|Abbot family, Barons Colchester|
Kidbrooke Park, Sussex
|Kidbrooke Park from a view of c.1740 formerly attributed to George Lambert.|
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, B1981.25.396
Kidbrooke Park was built in 1733-36 for William Nevill, 16th Lord Bergavenny, on part of a medieval hunting park which he acquired in 1733. Until recently, it was thought that the house he built was a completely new construction, but research by Chris Whittick suggests that there was a house on the site from c.1655, and that a new south-facing triple-pile house was built c.1700 and remodelled to form the central block of the present east-facing house. A date of 1734 appears in the pediment on the entrance front and the stable clock is dated 1736. The house was first recorded in a painting of c.1740, which shows it consisted of a symmetrical five bay two storey main block with a pediment, linked to six bay two storey wings. The architect is unknown, although Roger Morris has been suggested on the basis of Nevill's kinship with the architect Earl of Pembroke, who employed Morris. It seems more likely, in view of the distinctive Vanbrughian arrangement of chimneystacks on the roof, which is rather reminiscent of Kings Weston (Glos), that the architect was someone, perhaps more provincial, who was as comfortable with the baroque style as the Palladian of the entrance front. The house was substantially unaltered when drawn by James Lambert in the 1780s, although a semi-circular bow which appears in his view of the north-east front (not illustrated) was probably an addition of the 1760s or 1770s. Despite the symmetrical appearance of the house when viewed from the east, the northern 'pavilion' in fact formed the eastern range of a northern service wing arranged around a courtyard. The southern wing (demolished between 1842 and 1875) was, by contrast, only one room deep.
|Kidbrooke Park in c.1780 by James Lambert. Image: British Library (Add MS. 5676/65).|
|Kidbrooke Park: the Vanbrughian chimneystacks on the 1734 block. © Nicholas Kingsley. All rights reserved.|
In the late 1780s the Nevill family restored their ancestral seat at Eridge Castle and let Kidbrooke on a succession of short tenancies while trying to sell it. In quite a short time the house seems to have become rather dilapidated, and in 1800 a prospective purchaser (who died before completing a sale) instructed Humphry Repton to prepare a scheme for modernising the house (which he intended to rename Michel Grove) and landscaping the park. Repton explained his proposals in his book, Observations on the theory and practice of landscape gardening, published in 1803. After Charles Abbot bought the estate in 1803, repairs were made to the house and offices, largely by the local East Grinstead builder, James Sanderson. Robert Mylne was also commissioned to make alterations to the house, although in the end nothing seems to have been done to his designs. Repton's proposals for the landscape were largely carried out (1803-06), together with some additional work on landscaping Hindleap Warren, which was added to the estate in 1809. It is not clear whether he prepared a Red Book for Kidbrooke, but if he did it has been lost. George Dance junior made further changes to the house in 1814-15, adding the Tuscan colonnade on the west side and throwing the two rooms behind it into one large library, although his decorative scheme for this room has since been replaced.
|Kidbrooke Park from the south, 1817, by Cornelius Varley (1781-1873)|
|View of Kidbrooke Park in 1809 from P. Amsinck and L. Byrne, Tunbridge Wells and its neighbourhood, 1810|
In 1842 the architect William Moseley made changes to the house and it was probably at this time that the south wing was demolished, and the original porch removed and replaced by one in a central position on the reduced facade. In the 1850s and 1860s the house was again let to a succession of tenants, and may again have become rather dilapidated. When it was sold in 1874 the new owner, Henry Freshfield, solicitor to the Bank of England, employed Frederick Pepys Cockerell to remodel the house again. He remodelled the north wing and created the present entrance under a tower feature linking this wing with the main block. He also radically altered the interior layout, moving the main staircase to its present position in the former courtyard of the north wing. A new kitchen and staff rooms were also added around a small internal courtyard.
When Henry Freshfield died in 1895, his son Douglas built himself a new house nearby at Wych Cross Place, with a garden by Gertrude Jekyll, and Kidbrooke was again let until it was sold to L.P. Kekewich in 1909. In 1921 Kidbrooke was acquired by the banker Olaf Hambro as a summer residence, and he employed Walter Godfrey to alter and restore the interior decoration of the house and lay out a new formal garden to the west. The Music Room has a plain Adam-style ceiling of this time, installed when the room was converted into a library. Godfrey also decorated the Long Room behind the west front, created by throwing two rooms together, in the Pompeian taste, with much dainty painting. The Hambros were keen gardeners and developed several new areas of the gardens; Godfrey's chief contribution was to construct the pergola backing onto the kitchen garden. In 1938 the house was sold to the Alliance Assurance Company which used it as offices during the Second World War. In 1945 it was sold to Michael Hall School, a Rudolf Steiner school formerly at Minehead in Somerset, which still owns it today. In the 1970s they began a partial reinstatement of the Repton landscape, with grant aid from East Sussex County Council.
|Kidbrooke Park: the south front c.1910, from an old postcard|
|Kidbrooke Park: the east front in 1912 from an old postcard|
Descent of the property: Sir Charles Wiseman (1676-1751), 4th bt. sold 1733 to William Nevill, 16th Lord Bergavenny (d. 1744); to son, George Nevill, 1st Earl of Abergavenny (1727-85); to Henry Nevill, 2nd Earl of Abergavenny (1755-1843); sold 1803 to Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester (1757-1829); to son, Admiral Charles Abbot, 2nd Baron Colchester (1798-1867); to son, Reginald Charles Edward Abbot, 3rd Baron Colchester (1842-1919), who let to Alexander Nesbett (fl. 1867) and George Fielder (fl. 1874); sold 1874 to Henry Ray Freshfield (1814-95), who initially let to George Scott (fl. 1881); to son, Douglas William Freshfield (1846-1934), who let and then sold 1909 to Lewes Pendarves Kekewich (d. 1948); sold 1916 to Sir James Horlick, 1st bt. (1848-1921); sold 1921 to Ronald Olaf Hambro (1885-1961); sold 1938 to Alliance Assurance Co.; sold 1945-46 in lots, with house and 145a. being bought by Michael Hall School (a Rudolph Steiner School), who remain the owners.
