Wrest Park

Wrest Park
Wrest House, from the south
Wrest Park is located in Bedfordshire
Wrest Park
Wrest Park
General information
TypeCountry estate
LocationSilsoe, Bedfordshire
Coordinates52°00′29″N 0°24′44″W / 52.0080°N 0.4121°W / 52.0080; -0.4121Coordinates: 52°00′29″N 0°24′44″W / 52.0080°N 0.4121°W / 52.0080; -0.4121
Wrest House c.1708. This building was replaced in the 1830s, but the formal parterre elements of the garden remain from this time.

Wrest Park is a country estate located in Silsoe, Bedfordshire, England. It comprises Wrest Park, a Grade I listed country house, and Wrest Park Gardens, also Grade I listed, formal gardens surrounding the mansion.


Thomas Carew (1595–1640) wrote his country house poem "To My Friend G.N. from Wrest" in 1639 that described the old house which was demolished between 1834 and 1840.

The present house was built in 1834–39, to designs by its owner Thomas de Grey, 2nd Earl de Grey (1781–1859), an amateur architect and the first president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, who was inspired by buildings he had seen on trips to Paris. He based his house on designs published in French architectural books such as Jacques-François Blondel's Architecture Française (1752). The works were superintended as clerk of works on site by James Clephan, who had been clerk of the works at the Liddell seat, Ravensworth Castle in County Durham, and had recently served as professional amanuensis and builder for Lord Barrington.

Although Nikolaus Pevsner previously stated that Clephan was a French architect who designed the present house instead of De Grey the amateur architect, as Charles Read has shown in his biography of De Grey, Clephan (born Clapham) in fact only produced drawings of the service infrastructure, such as plumbing and drainage. The decorative layout and features of the house were produced by De Grey's own hand.

Wrest has some of the earliest Rococo Revival interiors in England. Reception rooms in the house are open to the public.

Nan Ino Cooper ran Wrest Park as a military hospital during World War I, though a fire in September 1916 halted this usage of the house. Following the death of her brother Auberon Herbert, 9th Baron Lucas, she inherited his title and the house and sold it in 1918. It was sold after the War to Mr JG Murray, who was associated with cricket in Bedfordshire. During his 18-year tenure, much of the garden statuary was sold, while extensive felling stripped park and garden of many of their oldest trees.

He sold it to Sun Alliance Insurance in 1939, and after the Second World War it became a centre for modern agricultural engineering research.

English Heritage took over the house and gardens in 2006 and began a 20-year restoration project to return the gardens to their pre-1917 state.

Wrest Park Gardens

The Orangery

Wrest Park has an early eighteenth-century garden, spread over 92 acres (37 ha), which was probably originally laid out by George London and Henry Wise for Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent, then modified for his granddaughter Jemima, 2nd Marchioness Grey by Lancelot "Capability" Brown in a more informal landscape style.

The park is divided by a wide gravel central walk, continued as a long canal that leads to a Baroque pavilion banqueting house designed by Thomas Archer and completed in 1711. The garden designer Batty Langley was employed in the 1730s. The interior of the pavilion is decorated with an impressive Ionic columns in trompe-l'œil. Boundary canals were altered to take the more natural shape by Capability Brown, who worked there between 1758 and 1760, and who also ringed the central formal area with a canal and woodland. The gardens and garden houses were mapped by John Rocque in 1735. During the later 18th and 19th centuries, an orangery and marble fountains were added. The Bathhouse (sometimes referred to as a Roman bath, a hermitage and a grotto) was built, and its grounds laid out, between about 1769 and 1772.

In 1736 Horace Walpole visited Wrest on a progress through Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire. He noted monuments in the garden in memory of the Duke of Kent's children who all predeceased him, as well as a monument to Kent himself, at that time still alive.

A Wellingtonia planted in 1856 was in its earlier years brought into the house annually to serve as a Christmas tree, one of the earliest surviving examples known in the U.K.

Restoration programme

Pavilion designed by Thomas Archer

In the autumn of 2007 English Heritage announced that the Wolfson Foundation had pledged up to £400,000 towards the restoration of a number of the key features of the Wrest Park estate, including the mansion's formal entrance area, the garden statuary, railings and gates, and to alter the height of the carriage drive. In the next phases the lakes and canals will be restored.

On 12 September 2008 English Heritage unveiled extensive plans to restore the Grade-I-listed Wrest Park house and gardens to their original splendour. In 2008 the music video for "The Fear" by Lily Allen featured interior as well as exterior scenes of Wrest Park.

In July 2010 English Heritage announced that it had secured over £1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a new visitors centre, car parking, exhibition space and accessible paths. Work was completed in summer 2011 and the park opened to the public on 4 August 2011.

