The New Park
A common reason for forcibly removing people from their homes and land to enclose it was to make a landscaped park around a great house. Many great houses had been built in the reign of Henry VIII and this continued in the 17th and early 18th centuries. But more significant, perhaps, than the houses were the parks that surrounded them. The parks were not necessarily contemporary with the house and many came later as the work of men like William Kent, Joseph Repton and Lancelot “Capability” Brown in the later 18th century. The Harcourts at Nuneham Courteney, moved the village in 1777 to make the park, allegedly much to the disgust of Oliver Goldsmith who wrote:
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”
Englefield was no exception the the trend but the moving of the village and although there was an old Deer Park before 1762 the creation of the landscaped park came much later than most and not until Richard Benyon de Beauvoir took up residence after he sold Gidea in 1802, although Powlett Wrighte did start the process by closing the road across what would later become the park after he built the new turnpike in 1771 (in green on the image below).
The area south of Englefield House at the time of Ballard's survey was still farmed, other than a broad grass ride stretching down from the front of Englefield House, and Cranemoor House, probably the old manor house of the Englefields, still stood there. Despite the impression created by the picture of Paulet Wrighte and his newly remodelled house, believed painted by Nathaniel Dance shortly afterwards in about 1775, the entire middle ground is a product of the artist’s (or Paulet’s) fancy. It is ironic, then, that when, in 1833, Richard Benyon returned Constable’s painting to have the cows in the foreground painted out, saying it made it look as though he had a farmyard before his drawing room windows, Constable was probably depicting more of the reality than Dance did sixty years earlier.
On taking up residence in Englefield in 1802, Richard Benyon straightened the road up Blyth’s Hill to form the southern edge of his new park and over the next 20 years removed the village on the northern side from his view, just out of sight round the corner where it is today. Although the village was moved, the road remained a public right of way to Bradfield and Benyon created a separate coach road to Englefield House (in yellow on the image below) from the junction with Powlett's turnpike, and running south of the public road (in red), which was then along what is now the wall of the Old Rectory, Rectory Cottage and St Mark's House. This coach road went across the south front of Englefield House (where the entrance then was) and diagonally across the park to Parker's Corner. There was a lodge in the vee where this coach road left the Bradfield Road and another inside the park next to a pair of stone pillars at Parker's Corner. While the lodge had gone by 1844 (possibly replaced by the current house on the opposite side of the road) the pillars remain, their alignment consistent with the line of the coach road rather than the older road across the park from Appleton's Corner which has a sharp kink to the right immediately inside the gate. An identical pair of pillars used to stand at the bottom of The Street on the other side of the village. Richard Benyon also extended the lake progressively up to the extent shown by the blue outline on the image and it is now only this new extension that holds water except in a very wet winter, though part of that has been filled-in, as can be seen from the image.
In 1825 Benyon built a new road to Tidmarsh (the modern A340 running north-south at the right-hand edge of the image), replacing Powlett’s turnpike and by-passing the village completely. Finally the road beyond the chalkpit was extended on to Bradfield and only then could the old road to Bradfield running behind Englefield House be closed - in 1855, the year after Benyon de Beauvoir died. When his successor closed the road to the public he diverted it onto its present course, reverting to the line of the old public road at Appleton's Corner from where it continued past the church and into the new courtyard at the east front of Englefield House where the entrance now is. This road then became the private drive to Englefield House, although a public right or way was retained between Appleton's Corner and the church. In 1862 Richard Fellowes Benyon erected new lodges and wrought iron gates where his drive met the Pangbourne Road to commemorate his marriage to Elizabeth Clutterbuck. Miss Wincomb was born in one of these lodges in 1893. A second coach road was also made across the Old Deer Park behind Englefield House down to the Bradfield Road at the Bourne bridge with another lodge and a gate.
The gate pillars on the coach road at Parker's Corner...
The gate pillars at Parker's Corner
...and the ones that used to stand at the bottom of The Street.
and at the bottom of The Street
© 2021 Richard J Smith