A talk given by Mary Ann Prior on Constance Villiers Stuart 1876 - 1966
Two groups of 40 Norfolk Gardens Trust members had the privilege of visiting this very historic site south of the church in Old Hunstanton. We were led by the park and garden’s owner Charles Le Strange Meakin and NGT Vice Chair Sally Bate. The Le Strange family have owned the site since at least the 12th Century, possibly earlier.
Originally a triple-moated site, the buildings standing there today include the 15th Century brick gatehouse; early 17th Century wings on either side, curtain walls, stone entrance gate and barn; and a mid-Victorian residence and stable block with a central arch, cupola and clock. The 19th Century works were carried out by Frederick Preedy around 1873, after the Elizabethan house was lost in a fire in 1853. A second fire in 1951 saw an end to the family occupying the hall, and subsequent restoration led to the division of the residence into a number of privately owned dwellings on the site.
The park originally started as a Medieval deer park before tree planting and landscaping took place in the 17th Century. At the same time Grade II Park House (a hunting and entertaining tower) was built in the south of the park, and an octagonal single storey building in the centre of an octagonal moat nearer to the house. The latter, known to the family as The Music House is described by Historic England as Grade II* The Octagon. A walled formal garden was built in 1686 adjacent to the west side of the moat. This was greatly enlarged in the 19th Century and enclosed by a carstone ha ha with projecting bastions connected by a raised terrace with views over the newly extended parkland to the west. The western arm of the moat was also widened with the excavated soil forming a long bank planted with evergreen trees. Glasshouses were erected, and a kitchen garden laid out, sheltered by a wide woodland belt containing walks, a whale bone arch and an impressive yew tunnel – originally a topiary yew avenue. A beautifully constructed brick tunnel leads from this garden to outside the ha ha to the north-west – said to be a quick way for the family to reach church on Sundays!
Charles explained to us the considerable work he has been doing to restore the gardens and parkland over the past few years. Our tour ended in the garden belonging to one of the 17th Century wing apartments, designed by Bunny Guinness in 2008, with a vista out into the parkland framed by two rows of fruit trees and underplanted with anemones and other herbaceous perennials.
Tate Talk 2024
Saturday 2nd March, 2024 2pm
‘Gertrude Jekyll‘ An illustrated talk by Caroline Holmes
Venue: Bawdeswell Village Hall, NR20 4RU