Balls Park


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Balls Park, Mangrove Road


Ordnance survey map of Balls Park
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Statutory Address:
Balls Park, Mangrove Road

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

East Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


TL3311NE 817-1/9/268 HERTFORD BALLS PARK Balls Park

(Formerly Listed as: LITTLE AMWELL, Balls Park)


I Country house, subsequently teachers training college, now university administration building. c1638-42 (attributed to Peter Mills, architect), altered early C18, early C19, extended (north west wing) 1924-25 (architect Sir Robert Lorimer).

MATERIALS: red brick English bond, with stone north porch, coursed heavy Welsh-slated hipped roof, over broad eaves with moulded fascia supported on carved console brackets.

PLAN: square courtyard plan, with central courtyard roofed over to form central vestibule/hall early C19, seven bays to each principal front

EXTERIOR: basement, two storeys and attics. All principal fronts have brick quoins left and right, moulded band at first floor level, and projecting plinth below sills of ground floor windows. North front has seven first floor windows, sashes in bays one, three, five and seven are 15:9:6-pane, recessed in moulded brick architrave surrounds which incorporate rubbed flat arches, and with Portland stone sills; sash windows in bays two and six have semicircular heads, and brick pilasters with stone caps, moulded arches and carved stone keyblocks.

Ground floor has six sashes, 15-pane, bays one, three, five and seven having similar architrave surrounds to first floor; those in bays two and six having short brick pilasters with stone caps, with eared architraves above, with carved stone keyblocks; all windows have segmental relieving arches above.

Porch in central bay has flanking brick pilasters with carved stone caps breaking slightly forward, Composite order with festoons and leopard head on first floor, Ionic with drops on ground floor. First floor has central window, French casements with glazing bars in moulded sandstone surround, with eared architraves with scroll bases, carved keyblock and panelled spandrels. First floor balcony with moulded wood cornice and panelled soffit carried on carved brackets; wrought-iron scrollwork balcony front.

Ground floor has central doorway with seven-panel door, upper two glazed, central four raised and fielded, large lower flush panel, semicircular head with plain stone architrave, impost blocks, and moulded arch with carved panel above centre. Stone waisted Tuscan pilasters left and right, with fascia above, and moulding below frieze which corresponds to the level of the tops of the slightly higher flanking Ionic pilasters. Doorway approached by five stone steps with sweeping curtail treads and iron handrails. To left and right within plinth on bays one, three, five and seven are semicircular headed openings to basement, with panelled surrounds of rusticated brickwork. C19 pedimented four-light casement dormers, three on each original face of roof, low pediments above eaves in centre of north, east and south fronts. Red brick chimneys with clustered shafts, projecting bands and tall tapered orange clay pots.

East front has two orders of brick pilasters, with stone bases and caps, at left and right, Composite on first floor, Tuscan Doric with taller recessed pilasters with brick caps above, on ground floor, flanked by rusticated brickwork on both floors. First floor has seven bays, six recessed 15-pane sash windows with segmental relieving arches above; centre bay breaks slightly forward, with projecting plain eared architrave surrounds on both floors, first floor with French windows in surround with brick pilasters with stone caps, moulded semicircular arch with moulded keyblock; ground floor with recessed 15-pane sash window, slightly off-centre, low central pediment above eaves; ground floor sash to right of centre bay adapted as garden entrance with twin leaf dwarf doors below.

South front generally similar to east front but without the pilaster orders, six sash windows in architrave surrounds first and ground floor. First floor centre bay first floor with recessed French windows, with pilaster surround, between two taller pilasters with stone Composite order caps; ground floor has projecting late C18 porch, with recessed window with dwarf doors, stone architrave surround, with two stone Ionic columns supporting entablature with blocking course above, on which is set a scrollwork wrought-iron railing; low central pediment above eaves.

West front as east front, but with large semicircular headed window in right-hand bay on first floor, having semicircular headed sash, with three-pane sidelights and five-pane circumferential light. Two left-hand bays covered by north west wing constructed in 1924-25 which follows the general style and details of the original house; five bay garden front, narrow two bay west end, and north front with central hip-roofed staircase turret.

INTERIOR: much of the interior was reworked in the early C18, with panelling and rich plasterwork, some of which hints at a style akin to the mid C17 or Restoration period, but is more likely to be of the later date, when the sons of the original owner, Sir John Harrison, are known to have embellished the house. The central vestibule was converted from the inner courtyard into a large top-lit saloon by Lord John Townshend between c1805-1827. Only in the attics and some subsidiary rooms are there traces of work contemporary with the construction of the house in 1638-42.

