Parkland and gardens of Norton Place, begun in around 1772 and completed in a single phase to the designs of Thomas White working in a naturalistic Browning style.
Reasons for Designation
The parkland and gardens of Norton Place, laid out to the designs of Thomas White in around 1772, are registered at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a single phase landscape that has undergone little alteration since the time of its creation in around 1772;
* for the well-documented history of its development, including an original plan of White's designs;
* as a well-surviving example of the work of a Thomas White, a nationally important designer, in the early part of his career;
* for the history of collaboration between nationally distinguished designers John Carr and Thomas White.
* for its representative value as an intact naturalistic Brownian landscape;
* the estate is distinguished by the carefully considered placement of attractive buildings designed by John Carr, especially the house (listed at Grade I) and bridge (Grade II*).
* for the clear group value gained from the relationship between buildings and landscape, especially the Grade I listed house, Grade II* listed bridge, and Grade II listed lodges and coach house.
Norton Place, called simply Norton in earlier sources, was created from open fields following a 1772 act of enclosure in favour of John Harrison MP. Harrison commissioned the landscape architect Thomas White to draw up a plan for the estate in the same year. It is possible that Harrison was introduced to White by his political patron, Charles Pelham, whose own estate at nearby Brocklesby Park was undergoing improvement to designs by White's erstwhile tutor, Lancelot Brown, and the two were collaborating on that project. White's plan at Norton showed the creation of a large area of lawns surrounded and broken by tree plantations with a serpentine, river-like, lake running west to east across its middle. The plan illustrated the estate as it would have originally appeared, surrounded by the highly contrasting landscape of the common field system. Fragmentary survivals of ridge and furrow farming can still be seen in the woodland plantations at the north east of the estate. A house was to be constructed at the north of the plot with views over the park and south towards the Wolds. Close to the house would be a shrubbery, a 'managery', a walled kitchen garden and a small number of formal features. Further towards the western boundary would be a walled orchard. Somewhere in the middle of the 'river' feature would be a step or a dam to accommodate the gently changing levels of the landscape.
Though some changes were made to the eventual design, the broad principles of White's layout shown in 1772 were adhered to. John Carr designed the buildings, and the estate was inhabited from around 1776. The major areas of difference between the finished landscape and the 1772 plan include the conflation of the walled kitchen garden with the orchard to create a single large walled garden in a revised location south of the entrance lodges, and the expansion of the river to create a substantial water feature. A dam was placed at the eastern end of the river to create a large lower lake, divided from the smaller upper lake by a step in the water covered by a bridge of John Carr's design.
Harrison was associated with a generation of 'improvers' active in Lincolnshire in the C18 and his transformation of the land at Norton Place was assessed in highly favourable terms as part of Arthur Young's 1799 survey of the county for the Lincolnshire Board of Agriculture. "Norton Place was 23 years ago, an open field, under the barbarity of the common field system: there is now an excellent house, with offices complete, a large lawn, a water half a mile long, a very handsome bridge over it; a garden walled, with appurtenances, and shrubberies planted with taste, and kept in beautiful order, and the whole surrounded with flourishing plantations, that have attained for their age a very fine growth. There is on the whole, turn which way you will, a finished air, it is complete".
The house and bridge were featured in a collection of views of houses and churches in Lincolnshire commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks (1794), and an 1803 engraving based on a sketch by Thomas Espin illustrates the house set amongst maturing trees as seen from across the lake.
John Harrison died in 1811 and Norton Place passed to his son-in-law, Sir Montague Cholmeley Bt (d 1831). Several generations of the Cholmeley Baronets of Easton occupied Norton Place, though they principally resided at their family seat of Easton Hall near Grantham, until the mid C20 when the Norton estate was sold to the Holt family and sold in 1960 to another private family. The relatively low intensity of occupation over the course of the C19 may explain the lack of major interventions to the house and landscape over that period. A (no longer extant) south approach is shown on the First Series Ordnance Survey map and may have been a late C18 addition. And 1827-8 survey by Greenwood and Co indicates a deer park to the north that is no longer extant. Lewis Vulliamy carried out some minor changes to the house in around 1830 but there is no evidence of his work affecting the designed landscape.
