West Half House, a garden house of c.1726, built for Henry Grey, 12th Duke of Kent.
Reasons for Designation
West Half House, Wrest Park, a garden house of c.1726, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: West Half House has special quality in design and use of materials;
* Historic interest: For its 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 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. West Half house is little altered, but the wooden pediment was replaced in the C20.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.
MATERIALS: the façade of West Half House is constructed in white brick laid in stretcher bond, the rear in red brick, generally laid in English bond with a lead covering to the roof.
PLAN: the building has an exedral plan surmounted by a half-conical roof.
EXTERIOR: West Half House faces south into a small clearing. The façade has a central segmental brick arched opening with ashlar keystone and imposts, flanked by pilaster strips. Above, the pediment has wood mouldings. The rear is blind, but has cast-iron rainwater goods and small circular ventilation holes in the lower courses.
INTERIOR: a single step through the arch leads to the rendered interior where there is a wooden semi-circular seat and a stone flag floor with inset diamond, decorative black tiles.