A Brief History

by Sandy Haynes, Estate Archivist

The park and garden at Enville Hall retain the imprint of over 700 years of human activity and the grounds are listed as a Grade II* landscape on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens. The Hall and some of the buildings within the grounds are also listed.

Enville is the home of the Grey family who originated in Leicestershire and built Bradgate Park, once the home of Lady Jane Grey. A minor branch of the family moved to Staffordshire in the late 15th century and acquired through marriage the manor of Enville. Thomas Grey built a new red brick house with turrets and crow-stepped gables beside a deer park in the 1530s. The Leicestershire branch survived in spite of the setback when a large number of the family were executed in the early part of 16th century. In 1620 the 2nd Baron Grey of Groby married Anne Cecil, the youngest daughter and co-heir of William Cecil, 3rd Earl of Exeter. Through his wife, Henry inherited the castle, borough and manor of Stamford and in 1628 was created Earl of Stamford. The title was at first held by the Bradgate branch until the death of the 2nd Earl when it descended to his cousin Harry who lived at Enville. His son, also Harry, who became the 4th Earl decided to make Enville his main home. The Bradgate house was bricked up and the park there kept for hunting and game.

Around 1772 the 5th Earl of Stamford commissioned William Chambers, the architect of Somerset House, to design a new Palladian house for Enville. This plan were never implemented and instead the existing house was modified and extended a year later by the Liverpool architect John Hope.

Boating was a popular entertainment in many English landscape parks during the 18th century. Enville’s Temple Pool was equipped with an ornate Boathouse attributed to the architect Sanderson Miller and shown here on the right.

The Sea Horse pool was at the centre of the pleasure gardens laid out in the 1850s by the 7th Earl of Stamford. 16 jets each 40 feet high surrounded a central jet that towered to 70 feet. Although outrageous claims made by a correspondent to the Wolverhampton Chronicle in 1854 suggested 190 feet had already been achieved and 240 feet was the target.

At Enville the 4th Earl, with the help of the Warwickshire architect Sanderson Miller and the poet William Shenstone, set about designing a great landscape garden in an already beautiful natural landscape of hills, pools and streams. The grounds extended over 750 acres with a variety of buildings, cascades and bridges from which the landscape might be viewed. Together with Shenstone’s garden at The Leasowes and Lord Cobham’s at Hagley it was one of the ‘must see’ places for any tourist from the 1750s onwards. 

It is generally accepted that the 5th Earl completed the park in the 1770s before turning his hand to modernising the house; although one historian has suggested ‘Capability’ Brown also had a hand in the park. Plans for a new Palladian mansion were drawn up by Sir William Chambers, but the 5th Earl eventually chose Thomas Hope’s design in which the original Tudor house was encapsulated within a gothic castellated front. This is very much what remains today.

The Conservatory was designed and built by Gray and Ormson of Chelsea using a cast iron skeleton, wrought iron ribs and wooden sash windows. This kit of parts was delivered by barge to Stewponey Wharf in 1854 from where it was transported to the Hall by horse and cart. Its Moorish domes towered to some 60 feet.

At Enville the 4th Earl, with the help of the Warwickshire architect Sanderson Miller and the poet William Shenstone, set about designing a great landscape garden in an already beautiful natural landscape of hills, pools and streams. The grounds extended over 750 acres with a variety of buildings, cascades and bridges from which the landscape might be viewed. Together with Shenstone’s garden at The Leasowes and Lord Cobham’s at Hagley it was one of the ‘must see’ places for any tourist from the 1750s onwards. 

It is generally accepted that the 5th Earl completed the park in the 1770s before turning his hand to modernising the house; although one historian has suggested ‘Capability’ Brown also had a hand in the park. Plans for a new Palladian mansion were drawn up by Sir William Chambers, but the 5th Earl eventually chose Thomas Hope’s design in which the original Tudor house was encapsulated within a gothic castellated front. This is very much what remains today.

There is no dedication or inscription. Instead this urn catches the sun beautifully fulfilling its role as an eye-catcher enticing visitors to explore the park and take in the view over the Temple Pool and the Hall. In the 1750s it was originally intended to erect an obelisk on this spot.

The church at Enville.

Hidden among yews the Chapel was built around 1753. Never consecrated, it was a venue for picnics rather than religious services. In 1763 it was named for William Shenstone of The Leasowes whose garden at nearby Hailsowen was developed in parallel with Enville’s park.

The gardens also formed part of sporting festivals with cricket matches held between the Earl of Stamford’s team and an All England IX. He was President of the MCC and the turf from Enville was taken to Lords Cricket Ground. Lord Stamford was also a keen horseman with a passion for hunting and racing and became Master of the Quorn Hunt in Leicestershire. He also bred racehorses, thus continuing an Enville tradition which was started by 1751 and continues through to this day.
In 1904 there was a fire at the Hall and the Countess died childless the following year. The three estates in Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Cheshire were divided between three relatives and the title Earl of Warrington died out with the 7th Earl; the Stamford earldom ceasing with the 10th Earl in 1976. Bradgate, the Leicestershire estate is now a country park, Dunham Massey in Cheshire is owned by the National Trust and Enville Hall remains as a private family house.
Have a look at the Estate Archives.

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