Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Old Thorndon Hall and gardens

A Scheduled Monument in West Horndon, Essex

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5839 / 51°35'1"N

Longitude: 0.342 / 0°20'31"E

OS Eastings: 562356.195245

OS Northings: 189820.025439

OS Grid: TQ623898

Mapcode National: GBR NKS.P94

Mapcode Global: VHHN9.WG55

Entry Name: Old Thorndon Hall and gardens

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021226

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32473

County: Essex

Civil Parish: West Horndon

Built-Up Area: West Horndon

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Ingrave St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

Details

The monument includes the above and below ground remains of Old Thorndon
Hall and its associated gardens, including remains of the moated medieval
manor and Old Hall and the area of gardens around the house which formed
the original landscaped gardens of the 16th century, partially redesigned
in the 18th century. The site is located on the summit of a steep south
facing slope (giving views over the Thames estuary) within a small wood (Old
Hall Wood) which forms part of Thorndon Country Park (South). To the south of
the park is the A127 connecting Basildon and Southend; two miles to the
north is the town of Brentwood. The underlying geology of the park is
London Clay.

The history of the estate of Thorndon dates back to the Domesday Survey of
1086 when the Saxon manor of `Torninduna' was held by Suain of Essex. In
1414 Henry V gave licence to the then owner, a vintner called Lewis John,
`to empark 300 acres, to surround his lodge within this park with walls
and to crenallate and embattle the lodge'. In 1573 Sir John Petre of
Ingatestone (later first Lord Petre) bought the estate from a family friend
Lord John Mordaunt and immediately set about rebuilding the house and
redesigning the gardens. Over the next 20 years the house and gardens were
transformed and the final results are accurately depicted on a map of 1598
by John Walker and a drawing of 1669 (the latter by an artist accompanying
Duke Cosmo of Tuscany on his visit to England).

In 1734 the eighth Lord Petre, Robert James, a renowned enthusiast for
botany and horticulture, undertook an ambitious project to rebuild the hall
and landscape the gardens. A Venetian architect, Giacomo Leoni, was hired
to redesign the house, and a French surveyor called Bourginion was employed
to draw up a plan for a new landscape garden. The resultant garden design was
complex and included a water garden, menagerie, colossal hot-houses (called
`stoves') and a huge nursery of plants. The stoves were reputed to be the
largest in size and number in England, incorporating a pineapple stove and
others, for exotic fruits such as guava, ginger, lime and bananas. An avid
plant collector and a pioneer in the naturalisation of these exotics, the
estate boasted a collection of over 700 different species, with over 40,000
trees planted between 1741-42. The premature death in 1742, from smallpox,
of the eighth Lord Petre curtailed the project, and although much was
implemented, it was then left to decay for many years until the ninth Lord
Petre reached his majority. In 1763 the ninth Lord Petre took the radical
decision to abandon and demolish the Old Hall and build a completely
new mansion some distance to the north.

The succession of houses and formal gardens at Old Thorndon Hall are
contained within the site of a much larger early 18th century park and
woodland, which is itself Listed Grade II* on the Register of Parks and
Gardens. Known as Thorndon Park, the grounds were further landscaped in
the mid-18th century by Lancelot "Capability" Brown, with minor additions
in the 1790s, probably by Richard Woods.

The Elizabethan garden is accurately depicted on the Walker map of 1578. The
whole garden, some 200m north-south by 400m east-west, is enclosed within a
brick wall which has two gatehouses, one along the northern circuit and one in
the southern (the latter providing access to the courtyard). Archaeological
resisitivity surveys in 1997 have shown that the foundations of these brick
walls and the gatehouses still survive below ground. Within this walled
enclosure, the garden is further subdivided into smaller enclosures (these
internal garden walls also survive below ground): the `Great Garden' was to
the immediate north of the Hall, `The Orchard' to the west and stables
were to the east. The layout of the `Great Garden' incorporated terraced
walks with steps leading down to sunken geometric plots. In the centre
was the `Great Vault', a circular basin providing the water supply to the
house. `The Orchard' had regular plantations of fruit trees (145 trees in
all) subdivided by paths. Although the subsequent Georgian landscaping
removed some of the Elizabethan garden features, the survival of its wall
foundations facilitates its reconstruction and suggests that archaeological
levels from this period survive well.

The Georgian landscaping changed `The Orchard' into an area of formal gardens
with a central mound, known as the `Pigeon Mount'. Archaeological excavations
in 1995 following a resisitivity survey revealed the foundations of an
octagonal structure on the mound; finds included substantial quantities of
baked clay, presumably the remains of nesting boxes. It is therefore likely
(also given the mound's name) that a large dovecote (6.5m in dimeter) stood
atop the mound during the 18th century. Terracing shows that a path ascended
the dovecote, and its central position within formal gardens suggests a
probable dual function of viewing platform and dovecote. The 18th century
landscaping retained the stables to the east and added a kitchen garden and a
number of stoves or hot-houses; this area has not yet been the subject of a
resisitivity survey; however, it is thought that there is likely to be good
below ground survival of archaeological levels (as there is to the west of
the house) and the area is therefore included in the scheduling.

At the centre of the area of protection are the remains of the house itself.
Archaeological excavations carried out from 1956 to 1959 confirmed the three
main periods of construction: the early 15th century house of Lewis John;
the Elizabethan mansion of the first Lord Petre, and the 18th century
rebuild by the eighth Lord Petre. The earliest building was fairly small
and moated; by the mid-15th century the house had extended over the moat and
transformed from a compact moated hall into a large rambling country mansion
represented in the archaeological record by massive foundations of brick
with buttresses and curved bastions.

