The Hoo

Hertfordshire
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Overview

In 1758 Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was paid £150 by Thomas Brand to landscape the grounds of the Hoo manor house.

Capability Brown's improvements in 1760–62 created a larger, squarish park around Hoo manor house, at Kimpton, near Hitchin, Hertfordshire, which had been rebuilt in the mid-17th century. The park had an area of ornamental shrubbery or woodlands at its heart, formerly the Thrift Wood, which had serpentine paths winding through it. This replaced the small park, with a formal approach to the house and enclosed gardens, that are shown on an undated estate map of the early to mid-18th century. Some trees remained from the previous landscape of hedgerows. The cost of the work was £150 (£260,000 in 2015).

Creating a new lake

A new drive was laid out approaching the house from the south-west, and secondary drives or rides included a drive to the south-east which crosses the River Mimram over a bridge designed for Brand by architect Sir William Chambers (1723–96, Wikipedia) in around 1764 (and restored in 2004).

The river was dammed to form a broad ornamental lake, with a white lodge, Hoo Farm Lodge, at the southern end of the drive between the bridge and the public road. A walled garden, unrecorded before 1766, was situated in the north-east corner of the park. On the lower slopes near to the site of the former lake, an ice-house was built during the 18th century. Brown's improvements can be seen on the Dury and Andrews map of 1766 (view map online).

The Hoo today

The park contains a 17th century sweet chestnut avenue, lime and oak trees. Brown sited a single cedar of Lebanon – his signature tree – to frame the view, while in the distance the tower of St Paul’s Walden church draws the eye. Sweeping views east and north towards King’s Walden remain an attractive feature of the site.

The mansion at the Hoo, Kimpton was pulled down in 1958 and houses have been built on the site. Only the stable block, also designed by Chambers, is left standing. Much of the 120 hectare (297 acre) estate has now been returned to agricultural use.

Sources

Dury Andrews 1766 Map of Hertfordshire: www.duryandrewsmapofhertfordshire.co.uk

Hertfordshire Gardens Trust walk leaflet: www.hertsgardenstrust.org.uk/downloads/Kimpton-Hoo.pdf

Further information

Dorothy Stroud, Capability Brown, Faber & Faber, 1975 edition, page 71