Gardens at Graythwaite Hall


Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Graythwaite Hall, Graythwaite, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 8BA


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Statutory Address:
Graythwaite Hall, Graythwaite, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 8BA

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

South Lakeland (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:


Garden around Graythwaite Hall, designed by Thomas Mawson between 1889 and 1895, for Thomas Myles Sandys MP.

Reasons for Designation

The garden at Graythwaite Hall, designed between 1889 and 1895 by Thomas Mawson for Colonel Sandys, is registered at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Design interest: * Thomas Mawson is widely considered to be the founder of modern landscape architecture and garden design and became one of the most influential designers of the early C20;  * it was Mawson's first significant design, in which he pioneered his 'composite' garden, a combination of the formal and informal; * the design was fully published and illustrated in Mawson's seminal work ‘The Art and Craft of Garden Making', featuring the striking Dutch Garden sundial on its cover; the significance of the early commission is recognised by the book's dedication to Colonel Sandys.

Historic interest: * designed at a period when the art of garden-making and planning was at a crossroads, the gardens encapsulated Arts and Crafts principles, and were influential on early-C20 garden design.

Survival: * the garden design remains much as Mawson left it, and fully reflects his original design with only very minor later alterations.

Group value: * they benefit from a spatial, functional and historic group value with the Grade II-listed principal building, Graythwaite Hall and numerous other heritage assets including entrances, lodges, sundial, and stables. 


Graythwaite Hall, thought to have C17 origins, was remodelled in the C18 and the C19, and historic mapping indicates that by the mid-C19 it was surrounded by an extensive country park. In 1889 Thomas Myles Sandys MP commissioned Thomas Mawson of Windermere to improve his garden and park, after a niece of Ruskin had recommended his work to a neighbouring estate. Mawson was commissioned to landscape about six acres around the hall, open up the views, introduce new trees and shrubs, make use of existing ones and make the whole garden as labour-saving as possible. Thomas Mawson worked for Thomas Sandys until about 1895, during which time he created the present garden, working collaboratively with the architects Richard Knill Freeman (1840-1904) and Dan Gibson (1865-1907), whom he employed to make additions to both house and gardens. He was retained to work on the estate more generally until about 1905. A subsequent plan to create a new north entrance, drive and avenue does not appear to have been executed.

Mawson's designs for Graythwaite Hall are fully described in The Art and Craft of Garden Making (1900). The house had become shrouded by overgrown trees and shrubs, and the ground fell sharply along the single, undulating east drive giving the appearance that the house sat within a hollow. Mawson therefore created a new, level drive at the south-east corner of the garden, which was returned to the north side of the house, and a second drive was added to the north-east, both furnished with new entrances and lodges. Landscaping around the house created shallow terraces to its south and west fronts, giving it greater height and landscape presence. The existing stables were removed and replaced by a geometric formal garden (Dutch Garden) accessed by an archway designed by Freeman with a wrought-iron gate by Gibson. A wide elevated terrace walk was constructed running west from the house, to its south, a rectangular formal garden (Rose Garden). Views from the house across the garden and the surrounding countryside were opened up and new planting schemes introduced. A grassy sward was created in front of the house, within which a number of old yews and beeches were retained, and the addition of a sinuous path allowed a variety of different viewpoints of the hall. The south boundary, which had been marked by established trees which hid the road from view, was opened up to create views. Conifers were planted around the edge of the park for shelter, and rhododendron, azaleas and acers planted for spring and autumn colour. The ground to the west of the house was landscaped to produce the effect of a sunken terrace, and further west, existing farm and service buildings were removed from a rocky hillside, which was planted with Scots firs and ascended by the addition of a sinuous path. A stream around the west side of the garden was developed into a water garden crossed by an oak bridge designed by Mawson and Gibson.

The garden remains much as Mawson left it, with only minor alterations including the re-siting of the formal garden gate, the replacement of the timber bridge with a stone bridge, the conversion of the former rose garden to lawn and flower borders, the introduction in 1912 of a pet cemetery and further planting to the north-west woodland walk. A light touch phase of mid-C20 re-planting and additions is also evident.

Thomas Hayton Mawson (1861-1933) was a nursery man born in Windermere, who became a garden designer and town planner of national importance, and the most sought-after garden and landscape designer of the day. He designed parks and gardens for European Royal Families and leading industrialists. He is widely considered the founder of modern landscape architecture and garden design and more than 30 of his designed landscapes are included on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens with about a dozen in the higher grades. His work on the gardens at Graythwaite Hall was one of his earliest and major commissions and one of the few undertaken during the brief life of his partnership with architect Dan Gibson. Graythwaite Hall is considered to be the first significant design for his 'composite' garden: rearranging nature without imposing geometry, a transition between the natural parkland and the formality he would introduce on each side of the hall. Thomas Mawson's engagement by the influential and well-connected Sandys family is considered to have been a turning point in his career. In acknowledgement, he dedicated the first three editions of The Art and Craft of Garden Making (1900) to Colonel Sandys.



