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Former walled kitchen garden to Claremont House

A Grade II* Listed Building in Esher, Surrey

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Latitude: 51.3589 / 51°21'32"N

Longitude: -0.3689 / 0°22'7"W

OS Eastings: 513665

OS Northings: 163466

OS Grid: TQ136634

Mapcode National: GBR 5Q.1PT

Mapcode Global: VHFV5.K3BL

Entry Name: Former walled kitchen garden to Claremont House

Listing Date: 16 November 1984

Last Amended: 23 September 2013

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1377465

English Heritage Legacy ID: 286693

Location: Elmbridge, Surrey, KT10

County: Surrey

District: Elmbridge

Electoral Ward/Division: Esher

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Esher

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Surrey

Church of England Parish: Esher

Church of England Diocese: Guildford

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Walled kitchen garden. Circa 1723, probably by Sir John Vanbrugh for the Duke of Newcastle, modified by William Kent, 1738-42.


Walled kitchen garden. Circa 1723, probably by Sir John Vanbrugh for the Duke of Newcastle, modified by William Kent, 1738-42.

MATERIALS: red brick, mainly in Flemish bond but some areas in English bond. Yellow brick copings to some bastions, white brick gateway arches.

DESCRIPTION: although historically mapped as a rectangle, it is trapezoidal on plan extending approximately 210m by 100m with two internal walls parallel to the shorter sides that stop short of the outer walls. There is a diagonal, south-facing wall (extant 1738) in the north-east section.

Walls are some 4.0-4.5m high with a plinth at the base and brick on-edge coping or a weathering of clay roofing tiles above a plain brick cornice. Full height buttress piers are set at approximately 4m intervals and more substantial taller, hollow bastions that rise above the wall, at 21.6m intervals, These have similar brick copings, some in yellow brick. The two internal walls are of similar construction, with regular intermediate buttress piers, and are therefore contemporary with the outer walls. Each has a central opening flanked by piers (the openings blocked by later brickwork). Thick, diagonally-placed south-facing fruit wall within north-east quadrant, now a boundary wall, terminates in rounded piers. Traces of mortar/limewash indicates there were once lean-to structures, probably glasshouses, on the south facing elevation.

The north-east vehicular entrance has a brick pedimented gateway flanked by brick bastions, and remnants of Vanbrugh's brick round arch, modified and replaced with an elliptical white brick arch c 1738 by William Kent. The southern vehicular entrance, blocked by the later eastern coach house, is visible in its basement.

Two pedestrian entrances, built within bastions, one adjacent to the White Cottage and the other within the grounds of 8 Claremont Drive. Each has rusticated brick piers and a flat gauged brick arch under a projecting stone cornice, and the original timber door frame. Some walls retain original pointing with incised horizontal penny-struck joints, for example, adjacent to the pedestrian entrance within 8 Claremont Drive. Four smaller cambered arched openings, c 1738, are symmetrically placed on the longitudinal walls; former entrance to stable yard in the south-west boundary wall.

Brick footpaths, using small yellow bricks paviors, were uncovered adjacent to the southernmost pedestrian gate in the north-west wall during repairs in 2012. It is not known how extensive these paths may be.

The six historic internal subdivisions have been further subdivided by modern housing development. The infill houses and later boundaries between these properties are not of special interest

The attached map is intended as a guide and although accurately planned at a scale of 1:625, the detail described in the text may not be apparent at a smaller scale.

The walled garden is discussed in historic surveys of the site and is included in the management and conservation plans for Claremont (see Sources and particularly the Conservation and Management Plan, 2005, 128-160). Sections of wall have been subject of recent repairs (2012) under English Heritage's guidance. These reports have informed this summary and provide detailed guidance on the high significance of the site.


The walled garden at Claremont was designed and built by Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) who had built a house at Claremont for himself in 1708. Vanbrugh, architect and playwright, was responsible for some of the greatest houses of the period, at Castle Howard and Blenheim. Having sold his house to Thomas Pelham-Holles (later Duke of Newcastle) in 1714 he was taken on to extend the house and to improve the estate. The stables, walled garden, and garden room are shown on a plan of the estate c. 1718 published in Vitruvius Brittanicus (1725). Improvements included the establishment of a kitchen garden adjacent to the house, enclosing it with the present walls c. 1723. Typical of the date, it was tripartite in plan, divided into three rectangles separated by cross walls, each section subdivided by a central path such that the cross walls each had a central opening, flanked by piers. Arched gateways provided vehicular access at the south-west and north-east corners, at either end of a service lane. Opposite this a formal walk or allée ran along the inside of the north-west boundary wall, terminating at a garden room. Smaller pedestrian entrances of this phase, such as the gateway adjacent to the White Cottage, had rusticated piers and gauged brick arches. Outside the walled enclosure to the south-west was a stable block.