In 1904 Norton Place was inherited by Sir Montague Aubrey Rowley Cholmeley Bt and until around 1937 the Cholmeley's made the house their principal residence. It is likely to have been during this period that the 'hermit's hut' was introduced to the Top Walk,and a new plantation of trees was introduced between Bassett's Wig and the Halfmoon Plantation south of the lower lake. It is possible also that the small classical pavilion immediately east of the hosue, and the stone steps at the eastern end of the formal garden were built at that time, though these may have been installed post-war when the house entered new ownership. Besides these features, very little has been added to the landscape at Norton Place since the 1770s. Some areas of tree planting have expanded while others have been reduced, though the only notable loss is of the 'icehouse clump' that once stood south of the lower lake, leaving no trace behind of the icehouse it presumably contained.
John Carr (1723-1807) began life as the son of a distinguished master mason and went on to become one of the most prolific English architects of the C18. He is predominantly associated with domestic and civic architecture in the north of England, most often in an Anglo-Palladian style developed from his study of Serlio and Palladio's designs, and an early working association with the Earl of Burlington. Among his most notable works are Harewood House (Grade I,National Heritage List for England (NHLE) entry 1225861) and the Crescent at Buxton (Grade I, NHLE entry 1257876). The majority of his buildings still survive.
Thomas White (1739-1811) was a landscape designer and arboriculturalist. He and his son, Thomas White Junior, were engaged in projects in as many as 100 locations around the north of England and (predominantly) in Scotland. White's highly successful career at a time of exceptional achievement in the development of garden design has been overshadowed by the work of contemporaries such as Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783) and Humphry Repton (1752-1818). The son of a Shropshire farmer he may have received training as a gardener and surveyor. Some sources suggest he was a pupil of Capability Brown. White's style emphasised the appearance of a naturalistic landscape very much in the same fashion as Brown.
In their prolific careers, White and Carr appear to have been in consultation on a considerable number of projects. 19 estates in England engaged the two men at some point between 1766 and 1795. This is more than any other architect is known to have worked alongside White, suggesting a successful working relationship.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, AND SETTING
Norton Place is located immediately north-west of the hamlet of Spital in the Street. It borders the Roman Road of Ermine Street, now the A15, on the western boundary of the estate. The north and south boundaries of the park are largely framed by shelter belts named (north) Top Walk and Bottom Walk, and (south) Long Screed and Halfmoon Plantation. The land falls to a gentle valley running west to east across the middle of the park, within which a stream fed by a spring west of Ermine Street has been dammed to form an upper and lower lake. Beyond the dam at the east end of the park is a woodland called Fishpond Bottom that carries the stream into Mellow's Beck. Where the plantations are less dense, giving some views of the surrounding agricultural land, boundaries are marked by fencing or, between the Halmoon Plantation and Fishpond Bottom, by a dry limestone wall.
The principal house (Grade I, NHLE entry 1359423) is located between the Top and Bottom Walks in the northern sector of the park, together with its ancillary structures and Grade II listed Coach House (NHLE entry 1064178).
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The main entrance gate stands between two lodges with some classical detailing, all of which are Grade II listed and designed by John Carr (NHLE entry 1359424). They are positioned hard against Ermine Street at the western boundary of the Top Walk. The drive passes between the lodges and follows a sinuous route through mature woodland before breaking into the lawns that characterise the large central part of the park. The first view of the house is of the west elevation. The principal south elevation is gradually revealed as the drive winds between singly placed chestnut trees likely to date from the laying out of the park. Close to the house the drive turns to provide access to the coach house and ancillary structures at the rear, with a C20 diversion cutting across the ha-ha to do so.
A secondary access route exists between farm buildings north of the park boundary and the rear yard of the coach house.
