C17 to C20 formal gardens and landscape park associated with a country house, including elements by John Webb, William Andrews Nesfield and Edwin Lutyens.
Eaton came into the hands of the Grosvenors in the C15. The first house on the site was built in 1675-8 for Sir Thomas Grosvenor, third baronet, whose marriage brought the family its London property which, with the later development of Mayfair and Belgravia, was to bring it fabulous wealth. The seventh baronet was created Baron Grosvenor in 1761, and Viscount Belgrave and Earl Grosvenor in 1784. In 1802 he was succeeded by his son who in 1831 became the first Marquess of Westminster. In his time the house was rebuilt on a fantastic scale, it being remodelled by his son who inherited in 1845. Further remodelling took place under the third marquess, who inherited in 1869 and was made Duke of Westminster in 1874. Eaton remains (1997) in private hands.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Eaton Hall lies c 2km south of the village of Eccleston and c 5km south of Chester. The countryside around the Hall, and several of the neighbouring villages, has a strong and consistent identity afforded by the very large number of late C19 and early C20 estate buildings. To the east the registered area is bounded by the River Dee; otherwise the boundary follows field boundaries, principally those between the park and the agricultural land to the west. The area here registered is c 500ha.
Not all listed buildings in the registered area are mentioned hereunder.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The main formal approach is from the west, down the long, straight, Belgrave Avenue, present from the time the Hall was rebuilt in the later C17 and extended to 2km as part of John Webb's improvements of c 1804-6. The section between the west forecourt and the Upper Lodge was replanted as a double lime avenue in the mid 1990s. West of that building the avenue comprises narrow belts of woodland. Some 500m from the Hall is an obelisk (listed grade II) of 1890 by Douglas & Fordham. Some 300m further west is the Upper Belgrave Lodge (listed grade II) of 1877 by John Douglas. Belgrave Lodge and gates (all listed grade II) at the end of the avenue are also by Douglas and of 1889.
Day-to-day traffic in the 1990s approaches the Eaton complex via the Eccleston drive from the north, past Eccleston Lodge and gates (both listed grade II), both of 1894 by Douglas & Fordham, and over a balustraded causeway (listed grade II) of c 1875 immediately to its south. Another drive, the Overleigh Drive, leads from the obelisk in the centre of the park to the Ecclestone Hill Lodge and gates (listed grade II*) of 1881-2 by John Douglas.
The other later C19 approaches are little if at all used in the later C20, other than by estate vehicles. On the Aldford approach from the south-east is Coachmere Hill Lodge (listed grade II), probably of the 1880s by John Douglas, and the Iron Bridge Lodge (listed grade II) of 1894 by Douglas & Fordham. The last stands at the west end of William Hazledine's iron bridge of 1824 (listed grade I) which carries the drive over the River Dee. Immediately east of the bridge the Aldford approach is joined by that from Buerton. From the south-west is the Pulford Approach.
A new Eaton Hall was built between 1675 and 1682 for Sir Thomas Grosvenor to a design by William Samwell (d 1676). Between 1804 and 1812 that house was rebuilt in the gothic style to a design by William Porden, the work being carried on after his death in 1822, probably to the same design, by Benjamin Gummow (fl 1804-31). To Charles Greville, who was far from alone in his condemnation, the result was 'a vast pile of mongrel Gothick ... a monument of wealth, ignorance and bad taste' (Figueiredo and Treuherz 1988, 87). After the second Marquess inherited in 1845, William Burn (d 1870) was called in to remodel Eaton and to introduce technical improvements to its heating, sanitation and so forth. A yet more extensive campaign of rebuilding followed the succession of the third Marquess in 1869, Alfred Waterhouse being brought in to completely transform the house between 1870 and 1882.
The house, never comfortable as a family home, was badly damaged by army use during the Second World War. In 1963 it was largely demolished and a new house built 1971-3 for the fifth Duke of Westminster to a design by John Dennys, the Duke's brother-in-law. This austere, flat-roofed building, faced in gleaming white Travertine, proved no more hospitable than its predecessor, and in the early 1990s it was completely transformed when it was encased in a light pinkish ashlar and had a tall conventional roof added. On the north side of the Hall are the Chapel (listed grade I) of 1873-4 with its six-stage clock tower, the Stables and Coach House courts and the Riding School (elements listed grade II and II*), similarly of the early 1870s. In the lobby between the Chapel and stable yard is a grotto (listed grade II) of c 1880. All by Waterhouse, these are the main elements of the Hall complex spared from demolition in 1963. About 100m north of the Coach House court are the Hall's railway sheds of c 1895 (listed grade II).
