Holywell Hall Park


Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Park at Holywell Hall, Careby, Aunby and Holywell, Lincolnshire


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Statutory Address:
Park at Holywell Hall, Careby, Aunby and Holywell, Lincolnshire

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

South Kesteven (District Authority)
Careby Aunby and Holywell
National Grid Reference:


Landscape park laid out by Thomas Wright of Durham in the 1760s.

Reasons for Designation

Holywell Park, a landscape park laid out by Thomas Wright of Durham in the 1760s, is registered at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: it is a well preserved example of an C18 landscape park designed to emulate the prevailing tastes of the period, and provide an eminently suitable setting for a country house of some distinction; * Preservation: the key elements of the designed landscape, such as the sinuous drive winding through the parkland interspersed with specimen trees, the serpentine lakes, the walled garden, and elegant stone garden buildings in the neo-Classical style all still remain; * Group value: together with the Grade II* listed Hall and eight other listed buildings on the estate, the park forms an ensemble of historical significance that aptly demonstrates the aesthetic quality associated with the Georgian period; * Documentary evidence: the Horticultural Records for the estate from 1760 to 1829 held at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in the USA constitute a relatively rare and significant record of the creation and running of an C18 landscape park, and their survival adds to its historic interest.


According to local records, there has been a manor at Holywell since at least the Norman period. It is supposed to be the site of a holy well, and there are unsubstantiated stories of a religious community having lived there and the waters being able to heal the blind. A well still survives beneath a substantial yew tree to the south of the church beside the lake. In 1575 Holywell was purchased by Robert Goodhall, and in 1728 the family sold it to Lady Mary Barnadiston from Suffolk. She settled the property on her brother Samuel Reynardson who moved there from London and married in 1732. The grounds at Holywell were laid out with the help of the astronomer, architect and amateur landscape gardener Thomas Wright of Durham (1711-1786). Wright studied mathematics and navigation, and published numerous works of astronomy, including An Original Theory of the Universe (1750) for which he became famous. He visited Ireland in 1746, and around this time was giving tuition to aristocratic ladies on the subjects of mathematics and astronomy as well as being engaged in surveying estates, planning at least fifteen gardens and grottoes. In 1755 and 1758 he published two volumes of Universal Architecture, the first containing six designs for arbours, and the second for grottoes. Wright may be associated with one other park on the Register: Culford Park in Sussex (Grade II) which has pleasure grounds set in an early C19 park for which a T Wright (possibly Thomas Wright) made proposals in 1742.

The grounds at Holywell Hall were probably laid out in the early 1760s as there are Horticultural Records for the estate from 1760 to 1829 which include hand-drawn maps, a list of flowering shrubs by Mr Wright dated 1760 and a list of plants ordered by Mr Reynardson dated 1763 (Manuscript MS 77. 2, John D Rockefeller, Jr Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, USA). Wright and Reynardson together created the lake at the bottom of the valley, added stone garden buildings in the Palladian style of the new house, including the fishing temple and orangery, and laid out the kitchen gardens above and to the side of the Hall. The fishing temple is identical in design to the menagerie at Hackwood Park, Hampshire, which was designed by James Gibbs and published in his Book of Architecture (1728). The chapel, which was originally the village church built around 1700 with stone from the medieval chapel at nearby Aunby, had already been moved to its present lakeside location by this time. Reynardson demolished the greater part of the manor house at Holywell, leaving only the west wing, beside which he built the present Georgian Hall.

Reynardson’s descendants lived on at Holywell until the 1950s, when the property changed hands once more before it was purchased by Prince and Princess Galitzin in the 1990s. Their arrival gave the gardens ‘a new impetus, at once romantic and dramatic’ (Country Life, November 16, 2006). With the help of head gardener Brian Oldman, the Princess created a double herbaceous border running from the house and backed on one side by the kitchen garden wall, and two cascades, one running down through part of the walled garden to end as an eye-catcher on the top terrace, and the other, edged in ivy and fern, through woodland towards the lake. The pond garden planned by the Princess was designed by Bunny Guinness. After the deaths of the Prince and Princess, Holywell Hall was sold and has since been purchased by new owners.


Landscape park laid out by Thomas Wright of Durham, probably in the 1760s.


