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Dagnam Park, including Hatters Wood Havering
   
Summary: The manor of Dagenhams and Cockerels comprised 2 adjoining tenements, which after a complex history passed to the Earl of Northumberland in the C14th. The name Dagnams or Dagnam came into use in the C18th. Sold several times over the years, the manor was purchased in 1772 by Sir Richard Neave, who rebuilt the house and sought Humphry Repton's advice on landscaping the grounds. It remained in his family until 1948 when the house and 500 acres around Dagnam Park were sold to the LCC to build the Harold Hill Estate, Dagnam Park itself retained as a public park. Dagnam house was demolished in 1948 as was Cockerels house to the south, known as Dagnam Park Farm in the C19th and standing outside a moated site, part of the moat surviving today. The public park preserves its C18th boundaries, together with some of the landscaped features, specimen trees and ponds; a curving track that crosses the park follows the line of the C18th drive. Hatters Wood, Havering's largest woodland, is now within the public park.
Previous / Other name: Dagnams
Site location: Dagnam Park Drive/Settle Road, Harold Hill
Postcode: RM3 > Google Map
Type of site: Public Park; Garden Feature Remnants
Date(s): C18th; C20th
Designer(s): Humphry Repton
Listed structures: Scheduled Ancient Monument: Moated Site at Dagnam Park Farm
Borough: Havering
Site ownership: LB Havering
Site management: Parks and Open Spaces; The Friends of Dagnam Park
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: 8am - dusk (unrestricted)
Special conditions:
Facilities: Fishing; car park
Events:
Public transport: Rail: Harold Wood. Bus: 174, 374, 496.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2007
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.havering.gov.uk

Fuller information:

Dagnam Park lies on a high hilly site between Harold Hill and Noak Hill, and slightly to the east, to the north of the A12, with the M25 passing close to its north and east sides. To the south west is the densely populated Harold Hill Estate (q.v.). Hatters Wood and Duck Wood (q.v.), to the south west and south east respectively, are shown adjoining Dagnam Park on Chapman and Andre's map of 1777. Hatters Wood, Havering's largest woodland, is now within the public park and has existed with the same name since at least 1293 when it was probably larger.

In the mid C18th, the main approach to the park was from the south via a tree-lined drive; roughly following the line of the present approach, via the southern section of Dagnam Park Drive, and Settle Road now flanked by two local authority-run schools and their playing fields. This approach terminates in an asphalted car park adjacent to derelict tennis courts. A curving grassy track to the north-east crosses the park, following the line of the drive in the C18th and C19th, and passing the site of the C18th house, situated on the north-western side of the park.

The manor of Dagenhams and Cockerels comprised two adjoining tenements apparently held in the early C13th by John of Weald. After a complex history the manor passed in the C14th to Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. In the C15th it reverted to the Crown and was then regained by the Percy family. The manor was sold several times, and acquired in 1749 by Henry Muilman. In 1772 he sold Dagenhams and Cockerels to Richard Neave, a West India merchant who was made a baronet in 1795. The manor descended with the baronetcy until 1948, when Sir Arundell Neave sold the remaining 500 acres of land around Dagnam Park with the house to the London County Council (LCC). Part of this land was used for the building of the Harold Hill Estate (1948-58), along with a further 850 acres purchased by the LCC, most of which had belonged to the Neaves before 1919. The LCC proposals for Dagnam Park included accommodation for 30,000 people and 367 acres for Green Belt plus 74 acres for public parks, recreation grounds, woodlands and other amenities. The name of Dagnams or Dagnam rather than Dagenhams came into use in the C18th.

Dagenhams was listed as an important seat in the C16th, and in 1633 it was depicted as a gabled house built around a courtyard within a square moat, with an approach avenue on the west side. The house was rebuilt c.1660, at which time it was visited by Pepys who described the manor in eulogistic terms. A map of 1748 shows the house standing in formal gardens, surrounded by fields, with the kitchen garden to the east and the fenced park on its south side. An approach road leads through the park, and there are ponds to the south and west of the house and five ponds on the eastern side, close to the paddock. The timber on the estate at Dagnams was valued at £2,456 13s 00d in 1748. After alterations and enlargements in the C18th this house was demolished and rebuilt c.1772 by Sir Richard Neave. The new house was of brick, with three storeys and nine bays, the three central bays being bowed. A view of the house in 1890 (Bamford) shows the south front with a basement podium and steps descending to a lawn planted with many specimen trees, and the pond beyond, now informal and overgrown. During World War II the army occupied the estate, and the house was demolished in c.1948.

Cockerels house was about 800 yards south of Dagnams, a substantial house in the C17th standing outside a moated site which was by then an orchard. In the C19th it became known as Dagnam Park Farm, and it was demolished c.1948. The rectangular moat of 10-20 yards in width filled with water survives adjacent to the school to the west of Settle Road.

