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Easton Lodge Gardens, Essex

Easton Lodge by Barbara Ballard Easton Lodge gardens and estate date from Tudor days. They were given as a reward by Elizabeth I to Henry Maynard, who was her treasurer and also private secretary to the lord chancellor.

Easton Lodge peacock by Barbara Ballard In 1590 the estate, known as the manor of Estaines, consisted of 10,000 acres. There was a deer park and hunting lodge (dating from 1302 and known as Easton Lodge) in the grounds. Maynard replaced the lodge in 1597 with a grander mansion. Jacobean wings were added by his son, William. William also turned the hunting ground into a formal French style park of 1000 acres.

In 1847, most of the Elizabethan part of the mansion was destroyed by fire, thought to have been caused by a candle or hot coal. It was rebuilt in Victorian Gothic style by architect Thomas Hopper.

Easton Lodge lawn by Barbara Ballard In 1865 Frances ‘Daisy’ Maynard inherited the estate of Easton Lodge at the age of three. Rich (her annual income in today’s terms would be £7 million) and beautiful, she had many suitors that included Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria. However, she married his friend, Lord Brooke, who became Earl of Warwick. Thus, Daisy was Countess of Warwick. The earl and countess were part of the Marlborough House set and entertained at both Easton and Warwick castle.

However, in 1895, Daisy completely switched her focus and became a socialist. This was the result of heavy criticism from Robert Blatchford, editor of the left-wing paper, The Clarion. She went on to support many educational causes for women. By the end of the 1800s she lived in a cottage, Stone Hall, at the far side of the deer park, and her money was quickly dwindling. She wrote a number of books, one of which was about her four acre garden at Stone Hall. The garden was designed in a formal and brightly coloured style. The sections were named the garden of Friendship, the border of Sentiment, the Rosarie, Shakespeare’s Border, the Scripture garden, and the Rock garden.

Easton Lodge flowers by Barbara Ballard In 1902 countess Daisy commissioned Harold Peto to redesign the gardens. He was the son of Sir Morton Peto, the engineer and railway magnate, and had spent his childhood at Somerleyton Hall on the Suffolk coast, where the gardens were by Victorian designer William Nesfield. Peto, who designed many outstanding Edwardian gardens in England, specialized in Italianate and French design. At Easton Lodge he created formal lawns, a yew walk, wooden pergolas, a Japanese garden with a tea house on a lake, and a ‘pleached’ lime avenue with a tree-house. The pond became a sunken Italian garden with a lily pool. Balustrades, stone columns, capitols, and terraces were added. Originally the garden covered 35 acres.

In 1918 a fire damaged the Jacobean wings of the house, but it was rebuilt by the Countess. One of the Countess’ pet monkeys is thought to have caused the fire. Large parts of the estate were auctioned in 1919/20 following upon parts already sold in the 1890s. When she became a widow in 1924, she moved into the west wing. She died in 1938, short of money and left behind her 27 dogs, bird aviaries, 200 red and fallow deer, 900 St Kilda sheep, and Shetland ponies.

Easton Lodge Peto pavillion by Barbara Ballard Her son Maynard Greville inherited, but left the garden and estate to decay. In 1939 the army and home guard took over, cut down thousands of trees, built an airfield, and the air force used the buildings as a dormitory. They stayed until 1950 when the estate was returned to its rightful owner Maynard Greville. He demolished the Victorian mansion and planted silver birch on the foundations, created an arboretum in the gardens, and gave the lakes to a fishing club.

Easton Lodge Italian garden by Barbara Ballard The estate and gardens were then owned by his daughter, and eventually in 1971 Brian & Diana Creasey arrived to live in the west wing. They spent the ensuing 20 years creating a garden around the west wing and restoring and re-designing parts of the original gardens. In 2003, The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust was formed, and it became a registered charity in 2004. The gardens are now Grade II registered by English Heritage.

Garden Sections to Enjoy

Shelley Pavilion: ruin of a summer house moved from Maresfield Park in Sussex.
Glade: once the Japanese garden
Italian garden: 100 foot balustraded pool
Peto pavilion: 1920s copy of his style, garden from 1996
Terrace beds: Peto design redone in 1995
Warwick House: originally the Jacobean west wing, rebuilt after the fire
Bosquet: wooded area with snowdrops and aconites, daffodils and wild flowers
Sundial: replica of 1890 one; flower bed border includes all plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets

Visitor Information

Easton Lodge Gardens
Little Easton
On minor road, off B184 near Great Dunmow, Essex
Tel. 0 1371 876 979
Open: See garden website for exact public opening days and times
Historic Houses Association member; cream teas available on open days
Web: Easton Lodge Gardens

Recommended (from personal experience) eating spot near the gardens: The Swan at Great Easton, The Endway, Great Easton, Dunmow; Tel 01371 870359; 15th century freehouse inn and restaurant; all meals are homemade, fresh and prepared to order; also a 4 star Enjoy England accommodation.

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