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Water Garden, Rock Garden and Former Rose Garden Structures to East of Ashton Wold House, Including Dovecote, Swimming Pool and Sundial

A Grade II Listed Building in Polebrook, Northamptonshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4784 / 52°28'42"N

Longitude: -0.4088 / 0°24'31"W

OS Eastings: 508167

OS Northings: 287908

OS Grid: TL081879

Mapcode National: GBR FXZ.RGC

Mapcode Global: VHFNJ.VYRY

Plus Code: 9C4XFHHR+9F

Entry Name: Water Garden, Rock Garden and Former Rose Garden Structures to East of Ashton Wold House, Including Dovecote, Swimming Pool and Sundial

Listing Date: 17 December 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393629

English Heritage Legacy ID: 507387

Location: Polebrook, North Northamptonshire, Northamptonshire, PE8

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Polebrook

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Polebrook All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough

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Oundle

Description

ASHTON

1743/0/10072 ASHTON WOLD
17-DEC-09 Water Garden, Rock Garden and former R
ose Garden structures to east of Ashto
n Wold House, including dovecote, swim
ming pool and sundial

GV II
Water garden, rock garden and former rose garden structures to the east of Ashton Wold House, including the dovecote, swimming pool and sundial; c1900, swimming pool mid C20; probably designed by William Huckvale for Lord Rothschild and his son Nathaniel Charles Rothschild.

MATERIALS: The dovecote is built of coursed rock-faced limestone, occasionally snecked. Its roof is thatched. The balustrades that flank the steps between gardens are of similar construction to the dovecote, with ashlar limestone coping; these also edge the pond in the water garden. Other walls and features are of random rubble construction; the wall between the third terrace and the water garden, and the low wall between the rock garden and water garden are skilfully built in random polygonal stone with random upright stone coping.

PLAN: The water garden, rock garden and former rose garden, with the terraces to the east and south of the house (UID164657) make up the formal component of the designed landscape around Ashton Wold House. They form a series of three quadrangles below the east terrace, and are bounded by a wall to the south (UID168826), merging into the woodland to the east. No planting schemes survive, only the hard landscaping.

DESCRIPTION:
Water garden and west, east and north boundary walls and steps.
The water garden contains a lily pond surrounded by a low wall with ashlar limestone coping rising to a curved wall at both east and west ends; this wall is a rustic version of the coursed limestone seen in the dovecote, house and many other estate buildings. Each wall has four low piers, both wall and piers capped with ashlar limestone coping. To the south is the boundary wall that forms part of a separate listing case (referred to above), and to the west is the wall that retains the third terrace to the south of the house. This wall is over 2m high; its construction, described above, allows for small niches for plants. A full height opening in the wall with ashlar limestone surround and Tudor arch gives access to an enclosed stone stair rising to the terrace above. To the east the garden is bounded by a tumble of stone, within which the only coherent features are a series of niches.

Rock garden and dovecote.
This tumble of stone also forms the east boundary of the rock garden to the north. The water garden and rock garden are divided by a low wall, and connected at its centre by two sets of hemispherical steps, one convex, the other concave, these hemispheres meeting at low piers to form a circle. At the centre of the rock garden is a dovecote, surrounded by a now dry pond, with ponds or damp areas to each corner. The dovecote is reached by causeways to north and south. This is a square structure, its thatched roof rising to form a domed cap surmounted by a weather vane. Its eaves lift to form eyebrows over dove holes on all four sides, below which are three light mullioned windows with small leaded panes.

Former rose garden, swimming pool and sundial; wrought iron gate and steps to rock garden.
Steps with flanking low balustrades rise from the rock garden to a wrought iron gate that gives access to the former rose garden through the overgrown hedge that forms the boundary between the two. The pool that replaced the rose garden is rectangular with apsidal ends to east and west. To the west side of the garden are the steps to the terrace, and the terrace wall forms the garden's west boundary (UID164657). This garden also contains the sundial. The circular top (the gnomon is missing) is supported on a vase shaped base, the bowl of the vase clasped between leaves, the neck wreathed in floral swags. The tiered circular base stands on a two tier octagonal plinth. The surrounding woodland encroaches onto the garden.

