Further history

Thank you to the Suffolk Gardens Trust for the following article.

The Langham estate remained in the ownership of three major families from the 17th to early 20th centuries: the Turnors (1672 – 1751); the Blakes (1764 – 1832); and the Maitland Wilsons (1832 – 1922). It had three owners between the two World Wars, the last being William Burns Anderson (c.1937).  [Insertion: The Blackwell family bought the property in 1949, and the Ramsay family in 2015].

The present Hall probably dates from the 1740s, but it was Sir Patrick Blake Bt (d.1784), whose wealth derived from sugar plantations on the West Indian islands of St Kitts and Montserrat,  who was largely responsible for its present appearance and layout of the grounds. In 1772 the property was described as ‘all that capital messuage or tenement called Langham Hall, with its barns, stables, cold houses, dove houses, outhouses, buildings, yards, gardens, orchards, lawns, plantations.’ A later directory (1874), puts it more briefly as ‘a neat mansion in a small park’. However there has been a garden on the site  from at least 1705, as John Turnor’s Account Book records a purchase of mulberries and melons, and a year later, a payment of 6 shillings to ‘Sargeant the Gardener’ for trees at Langham.

The only detailed list of the kitchen garden’s contents was made much later, in 1832, as part of an inventory for the sale of the estate, when it was shown to contain:

‘Iron roll[er] – one cucumber double frame- single ditto and light – sundry sea kale pots etc – sundry tools. 2 wheelbarrows – 2 ladders , 2 watering cans, shelves in chambers, Sundry old light frames – long ladder – 4 stoves in Gardener’s house.  Truck cart – flower stages – flower barrow – water tub -, 12 linen posts, sun dial on stone pillar.’

The sale catalogue of  19th Nov. 1832 (lot 1), describes the kitchen garden as ‘ 4 acres of garden ground, walled in with lofty brick walls, in 4 divisions, with choice fruit trees in full bearing, and a neat Gardener’s Cottage, Conservatory, Hot-houses, Grapery, and Hot walls for the forcing of fruit.’

In the attempted sale of 1914 (lot 2), the walled garden is said to consist of 3 divisions of  c.3 acres (OS map 1904 lists it as 3.663 acres), and finally, in the sale of 1922 (lot 1) there are more extensive notes: ‘The  walled in kitchen garden extends to about three acres with brick and tile potting shed, two fruit rooms, large greenhouse near the “Garden” Farmhouse, and orchard.  Near by is a small farmery known as “Garden Farm” adjoining the kitchen gardens, and comprising brick and tile double fronted  house, containing: three bedrooms upstairs.  Living room with oven range and cupboards, drawing room with fireplace, dairy and scullery downstairs.  Outside: timber and tile shed, e.c. and garden.’

The earliest surviving map of the estate (1832), reveals the walled garden and assorted buildings, largely recognisable in layout to that shown on the O.S. map of 1884, and not fundamentally different to what we see today.  The OS 1884 map shows the internal paths, with two approximately square areas to the west and two equal rectilinear areas to the east, this is still shown on 1999 aerial photograph.



       O.S. scale 1:1000 (1st edn.1884)

       O.S. scale 1:1000 (2nd edn. 1904)

       O.S. modern scale 1:1000 (2008)

       Aerial photograph scale 1:1000 (2008)

Archive material:

        SRO (Ipswich) HB8/5/510 Account book of Henry and John Turnor 

       SRO (Bury) HA 530/2/33 Langham Hall, Deeds and Papers 1752-1838 (Joseph Wilson)

       SRO (Bury) HA 530/2/34 Langham Hall Estate Map, 1832

Books and articles:

       P.Atkins and N.Evans, A History of Langham Hall (Privately printed 1987)

       M. Birch, Suffolk’s Ancient Sites Historic Places (Mendlesham 2004)

       W.A. Copinger, The Manors of Suffolk (London 1905) Vol.1

        Suffolk Directories 1845-1937

       T. Williamson, Suffolk’s Gardens & Parks (Macclesfield 2000)

Site visits: 5th April and 3rd May 2008.

Team:  Michael and Margaret Bampton, Jenny Broster, Ginny Budd, Polly Burns, Adam Paul and Nigel Surry.

N.B Modern surveys require metric measurements, we have included imperial, as we consider they give the original construction dimensions.

The Garden

To the north west of walled garden there is a complex of buildings, most of which have been restored and are currently in use as offices.  Some are single and others double storey, presumably these were service buildings for the garden, stores etc, it is not clear if they were ever accommodation.  From descriptions it would appear that they were not a conventional bothy and boiler complex, but that the heated wall and glasshouse were heated from the Gardener’s Cottage situated to the rear and centre of the north wall (see later).

Buildings currently used as potting shed, office and store are to be found on the south side of a west extension of the walled garden’s north wall.  These buildings are shown on the modern map, but not on the 1884 and 1904, implying that they were built in the intervening period.  Adjacent to the office/store is a building acting as a store and also cistern for the collection of run off water from roofs, providing an additional source of water, other than the well (op cit.).  This is interesting in that it points to the continual and evolving use of the garden and the access to it and services needing to be changed from the access points in the north and west wall.