After Vanbrugh's death, William Kent was employed by the Duke of Newcastle to redesign the grounds in a more natural - although by comparison with the later C18, still stylised - manner that reflected changing tastes. He enlarged the garden room to provide a house for the Duke's gardener, Mr Greening; the building is now known as The White Cottage (and separately listed at Grade II*). Contemporary accounts coupled with the detail in Roque's plan of 1738 record native and exotic fruit trees laid out formally in rows, a new diagonally-placed south-facing wall in the north-east section and new buildings in the south-east section of the garden. By 1743 Kent had added four smaller pedestrian gateways, symmetrically placed on the long sides of the garden, and an entrance to the stable yard adjacent to the south-west boundary wall, and had modified the north-east entrance by adding the pediment and altering the original round arch to an elliptical arch.

The sale of the Claremont estate to Clive of India in 1769 coincided with changes in fashion that mark the later C18. The house that had stood on flat ground to the south of the present house was demolished to make way for a new house on the ridge (Claremont Fan Court School, listed Grade I). It was designed by Henry Holland and set in a park laid out by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (Grade I Registered Landscape). Work was completed c 1777. Unusually for such schemes, where wholesale demolition of 'unslightly' buildings which interrupted the view of open parkland was common, Vanbrugh's walled garden remained unchanged. By the early C19 the layout of the walled garden had been simplified (Survey, 1801), but included fashionable new features in the western section such as a melon ground to the south and to the north of it a menagerie.

After 1816, when Claremont was acquired for Princess Charlotte, the walled garden continued to be managed as a fruit and vegetable and flower garden. Its use reflects the development of the C19 walled garden in general: glasshouses were built diagonally across the northern section against and in line with the south-facing C18 fruit wall to gain maximum sunlight. An ornamental round pond was built in the centre of the former menagerie, bounded by a circular walk. In 1844 the stables were enlarged, replacing Kent’s buildings; the south-western entrance had already been blocked by the addition of a pair of coach houses shortly after 1816.

When the estate was settled on Queen Victoria in 1865, first the western section of the garden, and the following year the remainder of the garden, was leased out for horticultural use, to supply the house with fruit and flowers. However, while the Ordnance Survey map for 1868 shows that more glasshouses had been built in the south-eastern section, the mapping convention suggest that the rest of the garden was informally laid out with trees and shrubs. By the end of the century, again perhaps a reflection of tastes in gardening at the time, there appeared to be a return to formality and the circular walk is marked again. In the early 1900s the garden was renowned for its herbaceous borders, which became fashionable at the turn of the C20, while the walls supported flowering climbing shrubs, some of which were considered by the head gardener to be of great age.

The estate was broken up in the 1920s and a large part sold off for housing. The school which was established in Claremont House in 1931 bought back a portion of the walled garden while the reminder forms the boundary walls of houses which have been built against and within it.

In addition to the walled garden, the Belvedere, c.1715 (listed Grade II*) was also designed and built by Vanbrugh. Other C18 structures surviving within in the park include Holland's lodges, also 1777, at the entrance to Claremont Drive (listed Grade II), and the early C18 ice house and ice house pond. The northern tip of the park is encroached by C20 housing and part has been laid out as a golf course.

Adjacent to Claremont Park and historically part of it, being contemporary with Vanbrugh and Kent's work for the Duke of Newcastle, Claremont landscape garden (a Grade I Registered landscape) is one of the most notable early C18 landscapes in the country, an example of early C18 taste and the work of the most important exponents of the period, Sir John Vanbrugh, William Kent and Charles Bridgeman.

Reasons for Listing

The kitchen garden walls at Claremont, of c. 1723, probably by Sir John Vanbrugh for the Duke of Newcastle, modified by William Kent, 1738-42 are listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: one of the most notable, large, near complete and architecturally articulated walled gardens of this period, associated with the eminent architect and playwright Sir John Vanbrugh and with the designer William Kent;
* Fabric: survival of early brickwork and particularly of increasingly rare, original pointing;
* Plan and evolution: evidence in the fabric, complemented by a good documentary record, of the evolution of the walled garden;
* Historic interest: associated with the outstanding early C18 landscape at Claremont (Grade I Registered Park and Garden) and the wider context of important early C18 houses, structures and historic landscapes in Esher.

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