|Upminster Court Gardens *||Havering|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Upminster Court was built in 1904, prior to which the land was within the Upminster Hall Estate. It was let by the Estate Trustees to Arthur Williams, who commissioned Charles Reilly to design his new house. The gardens continue the Anglo-French theme of the house with organised English-style garden 'rooms' overlaid with a more formal French discipline of paths and vistas. Other features in the grounds included a walled Italian garden, bowling and croquet lawns, and kitchen garden. The Williams family lived here until the late 1920s after which the house was used for offices, later a refugee centre, and in 1946 was purchased with 22 acres by Essex County Council. In 1965 ownership transferred to LB Havering and it opened in 1972 as a respite centre with a borough nursery in the gardens. From 1993-2005 the house was used as the council's Staff Training and Development Centre. In 2007 it was purchased by Uniserve Group.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2010
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.uniservegroup.co.uk
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.
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Prior to 1904 the land had been part of the Upminster Hall Estate, which was owned by the Branhill family at the end of the C19th; a tithe map of 1841 shows 2 fields with 2 small woodland belts on the boundaries and a pair of small cottages along Harold Wood Road. In 1904 the Trustees of the Upminster Hall Estate let the land to Arthur Williams, an engineer and industrialist whose father ran a successful local shipping and coal merchant business, Samuel Williams & Sons of Dagenham Dock. Arthur's brother Varco Williams had purchased Langtons (q.v.) in Hornchurch in 1899. Arthur commissioned the architect Sir Charles Reilly to design his new house, which was built of locally made bricks. Reilly was also a local resident, living in High House, Corbets Tey. The style of its buildings and architectural plan is a blending of English and French classical sources. The red brick and stone house is approached through ornamental gates leading to a drive between lawns edged with pollarded limes. To the north is the stable block also designed by Reilly.
The gardens were laid out between 1904 and 1906 at the same time as Upminster Court was built, and surrounded the house on all sides. The design was in all probability also by Charles Reilly, or by his friend garden designer Reginald Blomfield, as the grounds formed an intrinsic part of the overall design of the site, continuing the Anglo-French theme with an extensive area of organised garden 'rooms' in the English style overlaid with the more formal French discipline of paths and vistas relating to the adjacent River Ingrebourne Valley. The area between the house and the eastern boundary had two lawns edged by pollarded limes along the drives and a number of mature trees; in the southern lawn a rock and water garden was later laid out post-1945 in a World War II bomb crater. To the south the house led onto a small Italianate garden enclosed by high red brick walls surmounted by pineapple finials, which by the late C20th consisted of a lawn and a central lily pond; originally this garden had a path leading from the house to the south boundary wall. This Italian garden was visible from the drawing room, and was entered by a fine ornamental gate, the work of the apprentice blacksmith at Upminster Court. The ashes of former Head Gardener, Frederick Pomfrett, and his wife, a parlour maid at the house, were buried in the garden at their request although they had long left Upminster. The west façade of the house gave onto a paved terrace bounded to the west by a low balustrade on top of a retaining wall and to north and south by high curved red brick walls. Steps either end of the terrace led onto the main north-south gravel terrace walk alongside herbaceous borders, with clipped yews planted at the base of the walls. Below this were two croquet lawns divided by a central path edged with shrubberies carrying east-west cross walks, which themselves acted as divisions between central flower gardens and a series of terraced lawns to the north, and vegetable gardens to the south. Beyond the croquet lawns the path continued west down a further flight of steps to a second north-south cross walk enclosed by bamboo and shrubs, beyond which were two smaller garden compartments, to the north laid out as a flower parterre, later becoming overgrown, and to the south enclosed by clipped yew hedges laid out as a simple quartered lawn around a central specimen tree. The grounds contain fine mature trees, some predating the building of the house and shown on the 1841 Tithe Map. The Friends of Upminster Court was established in c.2001 and an early project was to clear and open up a woodland wilderness path.
To the north-west of the house were three terraced lawns, the top one originally a bowling green but later used as a horticultural training area; the middle terrace was originally a grass tennis lawn, later becoming overgrown, below which was originally a vineyard that survived until the 1990s but then grassed over. The garden boundary was hedge and woodland and a kitchen garden was found to the south of the flower gardens. A range of Edwardian glasshouses adjacent to the car park was formerly within a walled garden, to the west of which was a vegetable garden, later overgrown, its northern boundary once marked by a crinkle crankle wall, no longer in existence. Another vineyard was planted in the south-west corner of the gardens but was also removed in the 1990s. At one time produce from the gardens meant that the Williams family was self-sufficient.
The family lived here until the late 1920s after which the house was used for offices and around 20 acres of the former grounds were sold to the adjacent Golf Club. During World War II Upminster Court was used as a refugee centre and in 1946 the house and 22 acres were purchased by Essex County Council for an education centre. In 1965 the owner became LB Havering following boundary reorganisation and Upminster Court was opened in 1972 as a short stay respite centre with a borough nursery in the gardens. The care centre closed in 1991 and in 1993 the house was used as Havering Council's Staff Training and Development Centre. This closed and the decision was taken to sell the property, which was offered for sale in 2006. In January 2007 Upminster Court was eventually purchased by Uniserve Group, an international freight and logistics company, who intended to undertake restoration of the house and gardens. A press release in 2008 quoted Iain Liddell, Managing Director of Uniserve Group: 'This project is designed to impress, in particular the many overseas visitors who will visit Upminster Court. Uniserve remains at the forefront of technological development for global logistics and this ethos is to be paralleled in every aspect of the restoration project and future use of Upminster Court.'
LB Havering information 23/9/96. EH Register: N Pevsner & E Radcliffe, 'The Buildings of England: Essex' (1979) p397-9; 'Upminster Court: a brief history' LB Havering leaflet; Victoria County History of Essex vo. VII p147; Macmillan Encyclopaedia of Architects Vol III, p538; John Drury, 'Treasures of Havering', Ian Henry Publications, 1998; Guest column by Lois Amos on Havering Residents Association, c.2004