Chapman and Andre's map of 1777 shows Dagnam Park with four copses aligned on the approach drive, and a lesser avenue of trees creating a vista to the west of the house. To the south of this lesser avenue is a circular pool, and formal or kitchen gardens lie on the eastern, opposite side of the drive, close to the house. Another pond is shown standing immediately to the south of the house. The siting of the ponds and kitchen gardens remained unchanged from the earlier C18th.

Repton's first recorded visit to the site was before 1802. He made at least three professional visits to Dagnams c.1816, for which he received a payment of 20 guineas, but there is no reference to a Red Book having been produced for Dagnams. Writing in 'Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening' published in 1816, Repton described his solution for improving a large circular pool at Dagenhams in Essex, almost certainly the cattle pond to the south west of the house, and illustrated this with a before and after view. The pool was 'circular, with naked banks, from which the cattle are excluded by a hurdle', creating an unsightly view and reflecting only the sky and its fence. Repton proposed fencing the opposite bank of the pool so that dark foliage could grow there and overhang the water creating reflections, and continuing the fence below the water's surface to create a small area with a gravel or paved bank where the cattle could enter the water, to give a more picturesque effect. The pond was thus made 'an ornamental part of the dressed ground near the house.'

Peacock's Polite Repository for February 1802 gives a view of 'Dagnams, Essex - Seat of Sir Richard Neave. Bart.' after Repton, showing the house framed between banks of trees at the end of a curve in the drive, with large ancient oaks in the foreground.

The present public park preserves its C18th boundaries, together with one of the landscaped copses marked on Chapman and Andre's map of 1777 and the remains of a second. Some specimen trees including mature conifers, horse chestnut and cedar survive close to the site of the C18th house. A stand of trees remains along the line of the avenue on the west side of the house, now much overgrown. The rectangular or oval pool or basin standing to the south of the house on Chapman and Andre's map survives as a naturalised pond with grassy banks and dense foliage on its eastern and western sides, much as it appears in Bamford's view of the house in 1890. The site of the house itself is overgrown, but a line of yew trees survives in woodland to the north of the pond, close to the spot where C19th cast-iron gateposts flank the former drive. A stone terrace or curb runs beside the path on the west side at this point. On the eastern side of the drive close to the site of the kitchen gardens are C2Oth cement footings, probably dating from the period of occupation by the army or from more recent farming activity, amongst dense undergrowth and holly bushes. The cattle pond improved by Repton c.1802 survives, with a plantation on its western side which may also be part of Repton's work, including some specimen conifers, now much overgrown. On either side of the former drive is open grassland, maintained as short, well-kept turf. The boundaries of the park are ringed by woodland, as they were in the C18th and C19th. Some of the large oaks that lined the former approach to the park survive along the route of Dagnam Park Drive.

Although the house and formal gardens at Dagnams have disappeared, the general layout of the park as shown in 1777 is hardly changed. The woods listed in the Timber Valuation of 1748 - Cockerels Wood, Hatters Wood and Duck Wood (q.v.) - are still extant, and the high value of their timber then may indicate that forestry as recommended by Stephen Switzer and practised in the C18th on large estates such as Longleat and Cirencester was most significant in shaping the landscape at Dagnams. Repton's remarks made in 'Fragments' in 1816 indicate that the wooded park, grazed by cattle, was still the most significant feature of the landscape at Dagnams in the C19th: 'the landscape consists of a park, wooded sufficiently, and the distance presents a pleasing offskip; but the most conspicuous feature is a large circular pond, or pool, with naked banks, from which the cattle are excluded by a hurdle...,' so that the loss of the house and its garden is perhaps a less considerable matter for this particular site.

Sources consulted:

G Carter et al, 'Humphry Repton Landscape Gardener 1752-1818', Catalogue UEA Norwich 1982; D W Collier 'The People's History of Essex', 1861; P Morant, 'History of Essex' vol I, 1816; Humphry Repton, 'Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape', 1816, (xxxi); Peacock's Polite Repository, Feb 1802; A B Bamford, 'Sketches in the Liberty of Havering', 1890; Brian Lingham 'The History of Harold Hill and Noak Hill', 1969; John Drury, 'Treasures of Havering', Ian Henry Publications, 1998. Also see www.friendsofdagnampark.org.uk
Grid ref: TQ550930 / TQ547927
Size in hectares: 30 DagnamPark+8.5 Hatters Wood
   
On EH National Register : No
EH grade:
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
No
 
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List: Yes
In Conservation Area: No
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order: Not known
Nature Conservation Area: Yes - Metropolitan Importance (with Hatters Wood)
Green Belt: Yes
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: Yes - Countryside Conservation Area; Havering Ridge Area of Special Character
Other LA designation:
   

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