We entered the garden through the entrance at the very north end of the west wall, adjacent to the previously discussed buildings and consistent with the practical need for an access at that point.  The entrance is thought to have been cut through the wall fairly recently, evidenced by the more modern arch above the door and the concrete slapped up roughly on the entrance wall.  An unusual feature on entering the garden here is evidence that there were once windows in this wall.  These windows have now been bricked up.  There were 9 bricked up windows in all.  The windows were all 3ft 6ins wide (1.10m.) and 2ft 8ins high (.85m.)with a distance of 6ft 6ins (2.10m.) between each window. [Insertion: these windows formed part of the stables.]  They continued along the wall to a bricked up entrance door which was directly opposite the start of the west wall of the internal walled garden.  This would have accessed the exterior walled area, now a tennis court, but on earlier maps it was shown as being planted with trees and containing a building in the north west corner). On examining both sides of this wall there was no evidence, either on the inside or the outside that any building had been built into or attached to this wall.  The height of this wall is 8ft (2.44m.), built in headers and stretchers pattern.   All walls are different with different height levels and the north and west walls being built without buttresses (though we were unable to see the north facing aspect of the north wall).

The gardener’s cottage is built into the north wall, with south wall of the cottage and the garden wall running in a straight line.  The walls on either side of the cottage are of different heights.  On the right hand side of the cottage the wall is 15ft high( 4.5m.), while on the left hand side of the cottage the wall is 9ft 10ins (3.0m.) high, both walls are built in headers and stretcher pattern, to the left of the cottage the wall has been rebuilt, though in an older style consistent with other walls.  On the right hand side of the cottage there is a window of the same size as the bricked up windows on the west wall, but this window is not bricked up and forms part of the cottage, which is at present occupied.  There is an area on the cottage wall which has not had windows built in, but evidence of a bricked up door.  It is understood that this wall area with no windows had a lean to greenhouse attached to it (the hot house and vinery referred to in Sales Details?).  The bricked up door would have led from the cottage into the greenhouse and then out to the garden.  Sale  particulars indicate that the boiler complex to heat the wall and  glasshouse was operated from the Gardener’s Cottage, a feature differing from conventional practise. 

The present greenhouse has gone, the present structure dating from the 1980s, and close by two cold frames (i) 12ft 4ins x 9ft 6ins,( 3.75mx 2.9m), (ii) 60ft 2ins x 14ft 2ins ( 18.33m x 4.32m), clearly shown on the O.S. maps  of 1884 and 1904 respectively. 

The eastern wall is 11ft 6ins high( 3.5m.), red bricks in a headers and stretchers pattern, rounded at the top, formerly lined with  fruit trees (O.S. map 1904).  Traces of cement/plaster on the walls suggest the presence of former greenhouses The present paths in general follow the early divisions shown on the 1884 map, the orchard in the eastern corner is about 50 years old, the apple trees along the central north/south axis dating from the 1920s or 30s.

The southern wall is buttressed with openings at either end, the buttresses 12ft  apart and 9ft 6ins high (3.66 x 2.9m), in the centre of which is a potting shed (See estate map 1832), with accommodation above, backing onto a pavilion, which faces the pleasure grounds. The iron pump at the western end is a survivor from Victorian times (O.S. map 1884) and used to pump water from a well of excellent circular construction and very considerable depth.

The inner, three sided walled area is of particular interest, the wall 6ft 6 ins high, (1.98m) in a headers and stretchers pattern. It is a garden within the garden, facing south, that ensures additional shelter and warmth.  8 espalier fruit trees now line the inner side, 12 are found on the outer, forming an unusual example of slip culture.  A small structure in the north east corner shown on the 1884 map has disappeared.  The shape of this enclosure has changed over the centuries.  It may have been fully enclosed by the 19th century; by 1904 only the northern and eastern walls survived, and since then the western wall has been replaced, leaving the southern side open.  This is of particular interest, since apart from here, the shape of the garden appears unchanged since the 18th century

In general the walls are in excellent condition, showing signs of careful maintenance over the garden’s lifetime.  In various places the brickwork is marked with nail holes, reflecting the older method of training and nailing fruit support to wall with a leather or cloth pad to protect the fruit, and more modern straining wires or their metal supports.  Externally, there is the boiler house adjacent to the gardener’s cottage, together with a small greenhouse.  The present tennis court was formerly a grassed area with trees (OS maps 1884,1904).

The key to the estate map (1832) shows the name ‘kiln fields (22,24,25,26) and ‘Brick Kiln Plantation’ (16), suggesting bricks used in the construction of the Hall and gardens were made from clay on the estate.

As well as the cistern there is a very deep well situated west of the potting shed.

Concluding Remarks

The History of Langham Hall (1987) compiled by P.Aitkins and N.Evans, reveals a pattern of ownership, that left the property , unoccupied or let for considerable periods of time. In addition for much of the Victorian period, it took second place to Stowlangtoft Hall, where its owners the Maitland Wilsons lived. This ‘neglect’ may paradoxically have proved beneficial, and there may well have been neither the wish nor financial resources to embark on massive improvements, as at Rendlesham for example.

%d bloggers like this: