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Walled Kitchen Garden, Potting Sheds and Boiler House, Three Greenhouses and Sundial

A Grade II Listed Building in Ashton, Northamptonshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4794 / 52°28'45"N

Longitude: -0.4112 / 0°24'40"W

OS Eastings: 507998

OS Northings: 288016

OS Grid: TL079880

Mapcode National: GBR FXZ.JV2

Mapcode Global: VHFNJ.TYG5

Entry Name: Walled Kitchen Garden, Potting Sheds and Boiler House, Three Greenhouses and Sundial

Listing Date: 17 December 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393626

English Heritage Legacy ID: 507372

Location: Ashton, East Northamptonshire, Northamptonshire, PE8

County: Northamptonshire

District: East Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Ashton

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Oundlew Ashton

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough

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Oundle

Listing Text

ASHTON

1743/0/10060 ASHTON WOLD
17-DEC-09 Walled kitchen garden, potting sheds and
boiler house, three greenhouses and sun
dial

GV II
The Walled garden, attached potting sheds & boiler house, three greenhouses & sundial, built c1900 by William Huckvale for Charles Rothschild.

MATERIALS:
The kitchen garden walls, potting sheds and boiler house are constructed with coursed, irregular sized, rock-faced limestone blocks and stone coping. Attached to the north side of the wall, the potting sheds and boiler house have pent roofs with Collyweston slate covering. The sundial is of stone and the greenhouses have coursed stone half-walls and a timber and glass superstructure.

PLAN:
Rectangular in plan, enclosing an area of approximately 109m (east-west) x 42m (north-south).

EXTERIOR:
The wall survives intact on all sides, with a pair of centrally placed cast-iron gates with scroll motifs on the east, south and west sides. The gates are set within an ashlar stone surround with a cranked arch head and moulded stone entablature above and framed by slightly projecting piers topped with ball finials. The potting sheds are sub-divided into three groups by parapets, each with a single stack, and have boarded doors painted in the Rothschild blue livery, some in stable-door style, and casement windows, a small number of which are late C20 replacements. At the west end, one shed has double garage doors, adjacent to an open-fronted cart-lodge with timber posts.

INTERIOR:
The scars of the demolished hot-house are apparent on the interior of the north wall, where brackets, presumably for shelving, lighting, wall stubs and evidence of the pipe-work remain. Building scars are also apparent on the interior of the east wall.

The interior arrangement of the potting sheds remains. The easternmost shed has a fireplace and stove, and the central shed, from which the interior of the garden is accessed, retains its engineering brick floor and some pipe-work for the hot-house.

At the central intersection of the grass-covered paths is the octagonal sundial with simply detailed base set on a larger octagonal plinth. The ashlar shaft is topped by a splayed, moulded cap on which the metal sundial remains.

In the north-east corner, three contemporary glasshouses remain, each with continuous glass ventilation louvres along the ridge with finials at each apex. The decorative cast iron ribs and mechanism for opening the louvres remain inside.

HISTORY:
The Ashton Estate, stretching from the River Nene near Oundle in the west to Ashton Wold in the east, has been occupied since Roman times. In the C18 it was a well-known sporting estate, with avenues of chestnut trees planted in a cross as rides, and a number of fox coverts. In the early C19 the estate was owned by William Walcot and was largely farmed by tenants, with Ashton Wold continuing as a sporting ground. However, there is no evidence that it had ever contained a manor house, and when in 1860 it was purchased by Lionel Rothschild the sale particulars describe it as 'a very valuable and important landed estate', with sporting advantages, but no house adapted for the occupation of a gentleman. Both Lionel Rothschild and his son Nathaniel Mayer, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), showed little interest in the estate, and the only structural work undertaken in the C19 was the building of a hunting lodge at Ashton Wold. However, when Lord Rothschild's second son, Nathaniel Charles (1877-1923) - known as Charles - discovered Ashton by accident whilst on a butterfly-collecting expedition with the vicar of Polebrook, he was so impressed by the rich fauna and flora of Ashton Wold that he persuaded his father to build him a house on the site of the hunting lodge. In 1900 Lord Rothschild commissioned William Huckvale to design not only a house, but a model farm, an entire complement of estate buildings which included the Steward's house, stables, gardeners' accommodation, a building to house a fire engine, a petrol store, kennels (now derelict) and a dog hospital. Most of the cottages at nearby Ashton were rebuilt to create a model village.

High quality design and workmanship were consistent themes throughout the estate, where traditional vernacular building traditions - Collyweston stone slate and thatch roof coverings, steeply pitched roofs, tall chimneys, limestone masonry walling and dressings and mullioned windows were all faithfully referenced. Simple working buildings - cart hovels, wash houses and potting sheds - were consciously afforded the same care as were the dwellings, farmsteads and garden structures.

The walled kitchen garden and associated structures were probably designed by William Huckvale (1847-1936) in c1900. A map of the Ashton Wold estate in c1901 shows the walled garden, complete with principal south-facing hothouse attached to the north wall and ten other glasshouses in the north-east corner of the garden. Sadly, the main hothouse and seven of the glasshouses have recently been demolished. A tennis court and outdoor swimming pool were constructed in the south-east quadrant in the late C20.

