Garden at Ketts Castle Villa
- Heritage Category:
- Park and Garden
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- 113 St Leonard's Road, Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, NR1 4JF
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- Statutory Address:
- 113 St Leonard's Road, Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, NR1 4JF
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Norwich (District Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
A romantic landscape garden on a domestic scale, created in 1857 by the landscape artist John Berney Ladbrooke, at his own home, Ketts Castle Villa.
Reasons for Designation
The garden to Ketts Castle Villa, created by the landscape artist John Berney Ladbrooke in 1857, is included on the Register of Parks and Gardens at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* for its association with the landscape artist John Berney Ladbrooke, (1803-1879) and with the Norwich School of Painting in which there has been increased interest since the Tate’s exhibition of their works in the year 2000.
* as a dramatic and romantic composition, successfully using the steep topography of the wooded escarpment to provide both mystery, and dramatic views;
* for the use of structures incorporating medieval fragments from the chapel of St Michael, known as “Ketts Castle”, an expression of Ladbrooke’s romantic attachment to the site and its history, a site he often chose as a subject for his art, as many others in the Norwich School of Painting had done.
* the garden and structures survive largely intact, save for the enclosure of a small area of land to the north-west.
Group value: * the garden has considerable group value with Ketts Castle Villa, the garden steps, and the gateway to St Leonard’s Road (all listed at Grade II).
John Berney Ladbrooke (1803-1879) was an artist in the Norwich School of Painting. This was a movement in British landscape art founded in 1803 by a small group of self-taught, working-class artists based around Norwich. Other members were John Crome (by whom John Berney Ladbroke was taught) and John Sell Cotman. John Berney Ladbrooke was the son of Robert Ladbrooke, one of the founding members of the movement. The school’s works included landscapes and scenes of rural life, which some commentators have described as a forerunner to French Impressionism, and precursors to the Newlyn School of Painting in Cornwall.
John Berney Ladbrooke exhibited at the Royal Academy three times between 1821 and 1843. The Norwich industrialist J J Colman became a great patron of the artists by buying most of their works and exhibiting them in Norwich. It is thought, however, that this is the reason the artists did not achieve such great fame nationally as they might have done, or as their contemporaries Constable and Turner. In 2000 their work came to national attention as the Tate Gallery held an exhibition of the school’s major works.
Ketts Castle Villa was built in 1857, possibly to the artist’s own design. The area is named after Alderman Robert Kett who led a popular uprising in 1549, and the nearby C12 chapel of St Michael (now just a wall remaining) was known as “Ketts Castle” as it was occupied by Kett during his rebellion. The immediate area is known as Ketts Heights, and has a commanding view down to the city of Norwich. As a landscape painter it is likely that the artist chose to situate his house here for the views. The area was loved by artists, and a frequent subject for paintings, both of the view to Norwich, and the nearby Mousehold Heath, less than 1000m to the east. The house is clearly positioned to make the most of the views, and in particular to allow for the artist’s studio tower to make the most of the view down towards Norwich, the trees in the garden below, and of the distant ruins of St Michael’s chapel (“Ketts Castle”) to the west.
The land forms a steep, wooded chalky escarpment, and the artist used the topography to create a steep garden incorporating fragments of reused medieval masonry, believed to be from the remains of the nearby St Michael’s chapel, and possibly also the nearby St Leonard’s priory (now a scheduled monument.) The current layout of the garden can be seen on the first edition Ordnance Survey map dated 1886. There is an entrance on St Leonard’s Road, and a narrow passage of land running between the gardens of numbers 111 and 115. There are lawned areas to the north and south of the house: that to the south (front) shows a terrace and flight of steps. To the south the garden extends westwards, and the serpentine path down to the Gas Hill gate is depicted.
From the mid C20 to 2016 the house and garden were owned by Mr and Mrs Everitt who were keen patrons of art, and collected a number of sculptures in the 1950s-60s, made by students at the Norwich School of Art. The sculptures have been carefully displayed in various locations in the garden since the Everitts lived there, and were included in the sale of the house and garden in the early C21.
A romantic landscape garden on a domestic scale, created in 1857 by the landscape artist John Berney Ladbrooke, at his home Ketts Castle Villa.
LOCATION, SETTING, LANDFORM, BOUNDARIES AND AREA The garden is sited on a steep escarpment with views over the city of Norwich, and is approximately 1,500 square metres (a third of an acre) in size. It is bounded to the north by a brick wall laid in Flemish bond. To the east, part of the boundary incorporates a blocked archway, and a grotesque carving of a face, possibly another fragment from the Chapel of St Michael. The remainder of that boundary is a low wall laid in Flemish bond, surmounted by a wooden fence. The south boundary is of Victorian brickwork, much overgrown with ivy. The northern part of the east boundary until the outbuilding, is modern fencing.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES There are three entrances to the garden. The first on St Leonard’s Road takes the form of a flint and brick crenellated gateway, surmounted by a stone shield, with a four-centred arch door (Grade II listed). This leads into a “green tunnel” of trees and mature shrubs before finally emerging onto the side of the front lawn to the south of the house.
