|Charlton House Grounds||Greenwich|
Charlton retains a village character with its old parish church and former manor house. Charlton House, a fine example of Jacobean domestic architecture, was built in the early 17th for Sir Adam Newton on the site of an earlier manor house, and survives with remnants of its formal gardens and C17th summerhouse. From 1767 - 1925 it was owned by the Maryon Wilson family, who then gave it to Greenwich Borough Council, and the house was used as a library and a community centre, the stables becoming an area housing office. The walled gardens have been planted as a series of gardens and some of the original parkland remains as Charlton Park, which is separated from Charlton House Grounds by a C19th ha-ha. The village green where the annual Hornfair was held was adjacent to the house until it was enclosed in 1829.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2015
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Photo: Colin Wing
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Excavations have revealed that there was a settlement in Charlton during the time of the Roman occupation (now the site of Maryon Park q.v.), and Charlton was known as Cerletone at the time of the Domesday Survey. Charlton retains its village character with the parish church of St Luke's (q.v.), and manor house, Charlton House, which still survives with remnants of its formal gardens. Prior to the dissolution of the monasteries the manor had been owned by Bermondsey Abbey but was then in secular hands, and was purchased in the early C17th by Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales, son of James I. Newton built a new mansion on the site of an older building in c1607-12, and Charlton House, probably designed by John Thorpe for Newton, has been described as "the only Jacobean mansion of the first order remaining in the precincts of London" (Pevsner). Some of the original parkland remains as Charlton Park (q.v.).
After Newton's death in 1630 the estate passed to his son and later owners included Sir William Duice who repaired the house in 1659; Sir William Langthorne, an East India merchant, lived there from 1680. A map of 1745 shows the property's landscape with three avenues laid out from west to east in the park and a sequence of parterres by the house. The northern edge of the estate was bounded by Hanging Wood. In 1767 the Maryon Wilson family acquired the property, and remained the owners until 1925; Norman Shaw restored and made minor additions to the house for them in 1877/78.
In 1925 the Maryon Wilson family gave Charlton House to Greenwich Borough Council and from 1926 the house has been used as a library (closed in 1991) and a community centre, and the stables as an area housing office. The north wing of the house was destroyed during World War II and has been rebuilt. North-west of the house is a handsome Summer House of c.1630, a square brick structure with Tuscan pilasters and a concave roof, traditionally attributed to Inigo Jones although it has also been attributed to Nicholas Stone. The road to Woolwich was built through this part of the grounds and as a result part of the stone steps of the summer house were destroyed. A Roman stone chest imported in the C19th is located in the grounds to the north-east of the house. To the rear of the house is a paved courtyard with 2 brick archways, and other remnants of the former gardens are found to the south-east of the house, two walled gardens and a flower garden along a formal vista. The gateway of 1612, restored in the C19th, is on the original boundary of the grounds before the enclosure of the village green took place in 1829. A fair is held in the grounds of Charlton House, a revival of Hornfair, at one time held on the village green.
In the grounds is an ancient mulberry tree, contemporary with the house, which is reputedly the oldest in Britain. The planting of mulberry trees took place at that time following the example of James I who planted a mulberry orchard outside St James's Park to encourage the silk industry in England. There was once a nettle tree, but this has since been removed having become rotten.
The walled gardens have now been planted as a series of gardens. The Peace Garden was opened in July 2006 in conjunction with Amnesty International. Designed to 'take harmony as its central theme', the planting was based on cool, soft, reflective colours, in order to create a relaxed and tranquil environment. The central bed was planted with Russian sage, and there are two large pomegranate shrubs either side of the gateway. The centrepiece is ‘Portage', a sculpture of a woman carrying aloft a canoe, which represents a means of travel traditionally used by Indians in Canada. The Pond Garden, so called as it used to contain a central pond, was laid out in the 1950s and has an abundance of grasses and flax and geometric path design. The adjoining Sensory Garden is within a secluded courtyard lined with plants that stimulate the senses. The Herbaceous Garden also leads from the Pond Garden and in the summer months attracts dragonflies and butterflies. Charlton House is part of Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust and serves a variety of uses, as a community centre for a diverse range of local special interest groups and also as a venue for weddings and other private events.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999, p249-51; Spurgeon, D, Discover Greenwich and Charlton, 1991 p171; Robert and Celia Godley, 'Greenwich: A history of Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton, Deptford and Woolwich', 1999; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); K D Clark, 'Greenwich and Woolwich in Old Photographs' (Alan Sutton) 1990; The History of Charlton House, information sheet available in The Mulberry Tea Rooms