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East Half House

A Grade II Listed Building in Gravenhurst, Central Bedfordshire

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Latitude: 52.0009 / 52°0'3"N

Longitude: -0.4081 / 0°24'29"W

OS Eastings: 509377

OS Northings: 234799

OS Grid: TL093347

Mapcode National: GBR G3S.KMD

Mapcode Global: VHFQV.WZ30

Entry Name: East Half House

Listing Date: 10 January 1985

Last Amended: 18 May 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1138342

English Heritage Legacy ID: 37622

Location: Gravenhurst, Central Bedfordshire, MK45

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Gravenhurst

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Shillington and Gravenhurst

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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A garden house or alcove seat for Henry Grey, Duke of Kent, dating from 1726. The architect is unknown.


MATERIALS: the main materials are brick, with lead for the roof covering.

PLAN: the building has a square plan with apsidal end to the rear.

DESCRIPTION: the building is three bays wide and has a central, semi-circular archway with ashlar keystone to its principal elevation. Impost bands extend to divide the flanking rectangular niches from the square niches above. The lower niches formerly containing statues have volutes to base. There is a triangular pediment with timber moulding, above the archway, behind which is a half-conical roof. The interior is plain, containing only a semi-circular wooden seat.


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.

Reasons for Listing

East Half House, Wrest Park is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest - It is an example of a garden feature dating from 1726 of good quality and design that reflects the tastes and ideals of designed landscapes of this period;
* Historic interest - It is associated with Henry de Grey, a major figure in the development of Wrest Park;
* Group Value - For its contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and its association with other listed buildings.

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