The second entrance is a brick and stone arched gateway, with a wrought iron gate, which is reached by a public footpath from Gas Hill, to the lowest point of the garden. The entrance leads into a secluded woodland garden on the side of the hill and then along a serpentine path that climbs up the hillside.
The third entrance is sited between two outbuildings at the vehicular access lane to the north.
PRINCIPAL BUILDING Ketts Castle Villa (Grade II listed), built in an eclectic, and partly Tudor Revival style, in 1857, has a formal, symmetrical frontage, surmounted by a tower with commanding views down the hillside, and onto the garden below. There is a terrace in front of the house, and a flight of five stone steps down to the formal lawn, flanked by walls and piers in blue brick, with stone coping, and ball finials to the lower piers, also Grade II listed.
To the west of the house is an outbuilding dating from the mid-C20 but on the footprint of a glass house depicted on the original Ordnance Survey map of 1886. It has a patio area in front of it, sheltered by a high section of brick wall.
ORNAMENTAL GROUNDS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The formal lawn in front of the house (to the south) has a retaining wall of stone rubble, approximately 3m high, surmounted by a decorative stone wall pierced with quatrefoils. From the house, only the decorative part can be seen. Much of the garden is set into the very steep hillside accessed via a meandering serpentine path. There are deciduous trees, particularly a large specimen beside the folly providing both seclusion and shade, and shade-loving plants, particularly ferns and ivy.
The paths, which are mostly stepped, are lined by low retaining walls of rubble with rough stone coping. There are various features along the paths, including a medieval revival gateway set in a high flint rubble wall; a small grotto built from flint rubble (which now houses a 1950s sculpture); and a summerhouse folly of flint rubble and red brick, incorporating a terracotta panel with a man’s face on it. The path in front of the summerhouse is inlaid with pebbles and bottle glass. Nearer to the top of the garden is the spout for a water feature (no longer in use), and some fragments of medieval masonry positioned to provide interest.
The “green tunnel” walkway from St Leonard’s Road is an integral part of the design, and leads to a series of architectural elements. Most are medieval revival, but there are some original medieval fragments incorporated, such as the seated creature carved in stone atop the pier near the garden end of the lane. A medieval revival gateway with stone flat arch and shields above is flanked by inset plaques. The surrounding walls are built in flint in some areas, of blackened bricks in others (believed to be kiln linings from the nearby gasworks) and of brickwork in Flemish or English bond in others.
At the end of the green tunnel nearest to the house is an open medieval-revival archway, in the style of a romantic ruin, incorporating a fragment of an original medieval rose window above it. To the left of this is a low niche with an original medieval stone arch above it. The original stone fragments are believed to have come from St Michael's Chapel (“Kett’s Castle”).
The back garden to the north is lawned, with some young fruit trees. To the east of the house is an area of mature deciduous trees.
Sculptures dating from the 1950s-60s collected by Mr and Mrs Everitt (the owners from the mid to late C20) are interspersed throughout the garden. These include a terracotta face with a bowl on his head, displayed in the grotto; an abstract stone figure on a central plinth to the south of the lawn, facing the house; a human-sized iron sculpture of a stylised bird standing on one leg in the east of the garden; an abstract iron sculpture on the north lawn; and a dumpy angular abstract form, painted off-white, to the east of the house.
Books and journals
Day, Harold A E, East Anglian Painters, Volume II, (1968)
Norfolk Historic Environment Record, accessed 28 May 2020 from http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/record-details?MNF600-Chapel-of-St-Michael-Kett%27s-Heights&Index=587&RecordCount=57339&SessionID=bcee847e-4b00-4ed4-933f-d64750b1d94e
Suffolk Artists, accessed 28 May 2020 from https://suffolkartists.co.uk/index.cgi?choice=painter&pid=4172
Thorp Hamlet Conservation Area Appraisal, accessed 28 May 2020 from https://www.norwich.gov.uk/downloads/file/3015/thorpe_hamlet_conservation_area_appraisal
Wikipedia Entry on John Berney Ladbrooke, accessed 28 May 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Ladbrooke#John_Berney_Ladbrooke
Wikipedia entry on the Norwich School of Painters , accessed 28 May 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwich_School_of_painters
World Atlas- Article on the Norwich School of Painting, accessed 28 May 2020 from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/norwich-school-of-painting-british-art-movement.html
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