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Ha-Ha on the East Side of Wrest Park, Silsoe

Description: Ha-Ha on the East Side of Wrest Park

Grade: II
Date Listed: 21 May 2012
English Heritage Building ID: 1403017

OS Grid Reference: TL0935235306
OS Grid Coordinates: 509351, 235308
Latitude/Longitude: 52.0054, -0.4083

Locality: Silsoe
County: Central Bedfordshire
Country: England
Postcode: MK45 4HP

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Listing Text


A ha-ha of mid to late C18 date.

Reason for Listing

The ha-ha running north to south along the east side of the garden at Wrest Park is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: in its carefully detailed construction and considerable length;
* Historical interest: for its contribution to the C18 designed landscape at Wrest;
* Group Value: for its contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and its association with many other listed buildings.


Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. In 1702, Wrest became the property of Henry de Grey who, by 1710, had become the Duke of Kent. Henry was determined to improve the status of Wrest. At this time the gardens to the south were enlarged, alterations made to the water courses, and a number of garden buildings were constructed. A summer house was placed by the mill pond and a greenhouse was added to the Orange Garden. The architect Thomas Archer was responsible for many of these structures including the Pavilion (Grade I) which marked the southern limit of the garden as defined by the Old Brook. The alignment of the Old Brook is still maintained as the boundary between the parishes of Silsoe and Gravenhurst. Cain Hill was incorporated into the landscape as an eye catcher, its presence emphasised by the geometric axis which, eventually, led east from the house and north-east from the Archer Pavilion partly in the form of avenues.

In the 1720s additional land was acquired, various alterations to the canals were carried out and several garden buildings were commissioned, from the Italian architects Filippo Juvarra and Giacomo Leoni, but also from others, predominantly Nicholas Hawksmoor, William Kent and James Gibbs. Of these the Temple of Diana (now demolished), the West Half House (Grade II) and the East Half House (Grade II) were built. The allees (avenues) and squares, either side of the Great Canal, were also created by 1726 marking the peak of the formal garden at Wrest. Two plans drawn by Rocque in 1735 and 1737 illustrate some of these changes. In 1729 work resumed with additions including an amphitheatre to the north of the bowling green and the creation of the serpentine canal. A greenhouse (on the site of the current Orangery) and the addition to, and enlargement of Bowling Green House (Grade II*) were also completed, both by Batty Langley.

The Duke died in 1740. The estate passed to his granddaughter Jemima who had recently married Philip Yorke, the son of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke. They showed considerable interest in the garden and had great influence in its development. In 1758 Jemima commissioned Lancelot (Capability) Brown to improve the landscape but he was constrained by her high regard for the existing landscape and reluctance to make significant alterations to the garden created by her grandfather. Brown's alterations were limited to laying the waters together around the garden and making the previously straight canals meander in a more naturalistic manner. Various buildings including the Chinese Summer House (Grade II) and the Chinese Bridge and the Bath House (Grade II*) were added under Jemima's instruction.

It is unclear when the ha-ha, to the east of the gardens and the subject of this case, was built. A wall is clearly visible on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of 1882 but this section of the garden has been depicted with a linear boundary from as early as 1704 when it was shown on an engraving by Kip and Knyff and again on the 1737 engraving by Rocque. What is unclear is whether a wall defined this boundary. A mid- to late-C18 date is possible.


MATERIALS: the wall is built in sandstone with larger blocks towards the base and flat coping.

PLAN: the ha-ha runs roughly north to south, is linear in plan and extends c 400m, with a ditch on its eastern side. It separates the designed garden from the wider parkland to prevent deer or other wildlife entering the pleasure gardens.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.