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 described 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 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. The Rothschilds also became the first landowners in the country to provide their tenants with the luxury of both running filtered water and electricity, the latter generated by turbines housed in an old mill below the village on the River Nene , from where water was pumped to a water tower and so to the estate buildings. Each cottage had a bath house and was placed in a large garden planted with a lilac, a laburnum and fruit trees.

High quality design and workmanship were consistent themes throughout the estate, where traditional vernacular building traditions were faithfully referenced. Simple working and garden buildings and features were consciously afforded the same care as were the dwellings, farmsteads and garden structures.

Little is known about William Huckvale (1847-1936) 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 not only worked full time for the family banking firm, but was also a renowned naturalist, becoming 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. The formal gardens at Ashton Wold were the creation of Rothschild and his wife and are contemporary with the house; the walled rock garden and dovecot are shown on the estate map of 1901, but the other formal gardens, the water garden and formally laid out rose garden (with sundial), seem to have been a slightly later addition; they appear on the 1926 OS map and in photographs dated c1906. The rose garden was Mrs Rozsika Rothschild's, and seems to have survived until her death in 1940, the roses later replaced by a swimming pool, shown on the OS map of 1952. Charles Rothschild's collection of water lilies was nurtured in the water garden (and in tanks in a specially built greenhouse), but he was primarily a naturalist and pioneer conservationist rather than a horticulturalist, arguing that the whole natural habitat needed to be protected, not just rare species. He bought part of Wicken Fen in 1899, donating it to the National Trust two years later, and formed the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves in 1912 (now the Royal Society for Nature Conservation). Although the terraces and walled gardens around Ashton Wold House took a conventional Edwardian form, he took care to ensure that the planting attracted butterflies and other wild life, while new habitats were formed in the wider designed landscape, much of which remained as woodland.

Following his death in 1923 and that of his wife Rozsika in 1940, 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, while dispersed accommodation blocks were built in Ashton Wold woods for the RAF and the American Eighth Air Force billeted at nearby Polebrook Airfield. On Miriam's return to live permanently at Ashton Wold in 1971 she commissioned Claude Phillimore (1911-1994) to reduce the size of the house.

Like her father, Miriam Rothschild was deeply involved in conservation, and her approach to gardening developed into a preference for wildness over formality. She transformed the Edwardian garden at Ashton Wold by planting trees on the terraces and sowing wildflower meadows on the lawns, while the house was concealed under a cover of climbing plants (removed since her death); her advocacy of wildflowers became highly influential in the gardening world. Her father had taught her to be a naturalist, and she continued his 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.

REASON FOR DESIGNATION: The water garden, rock garden and former rose garden to the east of Ashton Wold House, including the dovecote, swimming pool and sundial are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architecture: These garden structures are of special architectural interest for the quality of design, architectural detail, craftsmanship and materials, and for the part they play in the overall design of the formal gardens.
* History: They have special historic interest as the setting for Ashton Wold House, the central element of an estate built and developed by members of the internationally important Rothschild family. In particular, the gardens reflect the interests of two renowned naturalists, Charles Rothschild and Miriam Rothschild.
* Intactness: The structures are part of intact Edwardian gardens which retains its relationship with the house and the wider designed landscape.
* Group Value: They form the setting for Ashton Wold House and are contiguous with the terraces to south and east of the house. They form part of an important and unusually intact and coherent Edwardian model estate, and have group value with the estate as a whole, including a number of listed buildings.

Reasons for Listing

The water garden, rock garden and former rose garden structures to the east of Ashton Wold House, including the dovecote, swimming pool and sundial are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architecture: These garden structures are of special architectural interest for the quality of design, architectural detail, craftsmanship and materials, and for the part they play in the overall design of the formal gardens.
* History: They have special historic interest as the setting for Ashton Wold House, the central element of an estate built and developed by members of the internationally important Rothschild family. In particular, the gardens reflect the interests of two renowned naturalists, Charles Rothschild and Miriam Rothschild.
* Intactness: The structures are part of intact Edwardian gardens which retains its relationship with the house and the wider designed landscape.
* Group Value: They form the setting for Ashton Wold House and are contiguous with the terraces to south and east of the house. They form part of an important and unusually intact and coherent Edwardian model estate, and have group value with the estate as a whole, including a number of listed buildings.

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