Holywell is located six miles north of Stamford and one mile south of Castle Bytham. The park and gardens occupy about 36 hectares of land situated in a shallow valley formed by a small stream which is a tributary of the River Glen. The stream has been dammed to form three lakes, and a public road crosses between the central and western lakes. The park is bounded on the south by Holywell Road, and on the west side by the woodland to the west of the lake continuing northwards to take in New Wood and The Slip. The northern boundary follows the northern drive running east-west which joins up with Holywell Road. The eastern boundary follows Holywell Road southwards to include the eastern lake (with a 5m buffer) before joining up with the road.


The principal entrance drive is at the south-eastern corner of the park and is marked by two pairs of panelled stone gate piers and decorative iron gates (not original). The drive falls across the southern slope of the valley to a causeway where it crosses between the central and western lake. The entrance to the causeway has a low stone wall and two pairs of panelled gate piers. A secondary drive is at the north-eastern corner of the park running westwards off Holywell Road and leading to the outbuildings on the north side of Holywell Hall.


The Grade II* listed Holywell Hall, built of ashlared Clipsham stone with a Collyweston slate roof covering, stands in the western part of the park looking southwards towards the lakes. It has three main phases of building with the core of a C17 house, the west front thought to date to the 1760s, and the early C19 south and east fronts. The east front has three wide bays with a Tuscan portico in antis in the recessed central bay, flanked by tripartite windows divided by slender colonettes, supporting a plain frieze. The six-bay south front has tall sash windows with blank recessed panels above, and smaller sashes to the first floor, plus a seventh bay on the left, lit by a tripartite window, which is the gable-end of the west range.

To the north of the Hall there is a range of service buildings including the Grade II listed former stables built about 1732 of squared limestone rubble with rusticated ashlar quoins and dressings, and a hipped Collyweston slate-clad roof; the Grade II* listed mid-C17 pigeoncote; and the C18 barn and tack room, both listed at Grade II.


There is a sunken garden, of unknown date, to the west of the hall, and immediately above this to the north is the pond garden created in the late C20. This contains a large circular pond within a square enclosure, the corners of which have planted beds. To the north of this, aligned with the south wall of the kitchen garden, is a long herbaceous border.

To the west of the house, facing the lakes, is a Grade II listed orangery, built in 1764, in ashlared stone with a hipped slate roof. It has five bays with end pilasters and a central advanced bay with a broken pediment enclosing a bust. In front is a paved terrace, flanked by low stone walls which are curved at the ends and terminate with an urn. Further to the west is a tennis court, enclosed by a yew hedge.


The hall is situated in the western side of the park, the main extent of which lies to the south and east. It retains a great many specimen trees, some clearly of good age and quality. The lawn at the south front of the hall sweeps down to a series of three serpentine lakes, of which the western one has two small islands within it. The public road passes between the central and eastern lakes by means of a Grade II listed mid-C18 stone ashlar bridge with triple semi-circular arches. To the south-east of the bridge is Home Farm House, a picturesque two-storey double-gabled house constructed of ashlared stone with a date stone of 1877. To the south-west of the bridge there is a small additional entrance to the park that originally would have taken visitors in a scenic sweep across the park below the lake before joining the drive up to the front of the Hall. The remnant of this old trackway is still visible on aerial photographs taken in 2016. On the north side of the western lake is a Grade II* listed fishing temple, built in 1764, which has a pedimented Tuscan Doric portico in antis and rusticated windows in the side bays. On the north-eastern side of the western lake, to the left of the drive as it approaches the hall, is the small Grade II* listed Church of St Wilfrid, built circa 1700 re-using C12 and C14 material.


A large walled garden of an approximately rectangular shape lies to the north-west of the hall. The walls are constructed of stone with pantile coping and incorporate a gardener’s cottage on the outside of the north wall, and just to the west, a lean-to glasshouse on the inside. A glasshouse is shown in this position on the Ordnance Survey map of 1888 which also shows the kitchen garden divided into eight sections. Since then, a central walk with a cascade lined with clipped yew hedges has been created by Bunny Guinness in the 1990s.


Books and journals
Harris, John, Pevsner, Nikolaus, Antram, Nicholas, The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, (2002)
'Grace and Favoured' in Country Life, (16 November 2006), pp. 69-72
Country Life, accessed 19 January 2017 from http://www.countrylife.co.uk/property/country-houses-for-sale-and-property-news/two-extraordinary-estates-come-up-for-sale-16482#JiVVmG2TKxxH1TAt.99
Parks and Gardens UK, accessed 20 March 2017 from http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/person/1531
Holywell Hall: Historic Park and Garden Report, Glenn Anderson Associates, April 1996


This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.

End of official listing

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