FoEP: Improving the Park for the benefit of the whole community
THOSE who took advantage his kindness on a former occasion will appreciate the happy thought of Mr. James Manfield, J.P., C.C., in again throwing open the gardens of Weston Favell House to his neighbours in Northampton. If there is anything the true garden lover cares for more than paying homage to its loveliness himself, is to have others appreciating its charm; and there is certain to be no lack appreciation on the part of those who avail themselves the opportunity to visit Mr. Manfield’s gardens during the next few weeks. In company with Mr. Elkington (Mr. Manfield's head gardener), who has a genuine love for the garden ,in which he labours, a 'Mercury' representatative [sic] spent a delightful afternoon wandering along its pleasant walks and o'er its flower bedecked lawns, blissfully forgetful awhile of the dingy streets, and the humming, sweating factories and toil shops less than a couple miles away. A writer in an old gardening book truly says that "The best hour in a garden is the first hour after rain." There had been showers Monday morning, and the lawns and masses of flowering shrubs which separate them seemed to have put on their very best and sweetest to welcome a Pressman! To one who knew Campion's farm and spinneys in the old days, before Mr. Manfield and his busy workers cast their spell over the place, the transformation effected in a few years is indeed wonderful. As no fool is like an old fool, so no garden is like an old garden, and there are of necessity some indications of newness about the gardens at Weston Favell House. That must not be allowed to lessen, however, one's admiration for the wonders accomplished the art - it surely must also be science - of landscape gardening in so few years. Visitors from the town will probably begin their tour, as the 'Daily Echo' representative did, by a ramble through the garden on the west front of the house, overlooking Northampton. Mr Manfield is a lover of flowering shrubs, and masses of them this side of the house are most effectively grouped. Among those in flower at the present time are varieties of flowering cherry and crab, which light up the whole garden side with their riot of pink and white bloom. Masses of spirea arguta multiflorum (white) are contrasted splendidly with banks of flaming double gorse. The white broom is also similarly contrasted, while a wealth of gorgeous tone is provided by the ruddy gold masses of Berberis Darwinii, which will be improving in beauty for the next week or two. At the edges of the shrub plantations and at the base of the taller varieties are planted quantities of a pretty white spring anemone, a variety of which may lie found growing wild in many woods near to Northampton, and a still prettier pink, one which boasts the name Robertsoniana. There can be no more fitting carpeting for a shrubbery or wood planting than these fairy-like blooms.
Near the house on this side are some formal beds of a fine pink tulip, "Cottage Maid," in a setting of Sutton's Royal Blue Forget-me-not. On the south front similar beds are planted with Pottebakker white, another fine tulip. Visitors this week and next will see them their glory. What will no doubt attract most attention from visitors is the Rock Garden. It lies a little distance from the house, and the artistry of the landscape gardener has arranged for it to be hid by a bank of shrubs until one is almost inside it. Then the charm of it breaks upon the visitor with a flash, as it were, and he can only stand and admire. To describe it in detail is a task beyond me. Suffice to say that the arrangement of rocks, banks and pools seems as near an approach to what one would like a rock garden to be as one is likely to find. The Rock Garden just now perhaps boasts a greater wealth colouring, excepting the Berberis, than any other part of the garden. Dainty saxifragii peep out from between the boulders, over which aubretia and arabis trail in masses of blue and white. Primulas, anemones, heather, polianthus [sic], primroses, candytuft, and other old friends add their quota to the picture, painted in living colours, which has to be seen to be appreciated. By the water's edge the wild "water blob, "king cup," or "Mary bud," which Shakespeare loved so much, has found a home to its liking and in thanks sends forth its bloom of shining gold in rich abundance. Beyond the Rock Garden extensive additions have been recently made to the gardens, which, when the mellowing hand of time has settled upon them, will no doubt amply repay the time and care expended on their arrangement. The largest of these extensions is an ornamental lake five acres in extent, with a shrub-covered island in the centre. From the Western part of the lake a charming view of the gardens and lawns is obtained, with the house in the background. Midway between the lake and the house is a curious circle of lime trees, which has been happily incorporated in the garden. Many stories are told in the neighbourhood of the history of this ring, some saying that it was a place for bull baiting. Whether that is true or not, there seems good reason for supposing that, in the days when Northampton was less decorous than now, prize fights did occasionally take place within its spacious area. The circle is made of 25 lime trees and its diameter is about 40 yards. In the centre Mr. Manfield has placed a piece of vigorous French sculpture in bronze, representing a tussle between a man, a dog and a boar. The visitor of a more practical turn will probably like to walk through the kitchen garden, which will be found a model of all that a kitchen garden should be. Some espalier trained fruit trees might well be held up as a pattern to fruit growers; they certainly reflect great credit well be held up as a pattern to fruit them. The gardens were opened to the public yesterday, and will also be open from 2 to 7 p.m. on following dates: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, May 4, 6, 8, and 10; Whit Sunday, Monday Tuesday, and Thursday, May 11, 12, 13, and 15; Sunday, May 18. Tea will be provided each afternoon by Messrs. Adams Bros.
This picture, showing one of the ponds in the Weston Favell House rock garden, is a copy of an image in the 1923 Sale Catalogue available in the Northampton Record Office (Ref SC 11). A very similar picture, attributed to Cooper and Son, was used to illustrate the 1910 article.
The article mentions a previous farmer at the site – a Mr Campion. It is known that Manfield bought Campion's 160 acre Lodge Farm in 1907 and renamed it 'Home Farm'. The farm was adjacent to the Weston Favell House estate on Spinney Hill and Home Farm House still exists off Hillcrest Avenue. It is not clear to me whether the article is referring to parts of this farm or whether Campion had earlier farmed the land that Weston Favell House was built on.
The article also mentions the 'Bull Ring' with 25 lime trees. (The sale catalogue and the 1910 article both refer to 26!) The author says there is 'good evidence' that the bullring was used for prize fighting! This agrees with evidence discovered elsewhere - though it could be the same evidence.
Other news in brief ....
During the month Travellers pitched up on the Park. Photos showing some of the mess they left behind are posted on Facebook. New bollards have been put in place to try to stop them coming back but there are still weaknesses in the Park perimeter.
We hope that our new bench and waste bin will be installed near the ha-ha on the northern border of the Park within the next week or so.
The date of our Autumn Tidy-up of the Park has been set for 29th Sept. and a gardening day planned for a date in October.
James had Weston Favell House built between 1898 and 1901. It was a large Jacobean style mansion with extensive grounds. Prior to the House being built, the land was agricultural land used for crop production and grazing animals. James set about changing the land use into parkland, orchards and ornamental gardens with a walled vegetable garden near the House. During the Edwardian period, the grounds were sometimes opened to the public, either for free or for a small charge that was donated to Northampton Hospital. On at least two occasions (in 1910 and 1913) reporters visited the gardens and wrote descriptions of them for the local press. The published articles provide an interesting insight into the gardens at that time. One of them, from the Northampton Mercury, Friday 2nd May 1913, is reproduced in full below:
During August, Vic Smith (FoEP's Chair) was unwell and he was not able to visit Eastfield Park as often as he would have liked. Nevertheless, while resting at home he was able to carry out further investigations about the history of the area using the on-line British Newspaper Archive, available at: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/. He discovered some very interesting articles written during the Edwardian Period when the land that now forms the Park was part of the Weston Favell House estate owned by James Manfield.
THE GARDEN BEAUTIFUL
Click picture for larger view.