Little is known about Huckvale who worked mainly for the Rothschilds and therefore had no need to publicise his work in the architectural journals, and was not a member of the RIBA. After setting up his own practice in London he came into contact with Alexander Parks, agent to Lord Rothschild. He designed a number of buildings for the Rothschilds on the Tring Park estate, undertook considerable work at the Rothschild bank in New Court in the City of London, and was the architect for the Royal Mint Refinery. He also carried out work on the Rothschild estate at Aston Clinton. The quality of his work is reflected in the 42 listed buildings he already has to his name, 13 in Tring and 29 on the Ashton Estate.

Charles Rothschild was a renowned naturalist, and became the leading expert on fleas in the country. He published around 150 scientific papers and was also interested in other fields, including the cultivation of rare orchids, irises and water lilies. He was a pioneer conservationist, arguing that the whole natural habitat needed to be protected, not just rare species. He was keenly involved with the kitchen garden at Ashton Wold, whose design was inspired by the hot houses and facilities at Tring. Soil was bought from the Bournemouth area by train to replace the natural calcerous boulder clay within the garden and Rothschild engaged 14 gardeners at Ashton, with a head gardener who was trained at Tring. Among the men was an orchid specialist who looked after his collection in a specially designed greenhouse against the north wall, now sadly demolished. A special greenhouse for the water-lily collection, containing two tanks filled with rainwater, has also been demolished. Miriam Rothschild recalls the garden of her childhood in her 1996 article (see sources below). The gravel paths formed a cross with the sundial at the centre, which remain; down both sides of the paths were wide herbaceous borders planted with cottage garden flowers, flanked by cordons of fruit trees of different varieties of apples and pears behind which lay vegetables, strawberries and several raised asparagus beds. Greengages, apricots, plums, pears, cherries and figs were trained around the inside of the stone walls. On the outside were Morello cherries and peaches enclosed in a glass and wooden frame. Hybrid tea roses and a variety of berries were also grown. One greenhouse was reserved for black grapes, another for green grapes and another for Charles' collection of cacti. After his untimely death in 1923, the number of gardeners was reduced to eight.

Charles' wife Rozsika died in 1940 and their daughter Miriam (1908-2005) inherited the estate. The house was commandeered for use as a hospital during the Second World War and the gardens and estate suffered much damage and neglect. After 1945, Miriam Rothschild concentrated on the restoration of the kitchen garden while the house was renovated and altered, reinvigorating the fruit trees and peach frame. Like her father, Miriam was deeply involved in conservation, latterly using one of the smaller greenhouses for breeding butterflies. She continued her father's work with fleas to become an international expert in her own right. She was a fellow of the Royal Society, was awarded eight honorary degrees and was appointed DBE for her services to the study of natural history.

SOURCES: Enclosure map of Lordship of Oundle with Ashton (1810), Northamptonshire Record Office 2858.
Map of estates belonging to William Walcot (1811), Northamptonshire Record Office 3703.
Map of Ashton Estate by Messrs Hayward, Surveyors (1853), Northamptonshire Record Office 1728a.
Catalogue of sale of Ashton Estate (1858), Northamptonshire Record Office ZB 706/24.
Map accompanying Conveyance of Ashton Estate to Lionel Rothschild (1860), Northamptonshire Record Office 5173.
Map of Ashton Wold (c1901), in Ashton Wold House.
Ordnance Survey maps 1886, 1900, 1926.
Rothschild, Miriam, The Rothschild Gardens (1996), 82-107 & 169.
'The Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild', obituary in The Times, 15 October 1923.
'Dame Miriam Rothschild', obituary in The Guardian, 22 January 2005.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
The Walled Garden, attached potting sheds & boiler house, three greenhouses & sundial are designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* Architecture: They have special architectural interest due to the high quality of craftsmanship and materials, reflecting the funding of the estate by the Rothschild bank.
* Intactness: Despite some loss of glasshouses, the walled garden, potting sheds and three greenhouses survive largely intact.
* History: They have special historic interest as part of the estate built and developed by members of the internationally important Rothschild family and have particular resonance as the structures associated with Charles Rothschild's pioneering work in orchid conservation.
* Group Value: They form an integral part of an important and unusually intact Edwardian model estate, and have architectural and functional group value with each and the estate as a whole.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

Reasons for Listing

The Walled Garden, attached potting sheds & boiler house, three greenhouses & sundial are designated at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:
* Architecture: They have special architectural interest due to the high quality of craftsmanship and materials, reflecting the funding of the estate by the Rothschild bank.
* Intactness: Despite some loss of glasshouses, the walled garden, potting sheds and three greenhouses survive largely intact.
* History: They have special historic interest as part of the estate built and developed by members of the internationally important Rothschild family and have particular resonance as the structures associated with Charles Rothschild's pioneering work in orchid conservation.
* Group Value: They form an integral part of an important and unusually intact Edwardian model estate, and have architectural and functional group value with each and the estate as a whole.


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