|Vale Mascal and Gothic Bath House||Bexley|
Vale Mascal was built as the Dower House for the Mount Mascal Estate in 1746, the grounds stretching along the river Cray from Woolett Hall almost to Bexley village. The gardens may have been laid out by Lancelot Brown who worked at North Cray Place in 1782. The river was treated with great ingenuity, with lakes, cascades and weirs. The Gothic Bath House was built on one of these channels and housed a cold plunge bath. Vale Mascal and the Bath House are now in separate private ownership following the break up of the estate in 1935.
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Vale Mascal was built by Thomas Tash as the Dower House for Mount Mascal in 1746. The house was on land forming part of Mount Mascal Estate, then owned by Sir John Barker. It passed by will to George Richard Savage Nassau, but was bought in 1782 by John Madocks for his son John E. Madocks, thus returning to the Mount Mascall estate. It is mentioned in Hasted 1778 and C. Greenwood 1838. In 1794 it was let to Sir Frances Burdett. After J.E. Madocks' death in 1806 the estate began to deteriorate. In the mid - late Victorian period the Revd John Egerton and his son the Revd Philip Reginald Egerton took a great interest in house and garden. The property was sold by auction in 1911, and finally split up in 1935. Parts of the grounds including the Gothic Bath House now belong to various houses built along North Cray Road.
The grounds (originally 30 acres) were probably laid out between 1760 -1775 and stretched along the Cray from Wollett Hall (see Loring Hall q.v.) almost to Bexley village. It is not known for sure who laid out the gardens but it may have been Lancelot 'Capability' Brown or one of disciples, such as Nathanial Richmond. Brown worked at North Cray Place in 1782 and Richmond was at Danson (q.v.) in 1760/61; various details on all three estates are similar. The main element of Vale Mascal was the imaginative use of the River Cray, the creation of lakes, the building of cascades and weirs and the formation of islands. Channels and sub channels gave the river an abraded appearance as it flowed around the islands thus created. It was on one of these channels that the Bath House, which housed a cold water plunge bath, was built in 1766. Its construction involved hydraulic ingenuity using sluice gates to achieve a satisfactory inflow and discharge of water through the building. The Gothic style bath house is flint with a brick edging and has a cruciform gable roof with chimney stack at the west. It was repaired and restored at the end of the C19th and again by Robert Cooper in the early C20th.
Vale Mascal and the Bath House are now in separate ownership following the break up of the estate in 1935. Vale Mascal House retains 5 acres of landscape gardens with the River Cray running through, green lawns sloping down to the river. The house and gardens have been maintained and improved by the owners over the last fifty years. To the south there remains extensive rockwork and a Grotto thought to be c.1920. The original specimen trees have gone but new planting and background trees give seclusion. C20th bridges built by the present owner and his father connect the garden to the island, on which there is a C19th summer house. The gardens still form a fine setting for the somewhat reduced house (Vale Mascall). It is still possible to see the extent of this property at the backs of neighbouring houses and the Brooksby Angling & Bowls Club.
The Bath House, now at the rear of suburban housing, became covered in ivy and following 1987 storm damage it was fully restored in 1990 to its C18th appearance, funded by English Heritage with contributions from Bexley Council’s Heritage Fund. The Bath House is now on another island but the land formation has been altered over the years.
Vale Mascal Auction particulars 1911 ( Bexley Local studies Library); J. Caiger Archaeologia Cantiana Vol 82 pp 227-234 1967; N. Caiger Bexley libraries & Museums leaflet 1977; R. Gray 'The Gothic Bath House at 112 North Cray Road' 1993; For Bath House: Web site www. bexley.gov.uk/visitingplaces