Landscape park designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the mid-C18.
Reasons for Designation
Wakefield Lodge, a landscape park designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the mid-C18, is registered at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Designer: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83) was the pre-eminent English landscape designer of the mid to late C18 who had a profound influence on the parks and gardens surrounding many country houses;
* Historic interest: Wakefield is one of Brown’s earliest major landscaping commissions and one of his first to lay out water. The other features that came to be so closely associated with his style – the carefully composed clumps of trees and vistas focussed on outlying landmarks – are also present in this design, creating a suitably impressive setting for the newly aggrandized Lodge;
* Preservation: the key elements of Brown’s design, notably the sinuous lake, long avenue, and vistas, all remain, along with his enhancement of the existing lawn by means of planting carefully positioned trees;
* Group value: the park has strong group value with the Grade II listed walled garden, and together with the house and stable block which are both listed at Grade II*, it forms an ensemble of historical significance that aptly demonstrates the taste and aesthetic quality associated with the Georgian period.
Wakefield Walk formed one large division of the six thousand acre medieval forest of Whittlewood, and a deer park is first recorded in the vicinity of Wakefield Lodge in 1230. Whittlewood Forest formed part of the Honor of Grafton which was created by Henry VIII in 1541. An enclosed park is shown on Saxton’s map of 1576, and a map of c1608 shows a forest keeper’s lodge to the south of a triangular fishpond. The most striking feature was Wakefield Lawn which had been enlarged around 1600 by James I and was enveloped by woodland. The lawn was overlooked by Wakefield Great Lodge, a royal hunting lodge which became the residence of the keeper, and then the lieutenant of the forest. In about 1670 the Honor of Grafton was granted to Queen Catherine, and following her death in 1705 it passed to Charles Fitzroy, the second Duke of Grafton. He and his heirs were made Wardens of Whittlewood Forest from 1712. In 1747 the second Duke commenced extensive improvements which turned Wakefield into a handsome country seat. A large northern wing designed by William Kent (c.1685-1748) was added to the house, and a stable block was built on the east side of the house.
Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-83) was engaged to landscape the park at Wakefield Lodge following William Kent’s death in 1748, having previously worked with Kent at nearby Stowe, where Brown was still employed. Brown became England’s leading and most influential landscape designer of the mid to late C18. Born in Kirkharle, Northumberland, where he was first employed as a gardener, he began to work on improving parks elsewhere, and by 1741 his reputation was such that he was taken on as head gardener for Lord Cobham at Stowe. From 1745 he worked on successive major commissions, and established a very successful practice. Developing on a much grander scale the idea of the naturalistic landscape promoted by William Kent, Brown’s signature features – ‘Capability’ referring to his ability to realize the capabilities, that is the inherent possibilities, of landscapes – included gently rolling parkland separated from the house by a ha-ha, clumps of trees, a sinuous lake in the middle distance and shelter belts around the park edge screening the world beyond.
There is no commissioned plan for Brown’s work at Wakefield Lodge but the estate accounts in August 1749 record the Great Pond being staked out by Robert Greening. This was achieved by substantial enlargement of the triangular medieval fishpond to the north of the house. Brown built an earth and stone dam in order to raise the water level in the valley by 25 feet, and in 1754 he created another smaller lake to the east of the dam which was fed by the Great Pond. Brown enhanced Wakefield Lawn by adding perspective and punctuating its expanse using his characteristic clumps of trees. He bought in beech trees and had laurels sent over from Stowe. Vistas were created by cutting a view through Hill Coppice from The Pheasantry to focus on the church spire at Hanslope; and existing ridings through to Hallow’s Brook were made broader in order to open two more vistas to the villages of Grafton Regis and Potterspury. The road running from the Lodge through Steer Coppice was extended further eastwards to form the main approach from Potterspury.
