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Ha-Ha in the Old Park

A Grade II Listed Building in Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.0026 / 52°0'9"N

Longitude: -0.4182 / 0°25'5"W

OS Eastings: 508682

OS Northings: 234973

OS Grid: TL086349

Mapcode National: GBR G3S.H2B

Mapcode Global: VHFQV.PXSQ

Entry Name: Ha-Ha in the Old Park

Listing Date: 21 May 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1402869

Location: Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire, MK45

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Silsoe

Built-Up Area: Silsoe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Silsoe

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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Summary

A ha-ha of the C18.

Description

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

DESCRIPTION: the ha-ha extends c400m, is curvilinear in plan with a ditch on its southern side. It runs across the Old Park from the boundary with the Great Gardens on the east to the north to south bridleway that marks roughly the extent of the original park on the west side. Short sections have weathered and suffered some displacement of stonework.


History

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 Old Park lies to the west of the current Wrest Park House and Great Gardens and includes the oldest part of parkland associated with Wrest Park, parts probably dating from the C14. The ha-ha across the Old Park probably relates to an earlier sub-division of the area, abandoned in subsequent expansions and internal re-arrangement of the gardens. The ha-ha is believed to date to the C18.

Reasons for Listing

The C18 ha-ha running across the Old Park, Wrest 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.

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