Warley Place and Thorndon Hall

Posted on March 18th, 2014 by Charles Boot
Jul ’14
10:30 am

Warley Place and Thorndon Hall, Essex
with London Parks & Gardens Trust
10.30am to 5pm, Thursday 3 July

Warley Place was the home of Ellen Willmott (1858–1934),‘our greatest woman gardener’ according to Gertrude Jekyll. In her heyday she employed 104 gardeners and grew 100,000 varieties of plants. At the time of the last visit by the GHS in March 1997 the 16-acre garden was being managed by Essex Wildlife Trust for the benefit of wildlife and the lease was due for renewal. Its owner would have liked Warley Place to have been managed by a garden organisation to take care of the garden heritage aspect, but no garden heritage group had the courage or resources to take this challenge on. A conservation plan was a prerequisite for managing the garden for the benefit of wildlife and conserving Ellen Willmott’s garden heritage. After very lengthy discussions Essex Wildlife Trust was granted a long lease for 33 acres at Warley Place and now regularly features Warley Place as a showcase nature reserve. Come and see how this important garden is managed for wildlife and the encouraging progress made in bringing its garden history back to life. Ailsa Wildig, for long involved with its garden history management and former Chair of Essex Gardens Trust, will be our chief guide around the site.

Nearby Thorndon Park is a large tract of woodland and pasture owned in its various parts by Essex County Council, Essex Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust. The 15th-century deer park and ensuing sizeable Elizabethan walled garden and orchards around the old hall began to be restyled in 1733 by Bourginion, in a largely formal but complex style at the behest of 8th Baron Petre. Baron Petre was a botanist, famous for introducing many species of plants from North America, through the services of John Bartram, and grew tropical fruits in colossal hothouses or ‘stoves’. His untimely death at 29 left his son still an infant. On reaching adulthood the 9th Baron commissioned Paine to design a Palladian mansion some distance to the north of the old hall, while Capability Brown and Richard Woods redesigned the landscape, although retaining some of its aspects within their informal layout, including many of Lord Petre’s trees. The house suffered fire damage, and then major reconstruction in 1976 with conversion into flats. The Petre chapel from 1854, now owned by the Historic Chapels Trust, has been recently restored and we hope to visit it too. Changes in fortune led to the selling off of the land and the resultant multi-ownership. Our guide, Sarah Green, now working for the National Trust in Wales but previously with Essex County Council and Essex Gardens Trust, will interpret the fascinating palimpsest of landscapes for us.

We shall assemble at Warley Place at 10.30. It is situated in the village of Warley, Essex, two miles south of Brentwood, just behind the Thatchers Arms pub, where there is limited car parking space available. Rail travellers are recommended to catch the 9.30 from Liverpool Street, arriving at 10.07 at Brentwood Station, where there are taxis.The day should end by 5pm, and involves quite a lot of walking in conditions requiring robust footwear.

Lunch will be at the Thatchers Arms before we move to Thorndon Park.

Price, to include lunch: £35 per head. Please contact Robert Peel or: 020 7121 8938, for further details and Booking Form.

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