Wrest Park – Work In Progress

Associated with: The Grey/de Grey family
Came into their possession: early 14th Century
Formal gardens started: 1658, with work ongoing until 1740, with further design in 1758
Stately home built: 1834-’39
Leaves possession of the de Grey family: around 1916
Becomes property of English Heritage: 2006

English Heritage lists the property as in the de Grey family as far back as the early 14th Century, on Wikipedia the earliest reference to Wrest I found in the family line (much of it Grey rather than de Grey, the de Grey title being created in 1816), was to Edmund Grey (1460-1490).

The formal gardens were started by Amabel Grey, wife of Henry, their son Anthony and his wife Mary.

Anthony and Mary’s son Henry adds a formal woodland garden known as the Great Garden.

In 1758, Capability Brown (actual first name Lancelot), a famous landscape architect, was brought in to enhance parts of the gardens.

In 1834, work started on demolishing the old house and building the new. The new house was mostly designed by Thomas de Grey, an amateur architect, who in the same year became president of the Institute of British Architects (which, three years later, became the Royal Institute of British Architects in London). the work was supervised by James Clepham, who designed parts like the plumbing and drainage.

Thomas’s daughter Anne becomes the last de Grey to live on the estate. Her son Francis inherits the place, but doesn’t visit much. Francis’ son Auberon leases the property to American Ambassador Whitelaw Reid, who died while serving in that position.

During the First World War, the house is used to look after wounded soldiers. A fire in 1916 brings this to an end. Auberon was a captain in the Royal Flying Corps, was injured by a German plane while flying over German lines, and died of his injuries. His sister sold the park to John George Murray, who made his fortune in the brewing and mining businesses.

The Sun Insurance Company (I believe now conglomerated into the RSA [Royal Sun Alliance] Insurance Group) purchased Wrest Park during the Second World War, and used it for their headquarters. After the war, the property was sold to the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering, later renamed the Silsoe Research Institute, which made a name for itself for its research into agriculture and food processing.

In 2006, the estate was sold to English Heritage, who have extensive long-term plans to restore and improve the site.

Some links
Wrest Park on English Heritage
Wrest Park on Pastscape
article about the park, and current work on its gardens
Wrest Park on Wikipedia

Pastscape links (need to be double-checked with searching for “Wrest Park”, and looking at the main Pastscape entry for Related Monuments – sometimes you find things on one that you don’t find on the other)
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1382211 – original house at Wrest Park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=360019 – Wrest Park House
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381015 – East Half House
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380950 – West Half House
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381016 – Whitehall
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1565998 – Le Petit Trianon, playhouse in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380936 – stableblock belonging to park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1565985 – coachman’s cottage, stables, coach house etc
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1565990 – former brewhouse etc
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380981 – Atlas Pond, in the park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380957 – Banqueting House, in the park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380942 – Bath House, in the park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380928 – Bowling Green House
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380959 – Chinese Bridge
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1565979 – Chinese Bridge
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380958 – Chinese Summerhouse
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380956 – Mithraic Altar
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380946 – The Orangery
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1539389 – Icehouse
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380930 – North Lodge, entrance lodge to the park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380933 – South Lodge, entrance lodge to the park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1164255 – entrance lodge
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380964 – entrance lodge
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380935 – walled garden in the park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1565999 – formal garden
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380954 – monument in park to Thomas Hutton
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380961 – monument in park to Lady Glenorchy
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380962 – monument in park to the Earl of Harrold
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380960 – Capability Brown column
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380971 – statues in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380972 – fountain, pond and statue group
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380973 – statue group
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380980 – garden ornament
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1565978 – ornamental baths
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1565992 – “Ha ha”
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380992 – statue
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380996 – statue
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380999 – statue
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381003 – statue
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381009 – statue
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381014 – statue
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381012 – Statue of King William III
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381005 – Statue of Lady Jemima
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381000 – statue of Mercury
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380994 – statue of Neptune
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380977 – statue of Plenty
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1565997 – statue of Hercules
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380976 – The Hawking Party equestrian statue group
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381004 – garden urn
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1381008 – plinth and urn
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1380975 – roman altars
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1518053 – earthwork at park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519539 – earthworks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1518590 – earthwork in north of park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519641 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519649 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519656 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519670 – earthworks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519679 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519987 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519994 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519997 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1520034 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1520036 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1520039 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1520042 – earthwork in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519567 – earthworks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519582 – parchmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519591 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519595 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519598 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519599 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519603 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519606 – parchmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519616 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519665 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519675 – parchmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519680 – parchmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519696 – parchmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519837 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519839 – parchmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519303 – cropmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519335 – cropmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519607 – cropmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519647 – cropmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519681 – cropmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519831 – cropmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519859 – cropmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519862 – cropmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519923 – cropmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519969 – cropmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519975 – cropmark in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=360016 – cropmarks in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519465 – quarry area in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519528 – “The American Garden” at Wrest Park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519342 – huts that used to be in park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519343 – more associated huts
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519344 – more associated huts
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519365 – mound at park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519419 – earthwork, possible former western boundary of park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1518521 – earthwork adjacent to park
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1519435 – another Old Park earthwork
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1518174 – earthworks next to park