The Abbot family of Kidbrooke Park, Barons Colchester
Abbot, Rev. John (1717-60), DD. Son of John Abbot of Shaftesbury (Dorset) and his wife Margaret (née Cooper), baptised 4 September 1717. Educated at Balliol College, Oxford (BA 1738, MA 1741, BD 1754, DD 1755; fellow by 1740); ordained in the diocese of Oxford (deacon, 1740; priest, 1742); curate of Market Lavington (Wilts), 1749; rector of Riseholme (Lincs: a Balliol living), 1752-55; headmaster of Abingdon school, 1753-8; vicar of Abbotsley (Hunts), 1755-60; rector of All Saints, Colchester, 1753-60. Married 23 March 1755 at St Botolph without Bishopsgate, London, Sarah (c.1730-1809), daughter of Jonathan Farr of Moorfields, Middlesex, citizen and draper of London (who married 2ndly, 1760, Jeremy Bentham esq., father by a previous marriage of the author and political economist of the same name), and had issue:
(1) John Farr Abbot (1756-94), of Putney (Surrey) and Lincolns Inn; educated at the Inner Temple (admitted 1778); clerk of the rules in the Court of Kings Bench; Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, 1793; married, 13 July 1786 at Finchley (Middx), Mary Pearce (d. 1793, Naples), granddaughter of William Pearce, but died without issue, 22 September 1794 and was buried in York Minster; will proved 1 October 1794;
(2) Charles Abbot (1757-1829), 1st Baron Colchester (q.v.).
He repaired and enlarged All Saints rectory in Chichester in 1759.
He died 29 April or 21 October 1760, and is commemorated by a grave slab in the chancel of All Saints, Colchester (now a museum). His widow died 27 September 1809.
1st Baron Colchester
(1) The Hon. Charles Abbot (1798-1867), 2nd Baron Colchester (q.v.);
(2) The Hon. Philip Henry Abbot (1802-35), born 10 June 1802; educated at Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1818; BA 1822; MA 1825; BCL 1828; fellow, 1820-30) and Lincolns Inn; barrister; Recorder of Monmouth; married, 31 December 1829, Frances Cecil (d. 1855), daughter of the Very Rev. Charles Talbot, Dean of Salisbury, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Somerset, and had issue one son and one daughter; buried at All Souls, Kensal Green, 15 January 1835.
In 1802 he undertook improvements in the Speaker’s House at Westminster and in 1803 purchased Kidbrooke Park (Sussex) for £15,375; the surveyor and architect William Inwood was at one time his steward.
He died at Spring Gardens, Whitehall, 8 May 1829 and was buried on 14 May in the north transept of Westminister Abbey.
|Charles Abbot, |
2nd Baron Colchester
(1) The Hon. Reginald Charles Edward Abbot (1842-1919), later 3rd Baron Colchester (q.v.).
He inherited Kidbrooke Park from his father in 1829, and carried out alterations in 1842.
He died at 34 Berkeley Square, London, 18 October 1867, aged 69.
|Reginald Abbot, |
3rd Baron Colchester
He inherited Kidbrooke Park from his father in 1867 but sold it in 1874 and thereafter seems to have lived mainly in London.
He died 26 February 1919, aged 77, when the barony became extinct.
SourcesBurke's Peerage and Baronetage, 1914; S. Brabent, 'Eastern Sussex landscape parks', Garden History, 1989; J. Byford, 'Kidbrooke: the first 800 years', Michael Hall News, 1997; N. Antram & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Sussex - East, 2013, pp. 495-97; D. & B. Martin, An archaeological interpretative survey of Kidbrooke Park, 2004; http://www.theweald.org/P2.asp?PId=Fw.Kidbrk;
Location of archives
Abbot family, Barons Colchester: estate records, personal and official papers of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Barons Colchester, 1613-1919 [The National Archives, PRO30/9];
Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester (1757-1829), speaker of House of Commons: legal notebooks and papers, n.d. [Lincolns Inn Library, Misc 102-132], records of Parliamentary procedure and precedent, c.1780-1820 [Parliamentary Archives HL/PO/RO/1/192], travel journals, 1815, 1827 [National Library of Scotland MS.9815-9816];
Reginald Charles Edward Abbot, 3rd Baron Colchester (1842-1919): addnl corresp and papers, 1859-1916 [The National Archives, PRO30/12]
Coat of arms
Gules, on a chevron, between three pears, or, as many crosses raguly, azure, within a tressure, flory, of the second.
Revision & Acknowledgements
This page was first published on 20 February 2013, and revised 5 November 2014 and 25 June 2018. I am most grateful to David Martin and Chris Whittick for help with this entry.