In the mid-C19, when Whittlewood was disafforested and enclosed, the 5th Duke of Grafton was allotted Wakefield Lodge and grounds as compensation for his loss of office as Keeper of Whittlewood. Around this time a new dairy farm was built to the north-east of the main house, and detailed accounts record that a kitchen garden was built to the east in the 1860s. The first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) map of 1884 shows the garden divided by paths into four sections, and the second edition map of 1900 shows a gardener’s cottage built into the north-east corner. A vista was created running for more than a mile westwards from the house, on the same axis as the eastern approach from Potterspury. Remnants of a more formal landscape survive which mapping suggests may also have been a largely Victorian creation. The ha-ha in front of the house is not shown on maps until the 1884 OS map which depicts a hexagonal feature within the semi-circle; and to the west of the house is a series of formal parterres. Both these features now only survive as very slight earthworks.
Landscape park designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the mid-C18.
LOCATION, SETTING, LANDFORM, BOUNDARIES AND AREA
Wakefield Lodge is located in the south of Northamptonshire, on the boundary with Buckinghamshire, west of the Roman road Watling Street. It lies about two miles west of the village of Potterspury, on a slight hill in a clearing within the ancient Royal Forest of Whittlewood. The boundary along the north side runs along the inner edge of Smalladine Copes, Say’s Copse and Bear’s Copse before turning southwards along the inner edge of Lady Copse and West Waterslade Copse. It then follows Towcester Drive to take in the walled garden and the path lined with trees to West Lodge. The eastern boundary skirts around the inner edge of Redmoor Copse and Hill Copse, and the southern boundary follows the inner edge of East Ashalls Copse, West Ashalls Copse and Briary Wood.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The principal approach is a continuation of the road leading westwards from Potterspury and is marked by the C19 West Lodge. This is a single-storey lodge constructed of squared and coursed rubble stone with a roof covering of fish-scale tiles. It has a cross-gabled roof and canted bay windows. The long avenue is lined by various trees, including horse chestnut, lime and oaks, and runs westwards to the house. It then continues westwards as a recently planted tree-lined avenue through a wide path in Briary Wood to the road. Secondary roads come in from the north-west along Towcester Drive to the Dairy Farm, and from the south along Deanshanger Drive to the stable block.
Wakefield Lodge (Grade II* listed), built in 1747 to the designs of William Kent in the Palladian style, is situated in the south-east part of the park overlooking the lake to the north. It is constructed of limestone ashlar with a low-pitched, slate-clad roof and has three storeys and five window bays. The front has a recessed centre with a three-bay portico of Tuscan columns, and the end bays are raised by a half-storey. The two outer bays have Venetian windows and the upper floor has tripartite lunette windows.
To the south-east, the mid-C18 stable block (Grade II* listed) is constructed of red brick with a hipped slate-clad roof. It has a double-pile plan and is fifteen bays wide with a central three-bay pediment. There is an oval shaped carriage circle to the north of the stable block.
In front of the house there is a symmetrical, semi-circular ha-ha, of probable C19 date, which is constructed of stone with some later repairs. A rectangular lawn is laid out to the west side of the house which is separated by a row of pleached limes (of recent date) from the two small lawns lined by yew hedges at the rear of the house.
One of the principal features of the park is the sinuous lake, known as the Great Pond, situated to the north of the house, which feeds into a smaller lake on the east side. There is a large expanse of parkland between the house and lake which retains some trees, and beyond this the area known as Wakefield Lawn has been cultivated as arable land, interspersed with some parkland trees. One of the key vistas is northwards from the house, over the lake, to the opening between Bear’s Copse and Lady Copse. On the north-west side of the house, an area of woodland called The Pheasantry is criss-crossed by pathways. In the north-west area of the park is located a stone building called Wakefield Little Lodge which is referred to as The Kennels on the 1884 OS map. The mid-C19 Dairy Farm and other estate buildings are situated to the north of the smaller lake.
To the east of the Dairy Farm there is a rectangular, four-acre, mid-C19 walled kitchen garden built of red brick laid in English bond with saddleback coping. It has wide opposing entrances on the north and south sides, the latter has a segmental brick arch but the former has been knocked through. A two-storey, two-bay gardener’s cottage with a hipped roof and wide corbelled eaves is built into the north-east corner (in the late C19). The brick plinth and metal frame of a long, lean-to glasshouse survives on the inner side of the heated north wall on the west end. On the outer side of the north wall there are two long lean-to ranges of bothies and sheds. These are in a dilapidated state but retain some features including built-in cupboards, fireplaces and plank and batten doors. The kitchen garden is no longer in production and is overgrown.