London Gardens Online
London Gardens Online


Stubbers Adventure Centre (including Walled Garden) Havering


Stubbers Adventure Centre is on a site whose history is documented from 1334, and is named after C15th owner William Stubbers. It is famous as the home of botanist William Coys from 1580-1627, where he cultivated many species in his walled gardens and established one of the earliest plant collections recorded in England. In 1689 the estate was acquired by Sir William Russell, whose family held it until 1947. He enlarged the C16th house and developed the estate; the grounds later re-landscaped by Humphry Repton. In 1947 Essex Education Committee bought the estate initially for a youth campsite; it later transferred to the GLC then LB Havering. A C16th lime walk was felled in c.1954, the house demolished in 1960, and the Fish Pond enlarged in 1970 as a canoeing lake. Excavation in the 1970s revealed foundation walls of Repton’s garden and pavilion. One of the walled gardens survives, with remnants of C18th walls, entrance gates and brick piers, together with adjoining crinkle crankle south wall.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Stubbers Outdoor Pursuits Centre

Site location:
Ockendon Road/North Ockendon Road

RM14 2TY ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Garden Feature Remnants

C16th; C18th; C20th

William Coys (C17th); Humphry Repton (C18th)

Listed structures:
LBII: C18th Garden Walls, entrance gate to former Stubbers House


Site ownership:
LB Havering leased to Essex Association of Boys' and Girls' Clubs

Site management:
Essex Association of Boys' and Girls' Clubs

Open to public?

Opening times:
Daily 9am - 5pm. Ask at reception to visit Walled Garden

Special conditions:
Stubbers is a working residential youth activity centre, as such access to some areas is restricted and the site may be closed for specific events.

Numerous land and water educational & recreational facilities; The Source Coffee shop (quality hot drinks and snacks).

Numerous activities

Public transport:
Rail/Tube: Upminster (District) then bus. Bus: 370.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:
51.2 (walled garden: 0.3)

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

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:

In Conservation Area:

Tree Preservation Order:
Not known

Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:
Yes - Thames Chase Community Forest

Other LA designation:

Fuller information

Stubbers’ history is documented as early as 1334, the name coming from William Stubbers, a yeoman farmer who acquired the estate in 1439 and held it until his death in 1484. Subsequent owners included a wealthy merchant, Mr Cathemayde, when it was a 65-acre estate with a mansion house, the Davy family and then the Warrens who owned the estate until 1563 when a wealthy Welshman, Roger Coys, bought the land from his brother-in-law for £320. His son William Coys is famous for his botanical endeavours and his gardens at Stubbers, with one of the earliest plant collections recorded in England, specimens from which were later taken when Kew Gardens was set up. Coys lived at Stubbers from 1580 to his death in 1627 and he cultivated many species in five or six walled gardens. These included numerous exotic species from abroad, many of which had never bloomed in England before, such as the Yucca Gloria and the ivy-leaved toadflax. The papers of the Hampshire botanist, John Goodyer, bequeathed to Magdalen College in Oxford, reveal that he visited Coys in 1616 and 1620 and received many cuttings and seeds, which he transplanted to his own garden. Together Goodyer and Coys made the first complete English Garden list, with all plants scientifically described. In 1605 William Coys supplied a detailed study on the culture of yeast plants and methods of brewing hops to Mathias Lobel, a famous brewer of the time. Beer in England was then brewed using malt and water but not hops, the result referred to as ‘wort’ beer. Coys’ discovery led to the transformation of English beer to that using barley and hops.

In 1642 the Coys family sold the land and property for £2,000 to Bernard Hale, later Master of Peterhouse. In 1660 the estate was acquired by Sir Benjamin Wright of Cranham Hall (q.v.), who then sold it in 1689 for £2,500 to Sir William Russell, a London draper and an acquaintance of William Pitt and Samuel Pepys. The Russell family remained the proprietors until 1947 when the Essex Education Committee bought them out, initially for a youth camp site. Ownership subsequently transferred to the Greater London Council in c.1960, and then to the London Borough of Havering in 1965 who used part of the land for an outdoor education centre until 1995, leasing part of the land for gravel extraction. In 1996 the site was leased to Essex Association of Boys' Clubs who set up Stubbers Adventure Centre Ltd.

Sir William had enlarged the C16th house and significantly developed the estate to be more in keeping with a man of his means. It consisted of ‘4 messuanges, 4 gardens, 4 orchards, 150 acres of land, 40 acres of meadow, 70 acres of pasture, 30 acres of woodland and 30 acres of heathland’. The house had a ¾ acre walled garden to the east and south, and a lime tree walk running along the south. A C16th timber framed barn of 5 bays stood near the house until it was demolished in 1975, but its stone carved lintel is now in the Passmore Edwards Museum in Stratford, east London. William Coys’ walled gardens survived until c.1796 when the grounds were re-landscaped for William Russell by Humphry Repton, whose Red Book for Stubbers of 1796 survives, albeit damaged, at the University of Essex Library. Repton suggested a pavilion closing a vista from the house, new planting, the introduction of a Ha-Ha, the re-siting of Stubbers Lane at a greater distance from the house and the addition of Greek statues and urns to the gardens. The site of a disused ice house is marked on the OS Map of Essex south east of the house.

In 1923 the house was in good condition but unfortunately by 1954 it had fallen into decay and in 1960 it was demolished. Coys’ C16th lime tree walk was felled in c.1954 and the fish pond was enlarged n 1970 as a canoeing lake. The site of the house was excavated in 1972 and when gravel extraction work took place on the land to the rear of the house in 1972-82, the foundation walls of Repton’s garden and his pavilion were revealed and removed. An C18th garden wall, entrance gates and brick piers survive, together with a south wall of East Anglian crinkle crankle type and the fields formerly in front of the house.

The site now extends to c.140 acres and includes the ponds formed from gravel extraction works now forming 2 large lakes used for water sports, the sailing lake named Russell's Lake and Coy's [sic] lake used for motor sport. Much of the southern part retains its original boundary of decaying oaks with much dead wood and a range of shrubby species including wild service. In the north the grassland, now a camp site, appears to be quite old and may have once been the lawn of the original property. Stubbers Adventure Centre continues to provide an important educational and recreational facility used mainly by schools, youth groups and voluntary organisations.

The historic walled garden is an important survivor of the earlier layout. A joint project for its preservation was set up by Stubbers and Thames Chase, and the Friends of Stubbers Walled Garden formed, which had been instigated in 1985 by two local botanists, Veronica Smith and Jane Wrighton. Their aim was to create a representative Elizabethan garden reflecting the dedication and imagination of William Coys. However, this did not eventually get realised and the garden was subsequently used as a family-run Hawk and Owl Sanctuary. It is currently unused.

Sources consulted:

George Carter et al, Humphry Repton Landscape Gardener 1752-1818, Catalogue UEA, Norwich 1982; V Body, 'Stubbers: A Short History' 1989; R G Smith, 'Stubbers: The Walled Garden' booklet 1989; Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames except the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton 1972); Barbara Simms, 'Stubbers, North Ockendon Essex' Architectural Association thesis (unpublished), December 1999;

Page Top

Discover. Visit. Research. Explore.