Graythwaite Hall is situated on the western shore of Lake Windermere within The Lake District National Park and World Heritage Site. The late-C19 garden surrounding the hall occupies about eight hectares. On the east and south sides the gardens are defined by sections of the more extensive estate boundary wall of red-sandstone with continuous vertical capping. On the west side it is largely defined by a sinuous post and wire deer fence. The land is generally gently undulating with rocky outcrops, with no view of the lake.


The main south entrance has a central carriage opening with ornate, classical piers and pyramidal caps with ball finials, and is flanked to either side by a pedestrian gate with similar but taller and more substantial piers. The original, decorative wrought iron gates are thought to be retained. An asymmetrically-designed lodge is situated to the south side, and a flat and relatively straight drive heads north around the east side of the hall to the rear court. The east entrance has an identical entrance, with a two-bay, gabled contemporary lodge with multiple chimneys and a partially projecting upper storey on its north side. A drive runs westwards down slope and around a high rocky outcrop through an area of mixed woodland, before curving south past the stable block to the hall's rear court. The original, pre-Mawson east entrance has been blocked and contains a smaller, segmental-headed, pedestrian entrance. Set immediately to its south is the original three-bay lodge with a central, projecting, gabled entrance, decorative barge boards, label moulds and the Sandys coat of arms above the segmental main entrance. The original drive is visible as a gravelled path before it merges with the main drive.


Graythwaite Hall (Grade II, National Heritage List for England (NHLE): 1335765) is thought to have C17 origins, remodelled in the C18, C19 and early C20: the main Tudor Revival garden elevation of 1890 is contemporary with Mawson's landscaping. It has mostly mullioned and transomed windows, and a two-storey centre of three bays incorporating a balustraded veranda, with flanking, projecting three-storey shaped gabled bays with double-height bay windows and balustrades with ball finials. The long west elevation mostly has cross-mullioned windows with leaded glazing and label moulds. The east elevation has a late-C17 entrance with Ionic aedicule with a pulvinated frieze. The stables to the north-west are a large, U-shaped symmetrical building, half-timbered with a central clock tower.


The house sits prominently on shallow south and west terraces, with commanding views from the south and west fronts across the gardens and the landscape beyond. The terraces are formed of dry stone slate walls with balustrades and flat coping stones in pink St Bee’s Sandstone that match the material of the house south elevation. A prominent series of curvilinear steps with low solid walls and squat piers with ball finials link the south terrace with the lower lawn. A straight flight of steps leads down from the terrace at its south-west corner with similar piers and finials. At the east end of the terrace, the line of the balustrade is continued by a hedge of battlemented yew. Running west from the west elevation of the house there is a wide, elevated, terrace walk flanked by low limestone walls, with flat pink sandstone coping stones to the rear and a balustrade to the front. At each end it terminates in low piers with ball finials, the west end curvilinear with a set of steps down. A seating recess with scrolled back and sides at the centre of the north wall, contains a stone bench. Opposite, an opening through the south wall leads down a set of stone steps to a rectangular formal garden (Rose Garden) that extends almost back to the west elevation; today this is lawned with borders and a stone sun dial by Dan Gibson to the centre. Overlooked by the east elevation of the house there is a geometric formal garden (Dutch Garden) outlined in yew, and whose steep western slope is terraced into three terrace walks. The gravelled surface of this garden is cut into low box hedge parterres with a tall sun dial by Gibson at its centre. Mawson's ‘mushroom yews’ remain in the form of globes of yew topiary shaped so the top is of golden yew and the bottom of dark green yew.

A sloping and undulating grassy sward runs south of the house down to the south boundary, the former dotted with specimen trees including some pre-existing beech trees that were incorporated into the scheme, and some columner conifers introduced by Mawson to add a more formal note. The greensward is bounded and framed by a mixture of deciduous and evergreen woodland, within which there is a sinuous roughly circular walk allowing a variety of views of the house from different positions. A stream runs north to south along the west side of the gardens, and is landscaped to produce a series of bends and cascades and made into a water garden. To the north west of the house a rocky outcrop planted with fir trees is reached by a sinuous pathway that today (2020) leads to a pet cemetery surrounded by a yew hedge.

MAPPING NOTE The registered area was mapped at 1:2500 and should be viewed at this scale to see the extent of the site.


Books and journals
Mawson, T H, The Art and Craft of Garden Making, (1907), 282-291
Mawson, T H, The Life and Work of an English Landscape Architect, (1927), 24-25; 46
Pevsner, N, Hyde, M, The Buildings of England: Cumbria, (2010), 378-379
Waymark, J, Thomas Mawson: Life, Gardens and Landscapes, (2009)
'Where Mawson's Art Materialised: Gardens of Graythwaite Hall, Cumbria' in Country Life, , Vol. 172, (December 23 1982), 2016-2918
Dan Gibson entry in Dictionary of Scottish Architects, accessed 13-02-2020 from
Mawson, Thomas Hayton (1861–1933), landscape architect; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 04-03-2020 from
Richard Knill Freeman entry in Dictionary of Scottish Architects, accessed 13-02-2020 from


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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