Until the C17 the chief house, which was moated, stood a little to the south of the site of the later Hall. That building, then called the Villa, was retained in the C18 when it was the core of a large home farm (now gone).
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
On the west side of the main west forecourt, at the end of Belgrave Avenue, are the Golden Gates (listed grade I), the gates, overthrow and screens by the Davies brothers and early C18, the remainder designed c 1880 by Waterhouse and made by Skidmore of Coventry. Also by Waterhouse are the single-storey lodges to either side. Centrally in the forecourt, in a quatrefoil pool (retaining walls listed grade II), is a bronze statue of the 1870s (listed grade II*) of Hugh Lupus, first Norman earl of Chester, by G F Watts.
South of the Hall is the yew-hedged Italian Garden, redesigned 1896-8 by Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) and again by Detmar Blow in 1911. In the middle, in a cruciform pool (listed grade II), is Raymond Smith's Dragon Fountain (listed grade II) of c 1896. The northern half of the garden comprises elaborate floral parterre beds, the southern half a simpler design in turf cutwork. The latte also contains two statues (both listed grade II) of c 1810 by R Westmacott: of Bishop Odo, and Joan of Eaton. In the centre of the south side are iron gates (listed grade II) of c 1896 attributed to Gertrude Jekyll.
The principal garden, in four main compartments, two either side of an axial east/west canal (retaining walls listed grade II), lies east of the terrace which runs around the east and south sides of the Hall. The planting of the compartments in the late C20 was to a scheme by the Duchess of Westminster and Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd. The focal points remained two large statuary groups (listed grade II) of 1852 by Raymond Smith, while vertical emphasis was provided by wooden trellis work and pyramids. The stone and cast-iron balustrading (listed grade II) of 1810 to the north and south sides of the garden was moved here c 1911 from the west forecourt. The retaining wall and steps (listed grade II) on the east side of the garden were designed in 1911 by Detmar Blow. The garden of the 1990s was but the latest of a long series before the east front. There were extensive formal gardens with parterres, water basins and allées in the French style here in the early C18, presumably laid out c 1680 about the time the house was rebuilt. By 1820 these had been replaced by a terrace with a balustraded wall and flower beds overlooking a lawn. William Andrews Nesfield (1793-1881) extensively remodelled the area in the mid C19, laying out formal parterres. Changes to the scheme were made in the late C19, and again in 1911.
Running from north to south below the east end of that garden is the straight, 350m long Broad Walk. At the north end is the Parrot House (listed grade II), a yellow terracotta Ionic temple with domed roof of 1881-3 by Alfred Waterhouse. At the south end is a loggia (listed grade II), probably of c 1880 and again by Waterhouse. To either side are Roman columns (both listed grade II). In the centre of the walk, below the main axis of the east garden, is an oval pool, partly of 1911 (elements listed grade II).
South and east of the formal gardens are lawns and shrubberies, in part surrounded by a late C19 wall by Waterhouse.
In those shrubberies, c 120m south of the south end of the Broad Walk, is the Dutch Garden, a c 35m square compartment with beds divided by brick-paved paths. On its north side, and overlooking it, is the cruciform wooden Tea House (listed grade II) of 1872 by John Douglas. The gates (listed grade II) into the garden to the north of the Tea House are of 1913.
Approximately 80m east of the Dutch Garden, elaborate iron gates of c 1870 (listed grade II) in the late C19 wall around the pleasure grounds give access to the Aldford approach drive.
Formal gardens, very much in the grand French style, were apparently laid out around the new Hall at about the time it was rebuilt in the later C17, the main east/west axis aligned on Beeston Castle ten miles to the east. Those gardens are shown in detailed views by Kip & Knyff (1712-14) and by Badeslade and Thom (1758), and on a plan of 1798. What was done to the gardens by John Webb in 1804-6 is unclear, but it would appear that at least the main outlines were left for Nesfield to build on once more sixty years later.
