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Walcot Hall

WALCOT HALL is Listed Grade I and is one of the finest examples of a Carolean House in the country. It was designed by John Webb who is considered to have been a great Classical architect having benefited from a long apprenticeship under Inigo Jones.

In the 1630's he assisted Jones on the repair of St haul's Cathedral and made drawings of Whitehall Palace. When Jones died in 1652, Webb was without a rival and worked for many important people including the Earl of Rutland at Belvoir, Earl of Peterborough at Drayton, Lord Dacre at Chevening in Kent and Sir Justinian Isham at Lamport in Northamptonshire. He set his sights on becoming `Surveyor Of His Majesty's Works, but was passed over in favour of Denham in 1660. In 1663, however, he was recalled in order to design the King Charles Block at Greenwich Palace and to superintend the fortification of Woolwich Dockyard.

Webb's achievements as an architect were curtailed by war and misfortune. Many of the buildings he designed never materialised, but Walcot Hall displays the wonderful elegance he was so renowned for.

The Hall was built for Sir Hugh Cholmondley in 1678 of local limestone under a Collyweston slate roof and comprises 9 x 5 bays being of two storied construction with a U width basement floor. It enjoys an outstanding site, sitting on a fine stone terrace overlooking beautiful and mature grounds of over 20 acres. The West front looks over a most impressive avenue of lime trees through the wooded parkland which extend to around 121 acres.

The Gainsboroughs lived here between 1700 and 1720 and then the Nevile's until 1891. The House was then bought by the Dearden's who owned it until 1963 when it was purchased by the Dennis family.

During the last war Walcot Hall housed the operations room of the United States Eighth Army Air Force, 67th Fighter Wing, controlling six groups, from where many of the great `Flying Fortress' daylight raids on Germany were planned and directed.

'T'he original gardens were of a simple design consisting of the canal, aa long rectangular piece of water, and lawns with various trees.

The structure was changed considerably by the Dearden family in the early 1900s. Mr Dearden re-designed the garden building a number of follies and statues and planting many rare trees. Unfortunately, when a number of the trees should have been thinned the Second World War prevented work from being carried out.

When Mr Dearden returned to the House after the war, having lost his son in action, his interest understandably waned, and therefore a lot of the work he had planned did not materalise.

Since the Dennis family arrived in 1962 their policy has been to simplify the garden based on the concept of lawns and trees. Over the years they have thinned and replanted where necessary very much aware that the days of numerous gardeners are over!

The canal was dredged during late 1999 and shows off the magnificent rotunda with Corinthian pillars which stands at the end.

A new Rose Garden has also been planted and is now beginning to take shape. . It was designed by Bunny Guinness, winner of many awards at the Chelsea Flower Shows.