English Heritage and Historic England have undertaken a number of indepth investigations of the gardens at Wrest as part of the restoration process, including archaeological and geophysical surveys. The removal of an overgrown yew hedge, which maps suggested existed in 1717, led to a dendrochronological investigation on the trunks to discover if the trees removed were original or part of later re-plantings. The wood was found to date to 1780–1800.

Capability Brown memorial

There is a memorial column dedicated to Lancelot "Capability" Brown. It was originally placed near the Bowling Green House, which was remodelled by Batty Langley in 1735, but is now located in the eastern part of the gardens. The column has the inscription: "These gardens, originally laid out by Henry Duke of Kent, were altered by Philip Earl of Hardwicke and Jemima, Marchioness Grey with the professional assistance of Lancelot Brown Esq. in the years 1758, 1759, 1760."


Wrest Park has been used as a location for filming and events including: the video for the 2008 song "The Fear" by Lily Allen;[citation needed] a 2015 concert by Status Quo; Strictly Come Dancing ,"The People's Strictly for Comic Relief", which aired in 2015; and a 2016 episode of BBC's Flog It!.

See also


  1. ^ Country Life, 25 June and 2 July 1970, noted in Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600–1840 3rd ed. 1995: "James Clephan".
  2. ^ Charles Read, "Earl de Grey" (2007) pp. 21–24
  3. ^ "The Cooper Family". Bellhouse.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
  4. ^ "Gardens to visit: Wrest Park, Bedfordshire". 11 August 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  5. ^ a b Brown, Mark (1 August 2011). "'Secret garden' Wrest Park reopens after restoration". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  6. ^ "History of Wrest Park". English Heritage. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  7. ^ "Wrest Park reopens after £1.14m restoration". BBC News. 2011-08-02.
  8. ^ Davies, Manning (1997). "WALL PAINTING CONDITION AUDIT, ARCHER PAVILION, WREST PARK, BEDFORDSHIRE. Historic England Research Report 28/1997". research.historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  9. ^ a b c Kewley, J (2018). "The Bath House, Wrest Park, Bedfordshire: Historic Building Assessment. Historic England Research Report 74/2018". research.historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  10. ^ MapForum.Com. "Rocque's Engraved Works".
  11. ^ Alexander, M; Chamberlin, E; Newsome, S (2015). "Wrest Park, Silsoe, Essex: Bathhouse Grounds, Analytical Earthwork Survey. Historic England Research Report 84/2015". research.historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Eagles, Robin (2020-05-27). "In search of Arcadia: visiting the 18th-century garden". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  13. ^ "'Oldest' Christmas tree at Wrest Park to be decorated". BBC News. 2014-12-02. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  14. ^ 20-year plan to restore Wrest Park's gardens Bedford Today
  15. ^ "Future of magnificent garden secured/". English Heritage. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  16. ^ Alexander, M (2013). "Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedfordshire: Archaeological Landscape Investigations. Historic England Research Report 6/2013". research.historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  17. ^ Linford, N T (2011). "Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedfordshire: Report on Geophysical Survey, July 2010 Historic Englans Research Report 28/2011". research.historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-02.
  18. ^ Linford, N T; Payne, A W (2015). "Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedfordshire: Report on Geophysical Survey, November 2014. Historic England Research Reports 1/2015". research.historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Linford, N T; Payne, A W (2019). "Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedfordshire: Report on Geophysical Surveys, June 2015, July and November 2018 Historic England Research Report 11/2019". research.historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ Bridge, M C; Tyers, C (2020). "Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedfordshire: Dendrochronological Analaysis of Yew Trunks Research Report 187/2020". research.historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ "The 2013 Quo Annual – August 2013".
  22. ^ Turner, Carney James. "Strictly Behind The Scenes".
  23. ^ "Bedfordshire 32, Series 13, Flog It! – BBC One".

Further reading

  • Nicola Smith, Wrest Park (1995), London: English Heritage, ISBN 1-85074-481-5
  • Linda Cabe Halpern, Wrest Park 1686–1730s: exploring Dutch influences in Garden History Journal, Vol 30. No 2 (2002)
  • Jean O’Neill, John Rocque as a guide to gardens in Garden History Journal, Vol 16, Np 1
  • James Collett-White, Inventories of Bedfordshire Country Houses 1714–1830 in Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, Vol 74, 1995
  • Charles Read, Earl de Grey, London: Willow Historical Monographs, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9555693-0-2
  • A. F. Cirket (ed.), The Earl de Grey's account of the building of Wrest House in Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, Volume 59, 1980
  • ISSN 0307-1243

External links

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