The main features of the park lie on the low ground by the Dee to the east of the Hall: the 550m long Fish Pond, which lies across the main axis east from the Hall, and immediately to its south the 1km long Serpentine with, at its south end, the 250m long Oxleisure Pool. All these were contrived in 1804-6 by John Webb (1754-1828), who refers to them as the 'New River'. Some 20m east of the east bank of the Fish Pond is a 3m high stone urn (listed grade II) of c 1880. This forms the focal point in the middle ground of the view east from the Hall to Beeston Castle.
To the west of The Serpentine, and occupying the greater part of the south end of the registered area, is woodland: Park Plantation to the west, and Duck Wood - wet, and cut through with drains - to the east. West of Park Plantation, and outside the registered area, is the greater part of the former deer park. This was requisitioned in 1940 for use as an airfield, and the abandoned runways of that largely survive in 1997 although most or all of the upstanding wartime structures have been removed.
South-west and north-west of the Hall is the modern parkland, to which fallow deer were reintroduced in 1997. The two areas had previously been used respectively as a polo ground and as a golf course, and plantings were made in the 1990s on what was largely open grassland. A cricket ground 400m north-west of the Hall was however retained. In the grassland are several areas of ridge and furrow, presumably relating to the farmland imparked in the later C17.
The registered park contains many buildings, the majority of the later C19. They include the Estate Office complex (several elements, built as stud and laundry house, listed grade II) 300m south-east of the Eccleston Lodge; Eaton Boat (listed grade II), an estate house of c 1880 by John Douglas 500m to the south-east of the Estate Office, close to the former estate gas works; Deer Park Cottage (listed grade II), a cottage of 1873 by Douglas immediately west of Eccleston Lodge.
Map evidence (Garden History 1984) indicates that a deer park was first established at Eaton in the later C17 when the house was rebuilt. A map of 1738 shows it bounded, as later, by Belgrave Avenue to the north and by the formal grounds around the Hall to the east. Straight rides or avenues run across it. In 1769 Lord Verulam claimed that Lancelot Brown (1716-83) had improved the park. Whether or nor that was so, and there is no other known evidence of Brown's involvement at Eaton, the park was certainly landscaped in the mid C18. A long sequence of plantations was made south of the Hall along the eastern boundary of the deer park, a swathe of gardens south of the Hall being cleared to open up the vista framed by these, and that across some small clumps of trees planted on the river meadows. Elements of this survive.
The kitchen gardens, surrounded by high brick walls (to the south 4m high, of c 1870, and listed with gates of same date by Waterhouse grade II*), lie beyond the stables, c 300m north of the Hall. The southern compartment is divided between a pleasure garden (to the west; gates at south-west corner of c 1900 listed grade II) and a fruit orchard. Both were planted in the 1990s. The long, round-ended compartment to the north of these was used as a paddock in 1997. Against the outside of the east wall of the garden is a large covered tennis court. East of that is the later C19, 110m long Camellia Walk (listed grade II). Several of the structures around the edge of the garden and originally at least associated with its management are of the later C19 and listed grade II. They include the Garden House (the former bothy) of 1893 by Douglas & Minshull; the gates to the south-west of that, of c 1880 and probably by Waterhouse; the Garden Lodge and its gates, of 1881-3 by Waterhouse; and the North Lodge (with former pay office) and its gates, of 1881 by Waterhouse.
Country Life, 2 (21 August 1897), pp 182-4; 9 (20 April 1901), pp 496-503; 47 (29 May 1920), pp 724-31; 149 (11 February 1971), pp 304-7
N Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cheshire (1971), pp 207-13
D Stroud, Capability Brown (1975), p 224
M Girouard, The Victorian Country House (1979), pp 2-4, 15, 26, 28-9, 78, 294, 404, 445
Garden History 12, no 1 (1984), pp 39-57
P de Figueiredo and J Treuherz, Cheshire Country Houses (1988), pp 87-95
OS 6" to 1 mile: Cheshire sheet 46, 1st edition surveyed 1873
OS 25" to 1 mile: Cheshire sheet 46.11, 1st edition surveyed 1873
Description written: September 1997
Register Inspector: PAS
Edited: April 1999