The site of Worth Park, in Sussex, had been owned by the Warenne family since the Norman Conquest. It formed part of the Forest of Worth, stretching from Slaugham in the South to Worth in the North. In 1439 the Forest was divided into three lots and the land continued to be used mainly for hunting. John Norden’s map of 1595 map shows no buildings in the park. However, exactly one hundred years later, Robert Morden’s map of Sussex shows a large building within park palisades – the forest having been enclosed in 1610.
The Wealden iron industry was important in the area, producing a large proportion of the bar iron made in England in the 16th century and most British cannon until about 1770. By 1808 the area was mainly fields, with much smaller woods and forests.
In 1850 a prominent London banker, Sir Joseph Montefiore, purchased the Worth Park Estate. However, three years later the original building was destroyed by fire, enabling him to construct a large red brick mansion complete with 10 reception rooms, 10 bedrooms, and a stable quadrangle accommodating 18 carriages. Sir Joseph died in 1880, and his son, Sir Francis Abraham Montefiore began rebuilding the house.
A photograph of the principal entrance front of the house in 1886 can be seen here.
Sir Francis employed James Pulham and Son to construct the gardens, which were laid out over four levels, taking advantage of the elevated position of the site.
The first level was a formal garden consisting of three circular areas known as Fountain, Dutch and Sundial. The second level consisted of formal terraces with a staircase, balustrades and a formal pond surrounded by ball shaped yews. The third area was open parkland and the final area a lake complete with Pulhamite rock features.
The Worth Park Estate was broken up in 1915 and sold. The house and gardens were purchased in 1920 by a boarding school, originally situated on a hill near Milton, Gravesend. The name of the school was retained, and Worth Park re-emerged as Milton Mount College. The school was evacuated during the Second World War. By 1963 Milton Mount College decided to sell both the house and grounds. The house was demolished in 1968, and was subsequently purchased by Crawley Borough Council. A new block of flats was constructed on the footprint of the Victorian house.
Today, only a small part of the historic Park remains as open space, surrounded by residential areas. Although small, the modern Park does include the lake, the site of the mansion, the stables, and significant areas of the high Victorian garden and terraces. A number of the Pulham features and the stable block were recently listed (Grade II). Worth Park is now also known as Milton Mount Gardens.
The stables are dated 1882 and were built for Sir Francis Abraham Montefiore. They are located to the south east of the site of the mansion and comprise a courtyard of two storey ranges on three sides. The stabling and coachhouses were on the ground floor with accommodation over. The fourth side has an ornamental three-storey tower with a carriage arch below facing west. The tower originally carried a clock,
Many of the original wooden mullioned and transomed casements have been replaced in uPVC within the original openings. The doors appear to have all been replaced.
I was asked to take samples from the external joinery with the aim of learning as much as possible about earlier colour schemes.
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