The Wakehurst Mansion and Stables
Our stunning and iconic mansion with its imposing Tudor façade must have many a story to tell – not all of them we know!
But we do have documentation to show that the land on which it is built was purchased in 1205 by William de Wakehurst, who bought 40 acres of the surrounding countryside.
The land stayed in his family down the generations and it was Edward Culpeper who commissioned the design of the mansion in 1590. Edward was the husband of one of the last two girls in the Wakehurst line and was a distant relative of Nicholas Culpeper the famous herbalist. The design of the mansion is thought to be by Sir Christopher Wren.
Originally, the mansion was created around a square courtyard, but one wing was destroyed in 1697 and two more were demolished in 1845 – although the end walls were later rebuilt. Today, only one complete wing remains. The house was sold by the Culpepers to pay off gambling debts in 1694 and bought by Dennis Lydell.
Lydell increased the estate to 3,100 acres (1,255 hectares) by 1748.
The Peytons, another significant family, were residents from 1776 to 1869 when it was sold to the Dowanger Marchioness of Downshire who we think started the planting of the large exotic trees, such as the giant redwoods.
Lady Downshire also made her mark by adding the chapel to the side of the house. She changed the approach to the mansion to its present layout and installed central heating.
Sir William Boord and his family were the next residents. They made further cosmetic changes during their time in the house, before it was purchased by Gerald Loder in 1903.
It was Gerald, who later became Lord Wakehurst that set Wakehurst on the path of horticultural importance. He was a passionate plantsman and helped sponsor many collecting expeditions at the turn of the century, particularly to eastern Asia, still acknowledged to be the world’s richest source of temperate flora. He was particularly interested in Southern Hemisphere plants and built up an outstanding collection from South America, Australia and New Zealand.
Sir Henry and Lady Eve Price bought the property after Lord Wakehurst’s death in 1936. They restored the stonework and roof and continued to develop the gardens until World War II intervened. The mansion was used as the Advanced HQ of the Canadian Corps from January 1942 to October 1943. Sir Henry was equally as passionate about plants as its former occupier and it was under his care that the estate richly matured and became widely admired throughout the UK and beyond.
Over the years, the size of the Wakehurst estate has varied as various plots of land have been bought and sold. It now stands over 500 acres with several private house being built on its land throughout the years.
In 1963 the Price family bequeathed Wakehurst and a large endowment to the National Trust.
The house and the land were leased to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 1965.
Under the long term agreement, Kew pays for the maintenance of the mansion and grounds. Unlike many other estates throughout the UK, Wakehurst does not receive any money from the National Trust for entry by its members.
Inside the mansion today
There are several downstairs rooms inside the mansion that visitors can explore. These include the entrance hall, gallery, blue room and chapel. Currently on display in the gallery is a section of botanical paintings by four renowned artists: John Day, brothers Franz and Ferdinand Bauer and Sarah Drake. Items of furniture used by Sir Henry and Lady Price are arranged beside the marble fireplace in the Blue Room, including Hepplewhite elbow and easy chairs, a 17th century side table and Chinese screen.
The upstairs floors are used for educational purposes and regularly house organised activities for both school and family groups.
The stables were built in the 1700’s at a time when horse racing and gambling were highly fashionable. Again, the design of the building has been attributed to Sir Christopher Wren.
The garage block behind the stables was built in the 1930’s by Henry Price to house his collection of cars. It was built to match the design of the stables.
History of the Mansion and Stables under Wakehurst ownership
For many years the upstairs rooms of the mansion housed the scientists who now work in the Millennium Seed Bank. Previous to this the chapel was the first seed bank on the site when it was transferred from Kew in 1973.
The Stables was used for many years as storage for gardening machinery and for the Wakehurst gardeners mess room. This area was developed into a restaurant in xxx to enhance our visitors’ experience.