|Langtons Gardens, including Fielders Sports Ground||Havering|
Langtons Gardens is the remains of a landscape garden of an C18th mansion built on the site of a C15th house. Parts of the C18th house and its garden walls, stable-block, orangery and gazebo survive. In the early C19th the gardens were remodelled by Humphry Repton for the Massu family who owned the property until 1850. From 1899 Mr Varco Williams, a prominent local citizen, lived here. In 1929 his daughter Elizabeth Parks gave it to Hornchurch UDC on condition that house and gardens were maintained and unaltered. The grounds opened as a public park and the house was used as Council offices until 1965, becoming the Registry Office for Havering Council in 1976. The walled kitchen garden was used for wartime allotments and underground shelters, but in 1947 became an extension of the park. From the late C18th Hornchurch Cricket Club played on a pitch in Langtons parkland, now known as Fielders Sports Ground.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2010
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Langtons Gardens is the remaining section of a landscape garden belonging to a small C18th mansion built c.1760 on the site of a C15th house known as Marchauntes. Although Langtons House was rebuilt in the C18th the name goes back further, being recorded as ‘Langedun’ in the mid C13th. The red-brick Georgian house had five storeys and three bays, with lower canted wings added later in the century. Chapman and Andre's map of 1777 shows the gardens extending to the High Street, with Raven's Bridge on the southern perimeter probably marking the course of the stream that later fed the canal. The canal itself is not shown. An orchard is shown on the north side of the garden. The stable-block, an orangery and a gazebo survive from the C18th, and parts of the C18th house and its garden walls also survive.
In the late C18th and early C19th the house belonged to the Massu family, Huguenot refugees who became wealthy silk merchants in the City of London. During this time the gardens were apparently remodelled for John Massu by Humphry Repton, as 'Langtons, Essex, Seat of J. Massu Esq.' was illustrated in Peacock's Polite Repository in 1805. For over 100 years from the late C18th and C19th the local Hornchurch Cricket Club played on a pitch in Langtons park, beating London and County clubs. In 1831 they played and drew with Middlesex Cricket Club at Lord’s but unfortunately lost the return match played at Langtons. John Massu died in 1807 and his widow remained at Langtons until her death in 1850 and the house was then sold to John Wagener, who lived there until 1891. A plan of the estate issued by the auctioneers in 1850 shows the house and gardens lying on the eastern side of a tranche of land, with fields to the north and the tree-dotted park to the south. On a plot to the south-east of the house stands Fairkytes, a C17th house that is still standing, also in Council ownership, now Havering Art Centre (q.v.). In 1876 Grey Towers, a crenulated house in 50 acres of parkland, was built by Colonel Henry Holmes on the western part of Langtons Park. A view at that time shows a few trees framing the edges of the lake, with open views between house and park across the lake; the O.S. map of 1871 shows a long curved tree-lined avenue laid out from the High Street across the park to the house. In 1891 Colonel Henry Holmes, who had built the house at Grey Towers, married John Wagener’s daughter and acquired Langtons, although he continued to live at Grey Towers until his death in 1913. He sold Langtons in 1899 to Mr Varco Williams, a prominent local citizen and Master of the Watermans Company, for whom the house was remodelled and the south front rebuilt in the early C20th. Varco's brother Arthur Williams later built Upminster Court (q.v.) in 1905. In 1929 Varco Williams’ daughter Mrs Elizabeth Fraser Parks gave the house to Hornchurch UDC on condition that both house and gardens were well maintained and kept unaltered. Mrs Parks died in 1968 and is buried in St Andrew's Churchyard, Hornchurch (q.v.). The Langtons grounds were opened as a public park and the house was used as Council offices from 1929-1965, becoming the Registry Office for Havering Council in 1976. The walled kitchen garden was used for wartime allotments and underground shelters, but in 1947 the Council decided to bring it into use as an extension of the park. The Council purchased the adjacent Fairkytes property in 1951 but this garden was not fully incorporated into Langtons due to the division wall between the properties. Bordering Langtons Gardens is Fielders Sports Ground, a field used for cricket and informal recreation.
The design of the gardens at Langtons retains its C18th and C19th format, although early C20th housing has been developed over the former open parkland to the south and west, and back-garden fences now impinge on the lake's perimeter walk on its southern side. The original red brick garden wall of the C18th/19th is preserved on the west side of the house, around the perimeter of the walled garden, to the east of the house and along the south-eastern bend of the lake. The remains of a shrubbery shown in the C19th survive in the north-eastern corner of the garden, but the trees and bushes have been thinned out and the lawn has been extended into this area. The screening shrubbery between the lake-head and walled garden shown on the sale plan of 1850 is still in place. Around the banks of the lake immature trees and bushes have been permitted to grow unchecked and have obscured the views of the water from the lawn in some places. The site of the former orchard to the north of the walled garden has been built over.
Peacock's Polite Repository for June 1805 gives a view of 'Langtons, Essex - Seat of J. Massu Esq.' after Repton showing the house viewed from the far bank of the lake, set between framing banks of trees, with sparse planting on the banks of the lake to keep the prospects open. It is not possible to confirm exactly which features of the gardens at Langtons formed part of Repton's improvements, but the C19th serpentine lake, the siting of some mature trees on the lawn outside the house, the construction of the gazebo, and the placing of the two belts of shrubbery that would have framed views of the house from the park and approach avenue are certainly in his manner and may be attributed to his advice to the owner, John Massu, before 1805.
To the south of the house a lawn with mature trees including oak, cedar, specimen conifers and ornamental beds slopes down to the serpentine lake overhung by trees at its margins, and stocked with ornamental wildfowl and terrapins. Nesting platforms have been constructed on the lake and a fountain installed opposite the house. To the east of the lake is a small brick gazebo and bath house with a canted front of three bays, C18th or early C19th, which affords views over the lake and acts as an eyecatcher from the house. West of the house is a glazed orangery constructed against the garden wall, late C18th, and the marks of another stove house constructed against the wall beyond. From here two winding paths diverge, one leading south through a shrubbery to the lake-head, the other leading west crossing a rose garden enclosed by a belt of shrubbery. On the western side of the garden the rectangular walled garden remains on its C18th site, now laid out with a herbaceous border on its northern side edged with box, a gravel perimeter walk and a central rectangular lawn with remains of nineteenth century-type bedding layouts, now grassed over. From the walled garden, the path returns past the lake head with a raised flower bed and remains of C19th rock-works to skirt the southern side of the lake and complete the perimeter circuit. A secluded area fenced off from the more open land is known as Langton's Park Wood and is a Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation; it may have been part of the grounds of an old house or estate and has mature ash and horse chestnut, the ground flora almost entirely of ivy; remnants of old flint and mortar wall and old brick wall are present.
G Carter et al. Humphry Repton Landscape Gardener 1752-1818, Catalogue UEA Norwich, 1982; Peacock's Polite Repository, June 1805; Brian Evans, Hornchurch and Upminster, 1990; C T Perfect Ye Olde Village of Hornchurch, 1917; Victoria County History of Essex v & vii; John Drury, 'Treasures of Havering' (Ian Henry Publications, 1998), p72