Red squirrels at Wallington would be a familiar sight to the young Lancelot Brown as he walked several miles to school in the Wallington Estate village of Cambo each day from his home in nearby Kirkharle, and as much part of the landscape as the trees, lakes and streams he was later to manipulate to create the ideal of the English landscape we see in his work today.
- The walled garden © NT Images
- The Owl House and conservatory © NT Images
- Aerial view of Wallington © NT Images
- Wallington House © NT Images
Capability Brown advised Sir Walter Calverley Blackett about the walled garden at Wallington and may have designed the Owl House that now overlooks the East Wood.
From his boyhood years Brown would have been very familiar with the Wallington estate, which now extends to 13,000 acres (5,260 hectares) of park, woodland and pleasure grounds. He went to school in Cambo village, which lies 1.5 kilometres to the north. George Brown, his older brother, worked as a stone-mason for Sir Walter.
Despite his strong family connections with Wallington there are no records of Brown’s involvement in the improvements there during the 1760s. More is known about his designs for Rothley Park, 6 kilometres to the north-east, where Sir Walter planned to transform the rugged scenery with a new lake, buildings and eye-catchers or follies.
The L-shaped ornamental walled garden (listed Grade II*) at Wallington lies on sloping ground, 650 metres directly east of Wallington Hall. There had been an older walled garden on a site in the East Wood, where the Garden Pond is now. Even if Brown did not design this area, with its stone staircase and Neptune’s Gate, he may have advised Sir Walter in the 1760s about locating the garden away from the house.
Brown has been credited with designing the three-storey Owl House (listed Grade II). This is a brick gazebo with an external staircase, situated on the north side of the walled garden behind a 20th-century conservatory (listed Grade II). It gets its name from the stone owl that sits on top (left), representing the Calverley family crest. Owl House was probably built around 1766, when Sir Walter was remodelling the estate. Although there is no plan, this building does look similar to the one Brown is known to have designed at Talacre, Wales, though that was in stone.
Rothley pleasure grounds
During the 1760s, Brown was one of the designers who planned elements of the new pleasure grounds for Sir Walter at Rothley, part of the wider estate at Wallington. He drew up a masterplan and four other drawings for the Low Lake, a five-arch ‘sham’ bridge, banqueting house, coach house and circular garden. The High Lake, which had already been completed by 1769, has a serpentine shape and naturalistic landscaping that are typical of Brown, although it’s not known whether he designed it. The Low Lake was the only part of Brown’s scheme completed in Sir Walter’s lifetime.
Rothley Lake © NT Images
Wallington and the Trevelyan family
When Sir Walter died in 1777 the estate passed to his nephew, Sir John Trevelyan, whose main home was at Nettlecombe in Somerset. During the 1850s Sir Walter and Lady Pauline Calverley Trevelyan carried out work on the house, employing Newcastle architect John Dobson.
In 1941 Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, who had been an MP and cabinet minister, gave Wallington to the National Trust. The 17th-century Wallington House (listed Grade I) includes beautiful murals, ceramics and paintings. In the grounds, visitors can explore the Heritage Tree Trail and a number of other walks and trails. The Low Lake at Rothley is not accessible to the public, but you can enjoy the walled garden at Wallington, which is carpeted with thousands of crocuses in spring. There are also plans to develop the Owl House as a visitor attraction, as it offers fine views from the first floor across the walled garden.
Biodiversity at Wallington
Wallington has a variety of habitats including parkland and mixed woodland of both deciduous and coniferous trees. The River Wansbeck forms Wallington's southern boundary and is rich in wildlife, supporting our native White-clawed Crayfish and otters. Thanks to a major conservation project a significant population of rare Red Squirrels thrive in the woods at Wallington.
See below for a downloadable leafet with a map showing Brown's work at Wallington.
National Trust: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wallington
Particular thanks to Gillian Mason at Wallington and Nick Owen
Historic England: historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001054