If Pastscape turned up a load of stuff, so did Heritage Gateway, but you can’t save search results.
Next on list for this page is to copy all the individual links from there, I think a lot of them will overlap with Pastscape results. Seems that there has been a bunch of work to make note of.

See also
de Grey Mausoleum

Discuss this article on the forum.

Houghton House

Built: around 1615
For: Mary Sidney Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke
Subsequent owners: Bruce family, Russell family
House abandoned: 1794

Mary Sidney Herbert was a writer, a translator, a patron of the arts, and a chemist (Wikipedia: “She had a chemistry laboratory at Wilton House, where she developed medicines and invisible ink”).

She died of smallpox in 1621.

After that, the house went through three owners. All of Houghton’s owners had other properties.

The Bruce family owned the house from 1624, and it became their main residence. Thomas Bruce, the 2nd Earl of Ailesbury, supported the deposed James II, and went into exile around 1696. He drew revenue from the estate in the following years, so presumably rented it out. He sold it in 1738, 3 years before his death.

The new owner was John Russell. In the 1760s, the chamber above the Great Hall, which was used for private functions beforehand, was converted into a library.

John’s sons died before he did, so after he died in 1771, the estate passed to his grandson Francis.

In 1794, Francis took the furnishings and the roof, and left the house to the elements. While the house was being taken apart, The Swan Inn in Bedford acquired the great staircase from the house, where it still remains.

The house and its park were sold to the owner of Ampthill Park, a nearby estate, in 1804.

Houghton House is believed to be the inspiration forĀ  the House of the Palace Beautiful, in the late 17th Century book “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan.

A paragraph about the house appears in Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal #8, page 138. This describes a preliminary survey, challenging the conventional wisdom about the architect who designed the house. The Council for British Archaeology has scans of the Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal. p138 of the Journal is on page 154 of the pdf.

An archaeological Watching Brief was done when posts were put in for information boards by English Heritage. This is listed on Pastscape, Historic Environment Record for Bedfordshire, and so on. This was undertaken by Northamptonshire Archaeology. I found the pdf at the Archaeology Data Service.

Houghton House at English Heritage
Houghton House on Pastscape
Houghton House on Wikipedia
via Heritage Gateway:
National Monuments Record entry on Houghton House
Historical Environment Record for Bedfordshire: Houghton House

Mary Sidney Herbert on Wikipedia
Thomas Bruce on Wikipedia
John Russell on Wikipedia
Francis Russell on Wikipedia

Related Results
Houghton Park on Pastscape
Ampthill Park House on Pastscape
HER (Beds): Ice house at Houghton House, no longer extant
HER (Beds): Summerhouse intended for Houghton House (designed John’s son, Francis’ father, who died before John)
HER (Beds): Screen and gates, at least parts of which were taken from Houghton House
HER (Beds): Gardener’s house at Houghton House

Mary Sidney at Project Gutenberg
Mary Herbert at Luminarium.org, with transcriptions of some of her works
Mary Sidney at archive.org
Searched for the Memoirs of Thomas Bruce, found Volume II viewable online, but not Volume I.

Discuss this article on the forum.