The house at Norton Place was designed by John Carr and completed in around 1776. It stands centrally in the northern part of the park, between the Top and Bottom Walks. It is two storeys with attics, faced in limestone, and the principal (south) elevation has bays arranged 2-3-2 with three windows below a pediment. The main entrance was moved to the west elevation in around 1830 by Lewis Vulliamy. Its relationship to the landscape is essentially unaltered since its original conception, with expansive views over the parkland, towards the water, and through a deliberate gap in the tree plantations to the south horizon. It is likely that a glimpse view of the bridge over the lake once existed, but this is now screened by trees around the water.
ORNAMENTAL GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
The presiding character of the landscape emphasises naturalism, but incorporated within the Bottom Walk are formal features likely to date from the C20 that provide some diversity. Immediately adjacent to the house on the east side is a level area bordered to the south by a ha-ha. It contains a small classically detailed pavilion, probably Edwardian, and a below-ground pool. Heading north-east from the house there are some specimen trees, a stone terrace and steps, and a C21 cabin. noteable trees include two veteran holm oaks, a katsura, and a manna ash. The 1907 OS map shows this area formerly contained a pheasantry.
OTHER BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES
Between the larger lower lake and the smaller and shallower upper lake is a step in the river. Concealing this feature is a three span hump-backed bridge in white ashlar limestone that has been built above it to the designs of John Carr. In common with the house, coach house, and lodges the bridge is classically detailed and proportioned. It is Grade II* listed (NHLE entry 1165038).
At the western end of the ha-ha that runs part of the way along the edge of the Top and Bottom Walks is a small single-storey C20 octagonal building called the 'Hermit's Hut'. It stands on a brick plinth and is clad and roofed in tarred wooden boards. It has glazed timber doors with windows on either side, and a brick chimney stack projects to the rear. It is positioned with views across the parkland to the west, near to a clump of Scots pines.
West of the hermit's hut is a lily pond with a pump. The latter comprises reused stonework, possibly from a church: a stone column stands on a carved plinth, with a C13 capital on top.
The dam at the eastern end of the lower lake incorporates sluice gates and spillways and there has been some C20 concrete repair.
Close to the spillway at the northern corner of the lower lake are the limestone footings of a former, possibly C18, boat house. Adjacent to it is a post-war concrete jetty.
The park historically extended from a clearing at the north-westernmost corner of the Top Walk to the edge of Spital in the Street in the south west, and across at a north-east angle to the eastern end of the Halfmoon Plantation, and up past Fishpond Bottom to reach the north-eastern corner of the Bottom Walk. The upper and lower lakes divide the grazed lawns that characterise the land nearest the house from the ploughed fields on the south side. These ploughed areas have historically been indicated as part of the parkland on maps and retain their historic boundaries. Young's 1799 comments on the landscape at Norton indicate that the park may have an early history of being ploughed intermittently.
Between the small plantation on the south side of the lower lake near to the dam (called Basset's Wig on the 1st edition OS map) and the shelterbelt halfmoon plantation at the south east park boundary a new area of tree plantations has been introduced and gradually expanded over the course of the C20.
While the perimeter of the park is generally defined by plantations of mixed conifers and deciduous trees, the lawns also contain interspersed chestnuts, beeches, limes and oaks many of which are likely to date to the laying out of the park in around 1776. On the north side of the clearing in the north-western corner of the top walk is at least one example of an oak which may predate the park itself. The eastern boundary between Fishpond Bottom and Bottom walk once featured a hawthorn hedge that has now grown tall.
Close to the western boundary of the park, south of the wooded area of the drive, is a large walled garden. The garden is trapezoidal in plan, catching a greater amount of direct sunlight. It is faced externally in coursed rubble limestone, and internally with red bricks laid in English Garden Wall bond. There are ruinous ancillary structures on the north and western boundaries externally, and the scars of some lost structures built against the north wall internally. A large gateway stands at the north-east corner, and there is a blocked original doorway beneath a brick arch on the south wall. C21 pheasantry huts stand within the garden. The south wall was originally heated, with stoves fuelled from the north side, and flues running horizontally through the thickness of the wall, releasing heat to the south side through bricks laid on their side. By this mechanism a slip garden was created against the south wall, projecting a single bay to the south with formal entrances at the east and west ends. Scars suggest there may have been a roof, possibly for a glass house or structural protection for trained plants, along part of this area.