The plan, likewise, has been altered, the entrance, with the principal Dining Room to the left provides a vestige of the medieval plan. In the early C20 Sir George Faudel-Phillips created a long gallery running the full length of the east range. His son, Sir Benjamin, added the large north west wing, containing a new Dining Room and principal staircase, in 1924-25.

Entrance Hall has early C18 panelling, possibly partly reset as a narrow lobby and study were subdivided early C19. To left, former library (now Admissions Office) has bold early C18 bolection moulded panelling. Chimney piece similar but has early C19 red and white marble fire surround. Ceiling in recessed panels with guilloche bands, egg-and-dart edging. Former Dining Room (later Drawing Room) three bays, early C18 old bolection panelling, large bolection moulded fielded and raised panel on chimneypiece, fossil limestone surround. Ceiling with recessed panels and coves. Stair hall (oak hall) ceiling with modillion cornice, recessed coffered panels, and raised square and oval panels between appears a C17 design. Oak stair early C18, 'L' plan. Open well, open string with carved bracketed trends, urn on tapered column balusters, moulded handrail, wreathed at bottom around curtail treads, ramped where flights change directions, fluted column newels, ramped dado rail carved with egg-and-dart motifs. Former oak Drawing Room (now Dean's office) has late C17 oak bolection moulded panelling with a richly carved cornice. Elaborately modelled ceiling, a central roundel with modelled fruit, an outer octagonal surround and semicircular and square surrounds to panels with modelled scrollwork.

Former Boudoir in south-east corner beyond Oak Room, has bolection moulded panelling with carved oak frieze, simple coved cornice and plain ceiling. Former Morning Room with bolection moulded panelling, coffered ceiling, fireplace with shouldered architrave and early C18 painted panel showing Balls Park with its formal gardens. Rear corridor leading to south entrance has late C17 panelled walls and a barrel vaulted ceiling. Vestibule Hall created in central courtyard by Lord John Townshend c1805-27; black and white checkerboard marble floor with a geometrical border of green and red marble. Elaborately carved neo-Jacobean oak panelling installed c1905 concealing C18 wall-painted perspectives and plasterwork with alcoves. The elaborate Jacobean chimneypiece with Tudor arched stone surround, and coupled columns, carved frieze and cornice, carved panelled ornamented with coupled columns, carved upper frieze and cornice, was brought in from Toftrees on the Raynham estate in Norfolk. Elaborate canted ceiling with neo-Jacobean moulded plaster strapwork, and oak lantern light in centre.

First floor has three room enfilade on east, subdivided in 1946 from the Long Gallery, itself created c1901 by Sir Geoge Faudel-Phillips from an earlier subdivision. The south east (Faudel-Phillips) room has elaborate C18 raised and fielded panelling, Corinthian pilasters with carved-panel bases, cornice with modillions and egg-and-dart ornament. Central room of suite (Harrison Room) generally similar but has no pilasters. Fireplace with C18 panelling and carved oak mantelpiece, early C20 neo-Jacobean. The Harrison Room in north east corner completes the suite.

Three bay room on north front was formerly a Drawing Room has walls subdivided by Corinthian pilasters raised on plinths, frieze omitted and low dado with fielded and raised panels. C19 white marble chimneypiece with bolection moulding, elaborate heavy moulded beamed and coffered ceiling, with large central cornice with egg-and-dart band, foliated modillions and rich mouldings. Small ante-room adjoining has bolection moulded raised and fielded panelling with a pink grey and white marble fireplace with architrave surround and minor overmantel. Coved cornice, low C17 ceiling with cornice with cyma moulding, coved acanthus band, and egg-and-dart band, large central oval wreath of bay leaves with naive masks in scroll panels in centre of each side of room.

Former north west bedroom has bolection panelled dado, frieze divided by consoles, panelled coffered ceiling with interlaced circles, and cyma moulded surrounds with flowers in relief in corners, and naive putti heads around central oval. Early C19 white marble fireplace with reeded surround with paterae. Former south west bedroom has softwood shutters, windows, and window seat, C18 originals in contrast to early C20 teak replacements found elsewhere. Late C17 oak panelling with carved acanthus frieze and carved cornice. Chimneypiece has C19 white marble minor surround, and elaborate early C18 wood outer surround, with carved architrave panels with swags and drops of fruit, egg-and-dart band below shelf, large upper panel with inner shouldered architraves, outer eared and shouldered architraves. These flank fluted Ionic pilasters, with central recessed carved panel of fruit immediately below cornice. Upper walls and ceilings mid/late C17 plasterwork divided into panels with raised, moulded octagons, roundels and ovals. Deeper recessed central ceiling panels with coved surround interrupted by naive masks and putti heads and raised oval wreath of bay leaves in centre. Small ante-room adjoining has exposed timber framing in wall and ceiling, and C18 sash window with some crown glass. Within the south corridor are fragments of a simple coved and panelled ceiling c1640 with modelled motifs from the Harrison crest including a fist grasping an arrow and putti heads.

