kent, a highly influential figure in the enlargement and development of Wrest Park in the early C18; * Group Value: for its contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and its association 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. The Archer Pavilion (Grade I) marked the southern limit of the garden which was 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) was also designed by Batty Langley.

Bowling Green House was built in c 1735 by Batty Langley for Henry, 12th Duke of Kent and probably incorporates an early-C18 deer house. Langley's composition is little altered, but the six life-size statues surmounting the piers of the roof's balustrade had been replaced with urns by 1831. These, in turn, were replaced in the late C19 or C20, possibly with cast-iron replicas by Barwell and Co. The early-C18 painted, lead urns 5m to the north-east and south-east of Bowling Green House, appear to be depicted on Rocque's 1735 drawing entitled 'The East Prospect of the Bowling Green House' and have remained in situ since then.


MATERIALS: Bowling Green House is constructed of pale yellow brick, laid in Flemish bond, applied with colour-washed plaster render to the east elevation and stone dressings to the other elevations. It has a hipped, tiled roof. Both urns are in over-painted lead mounted on stone pedestals.

PLAN: the pavilion is single storey and rectangular with smaller square wings to the north and south. The pedestals for the urns are square in plan.

EXTERIOR: the principal elevation of the pavilion faces the bowling green to the east, and is approached by a flight of three stone steps. It has a portico of six, painted timber Tuscan columns on moulded stone bases. Above, the Roman Doric entablature is decorated with triglyph and guttae and has a moulded cornice supporting a balustrade above. On each of the six piers of the balustrade are late C19 or early C20 replica urns, probably by Barwell and Co. Eagle Foundry.

The façade of the pavilion has a squared pilaster at either end, to the end portico column at the front by a low balustrade. A central double-leaf, eight-panel timber door has a pedimented doorcase with moulded brackets. On either side of the entrance are two six-over-nine sash windows in moulded timber frames, between which are moulded capitals supporting the joists of the coffered portico ceiling, decorated with a Greek key motif. The stone floor of the open porch is inlaid with small, black, diamond-shaped tiles.

The west elevation of exposed brick faces Oldpark Water. It has cross-vaulted, arched arcading on square brick piers with stone dressings. The central of the five openings is larger than the others, and all have enlarged stone voussoirs linked by a plain stone string course above. The plain entablature has a projecting cornice, surmounted by a parapet with projecting piers. At the centre of the building, a double-leaf, eight- panel timber door has a door case with a slightly projecting flat hood on moulded brackets.

At the north and south ends are low hipped wings constructed of brick on coursed stone plinths. That to the south has two panelled doors with straight segmental brick heads, leading to privies. The wing to the north has a central arched doorway with a C20 thin-planked door, flanked by rectangular niches.

INTERIOR: the walls have decorative plaster panels, dado and cornices. Between the panels are hanging swags, with shell and ribbon motifs. At the south end is an ornate marble chimney-piece, the pedimented surround of which has decorated brackets, roses and panels with swags and foliate designs. Above is a richly decorated panel with a central basket of flowers. At the north end is a decorative doorcase, said to be a later insertion, with Corinthian columns, swags joined by a human face and putti on the projecting pediment. The door case on the rear interior wall has a flat hood supported on moulded brackets. The floor has stone flags with inlaid black tiles.

THE URNS: the lead urns to the south-east and north-east of Bowling Green House are approximately 2m high. Both are copies, after Pearce and Cibber. They have foliate decoration to the base of the main body of the urn and to the finial, and egg and dart decoration to the rim. Each rests on a Portland or Bath stone plinth comprising a moulded base, a die with panels and cornice.

The urn to the north-east has bas-relief scenes depicting Venus in a sea chariot drawn by dolphins and a cupid. Venus is accompanied by sea gods and goddesses, some with hippocamp feet and carrying conch shells, oars and water plants, with the furthest relief depicting a male and female water deity with their child.

The urn to the south-east has a relief scene showing a procession of nymphs, fauns, putti and Bacchus on a chariot drawn by leopards with a winged cupid as driver. A second relief shows maenad playing a triangle and five cupids playing with a goat. Beyond, Silenus is supported by two revellers. A maenad plays a pipe accompanied by two females and beyond are two satyrs and three cherubs.


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

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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)
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),


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 07 May 2003
Reference: IOE01/10521/12
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Derek E. Wharton. Source Historic England Archive
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