Garden building, probably late C18 or early C19.
Reason for Listing
The Rustic Arch on Lakeside Drive, which probably dates from the turn of the C19, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design interest: a typically picturesque garden building of the period, its design epitomising the Romantic preoccupations with the medieval Gothic past, the sublimity of wild nature and the aesthetics of ruin and decay;
* Landscape interest: though now set admist modern housing, the arch originally formed part of the extensive designed landscape associated with Stoke Court, a fact still reflected in the surrounding open lawns and the surviving portions of the lake;
* Historic association: the Stoke Court estate is strongly associated with the major mid-C18 poet Thomas Gray, and although the arch almost certainly post-dates Gray's residence it is a fitting embodiment of his characteristic themes of seclusion, contemplation, remembrance and the march of time.
The property now known as Stoke Court (Grade II), and previously as West End House, is associated with the poet Thomas Gray (1716-71), who stayed there during the 1740s and 50s when it was the home of his aunt Anna Rogers. Gray's 'Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College' was written at West End House in 1742; its composition is traditionally associated with a stone-built summerhouse or belvedere (now destroyed) on the hillside north-west of the main house. Map evidence indicates that at some point between 1770 and 1822 the valley running south-west from the house was landscaped, with the stream at its bottom dammed up to form an elongated lake; the rustic arch originally overlooked this lake, and probably dates from the same period. The house was rebuilt on a grand scale in the 1840s by Granville John Penn, and at some point before the first Ordnance Survey map of 1875 the lake was divided into a chain of ponds. Stoke Court was sold at auction in 1927, and from this point the grounds began to be developed for housing. The arch now stands in the front garden of a detached house on Lakeside Drive, with lawns in front running down to the channel of water that is all that remains of the lake.
MATERIALS: flint rubble set in lime mortar.
DESCRIPTION: the structure consists of a tall, slightly pointed arch with abutments and a semicircular alcove behind. The flint rubble masonry is treated in a 'rustic' manner suggestive of ruination or of natural rock: the abutments on either side of the arch are mere irregular spurs, and the 'gable' above is crowned with a series of crooked pinnacles. There is evidence that the structure once had a roof, presumably a timber lean-to with rafters running from the top of the alcove wall up to the inward face of the arch; this has now wholly disappeared.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.