Balcony room in centre of south range has a C18 alabaster fireplace with a carved central panel of cherubs at play. Former south bedroom has low dado with raised and fielded bolection panelling, and bolection moulded fireplace; elaborate late C17 moulded and coffered ceiling, with central roundel with modelled shell, fruit wreath, and double guilloche bands, and egg-and-dart surrounds to plain recessed panels, cornice with modillions and bead moulding.

Attics: the attics originally housed the servants, and have now been converted, and subdivided as offices and seminar rooms. The roof construction of late medieval principal rafters and butt purlins is visible throughout, fittings include two-panel doors with quadrants, traces of egg-and-dart and bead cornices, and some panelling. The ast corridor has a door with a chamfered and stopped frame. Service stairs largely C19 with slender newels and stick balusters; it appears that there may have been an access stair in each corner.

Roof: late medieval construction with pegged joints, ceiling at collar level reinforced by longitudinal beams, and by later struts, centre of roof has lead-flat 'crown' top invisible from below.

Basement: constructed to house the original kitchens and has a series of brick vaults, partly replaced in concrete and engineering brick to create space for the boiler post-1946.

North west wing: rebuilt by Sir Robert Lorimer 1924-25 to replace the late C18/early C19 kitchen wing. The ante-room contains a purple marble fireplace with shouldered architraves and panel above with bracket surrounds and arched head; bolection moulded panelled dado and walls. Coved ceiling with motifs symbolising the various family connections of the house - elephant (East Indies Company - Harrisons); scallop shells (Townshends); squirrel and peacock (Faudel-Phillipses), and rams' heads (their connection with the wool trade). Board Room (former Dining Room) adjoining has oak panelled walls with bolection mouldings, green marble fireplace with shouldered architraves and Corinthian pilaster surround, with central overmantel panel, and swags of fruit and armorial bearings on cartouches; ceiling generally similar to ante-room. Staircase of open-well type, newels, close string, column on vase balusters, moulded handrail and newel caps, bedroom fireplaces with bolection surrounds.

HISTORICAL NOTE: Balls Park was probably named after Simon de Balle, Burgess of the Borough of Hertford, who attended the 1295 Parliament at York. After the Dissolution in 1535, the property passed to the Crown. The house was used as a childrens' home during the Second World War, and was bought in 1946 by Hertfordshire County Council for use as a teachers' training college. The administration of Balls Park passed to the Hatfield Polytechnic, which reconstituted as the University of Hertfordshire in 1993. (Turnor L: History of Hertford: Hertford: 1830: 163-4, 366-8; Victoria History of the Counties of England: Hertfordshire: London: 1902-1912: 412-14; The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: Hertfordshire: Harmondsworth: 1977: 85-7; Smith JT: English Houses 1200-1800: The Hertfordshire Evidence: London: 1992: 122, 128; Smith JT: Hertfordshire Houses: Selective Inventory: London: 1993: 79-81; Page FM: History of Hertford: Hertford: 1993: 21,30,130,162,171-3; Chauncy, Sir H: The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire': 1826: 520-1; Country Life: Weaver L: Balls Park, Hertford: London: 1912: 579-87; Sangster PE: History of Balls Park).

Listing NGR: TL3355111968


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

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Books and journals
Chauncy, H, The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, (1826), 520-521
Doubleday, AH, The Victoria History of the County of Hertford, (1902), 412-414
Page, F M, History of Hertford, (1993), 21 30 130
Page, F M, History of Hertford, (1993), 162 171-3
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, (1977), 85-87
Sangster, P E , History of Balls Park
Smith, J T, English Houses 1200-1800 The Hertfordshire Evidence, (1992), 122 128
Smith, J T, Hertfordshire Houses Selective Inventory, (1993), 79-81
Turnor, L , History of Hertford, (1830), 163-4 366
'Country Life' in Country Life, (1912), 579-587


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

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Date: 06 Sep 2000
Reference: IOE01/03124/27
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr A. Gude. Source Historic England Archive
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