The Elizabethan mansion walls survive in places above ground to a height of
approximately 0.5m and are solid brickwork of English bond with alternate
courses of headers and stretchers. An elaborate sewer system also survives
from this period.

The excavations identified an 18th century addition in the form of a chapel
and associated wall which used Flemish as opposed to English bond. The
Elizabethan mansion was not completely pulled down, although the east wing was
rebuilt, the rest was remodelled room by room and enlarged by the construction
of a bakehouse range, new farm buildings and a banqueting house. The late 17th
century demolition of the house left only the brick foundations and
subterranean features of the hall, as much of the masonry was carted to the
site of the new Thorndon Hall and incorporated in that building. The six
pillars in the south front of the New Hall are most probably those prepared
for the portico of the Old Hall.

All modern gates, turnstiles, fencelines and posts are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The manor of Thorndon has an illustrious and well-documented history which the
above and below ground remains of the hall and gardens elucidate. Successive
overlays of house and associated landscaped gardens bring to life the history
of the manor of Thorndon from its medieval origins through to the end of the
18th century when it was abandoned in favour of a new site to the north.
The transformation of the small medieval moated site of the early 15th
century into a large and rambling medieval house, next remodelled into a
splendid Elizabethan country residence by the first Lord Petre and finally
modified into a Palladian mansion by the eighth Lord is clearly demonstrated
in the archaeological record. Although partly excavated, much remains
undisturbed for future investigation.

Both archaeological and historical records demonstrate the architectural
qualities of the Old Hall. The Elizabethan house was undoubtedly a very fine
example of its period: a typical brick mansion with a skyline broken by
chimneys, towers and gables. The Palladian house was never completed but would
also have been impressive in its day. The gardens demonstrate changes in
landscape design over the centuries. The Elizabethan landscape reflects the
style of the period: squared gardens laid out in quarters, frequently with
open and closed knots within view of the important reception rooms of the
house. The `Orchard' dominates the area of garden on the west side of the
mansion, a smaller orchard adjoins the entrance courtyard. The occupation of
roughly half the immediate grounds of Old Thorndon Hall by plantations of
fruit trees signifies the importance of orchards in early English gardens.
The importance of the landscaping innovations of the eighth Lord Petre
cannot be underestimated. Petre's undisputed achievements in the field of
importation and naturalisation of exotic species and his unrivalled hot-house
collection were unparalleled. His skillful arrangement of form and colour
within his gardens were praised eloquently by contemporary writers and proved
a powerful influence on subsequent garden design; Thorndon was the setting
for gardens and nurseries that became famous throughout England.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Duchars, A, Thorndon Country Park, (1980)
Duchars, A, Thorndon Country Park, (1980)
Duchars, A, Old Thorndon Hall, (1970)
Essex County Council, , Country Parks Archaeological Survey, (1994)
Garwood, A, The Pigeon Mount, Thorndon Hall, Archaeological evaluation, (1995)
Garwood, A, Thorndon Park, Brentwood, Essex, (1994)
Garwood, A, Thorndon Park, Brentwood, Essex, (1994)
Magalotti, Count , Travels of Cosmo III Grand Duke of Tuscany: Old Thorndon Hall, (1669), 463-4
Peet, I, Old Thorndon Pastures: Contour Survey, (1995)
Peet, I, Old Thorndon Pastures: Contour Survey, (1995)
Ward, J C, Marshall, K, Old Thorndon Hall, (1972)
Wardill, R, Thorndon Park Gatehouse (West) Geophysical Survey, (1997)
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, , Vol. 8, (1976), 180-2
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, , Vol. 8, (1976), 180-2
Buckley, D G, 'Essex Archaeology and History' in Work Undertaken By Essex County Council Archaeology Section, , Vol. 8, (1976), 180-2
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Clutton, G, Mackay, C, 'Garden History Society' in Garden History Society Occ. Paper 2: Old Thorndon Hall, Essex, A History and reconstruction, (1970)
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeol.' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, (1958), 202
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeol.' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, (1958), 202
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, , Vol. 3, (1959), 315
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, , Vol. 3, (1959), 315
Marshall, K, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Essex: Old Thorndon Hall, , Vol. 3, (1959), 315
Other
Collis, C V, Thorndon Park Phoenix of an Age, 1994, Post. grad. dissertation
Collis, C V, Thorndon Park Phoenix of an Age, 1994, Post. grad. dissertation
English Heritage, List of Registered Gardens, (2003)
English Heritage, Registered Gardens, (2003)
English Heritage, Registered Gardens, (2003)
English Heritage, Registered Parks and Gardens, (2003)
In Essex SMR, Collis, CV, The Pigeon Mount, (1994)
In Essex SMR, Cott, PJ, The Pigeon Mount, Thorndon Country Park, A Resistivity Survey, (1994)
In Essex SMR, ECC Landscape Officer, Pigeon Mount, (1994)
Title: D/DP P5 West and East Horndon
Source Date: 1598
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
In Essex Record Office
Title: ERO D/DP P5
Source Date: 1598
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
In ERO
Title: Plan of Thorndon Estate
Source Date: 1733
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
ERO D/DP P23/1

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.