Watercolour view of the house and formal garden at St Catherine’s Estate, c1900
The historic landscape survey report we completed way back in 2005 for St Catherine’s Estate, a National Trust property on Windermere, Cumbria is now available online via the OA Library. This project recorded the archaeological and historical features within the 0.32sq km of the property, a mixture of pasture, woodland and parkland, in order to inform the future management of the estate. The project was funded by the Local Heritage Initiative and from the outset it incorporated the involvement of members of the local community who were trained in documentary and survey techniques. In 2006 an eco-friendly straw bale building was built on the estate. The Footprint, is now used for educational visits.
The location of St Catherine’s Estate near Windermere
The project entailed documentary study, identification, boundary and tree surveys, as well as a detailed survey of the formal gardens.
Training a volunteer in the dark arts of GPS survey
Prior to the establishment of the formal landscape the area was exploited for agriculture and was divided into two separate lots known as High and Low Gate Mill How. A cottage once existed at High Gate Mill How, presumably on the site of the later mansion. The agricultural management within the study area was typified by the relatively static enclosed fields with drystone walled boundaries. The survey also identified a number of agricultural features within the original extent of the parkland estate, which predate the park; these included clearance cairns and drains. Similarly, woodland management was a crucial part of the historic land use; at least ten charcoal burning platforms were recorded within the two areas of woodland examined. The woods were divided up into compartments of coppice at different stages of growth and the remains of the compartment boundaries still survive.
Charcoal burning platform in High Hag Wood, St Catherine’s Estate
Coppice boundary foundations in High Hag Wood, St Catherine’s Estate
The estate was bought by the Parker family in 1788 and by 1804 it was in the sole ownership of Ann Parker. Around 1810 a Swiss Cottage Orneé was erected on the site. This took place concurrent with work to establish gardens and the development of a parkland landscape fronting onto the road running along the west side of the estate. In 1831 the estate was sold to the Second Earl of Bradford, and it was used as an occasional holiday residence for the Earl and his wife, whose main seat was Weston Park in Staffordshire. By 1856-1857 work was completed on many of the designed elements of the estate, including the house, kitchen block, stable block, formal garden, wilderness garden, walled garden and parkland, but there were still also areas of woodland and farmland within the estate. However, by the mid 1860s Low and High Hag Woods had been developed into an extension of the pleasure grounds, and incorporated formal paths and arbors.
Watercolour view of the St Catherine’ cottage overlooking Lake Windermere, c1850s
The Second Earl of Bradford died in 1865 and between the late 1860s and 1890s the house remained a summer holiday residence for the third Earl of Bradford. Then in 1895 the Cottage Orneé was extensively enlarged and another storey was added; the central kitchen range and the stable block were also expanded. A map of 1898 showed that by this date a summer house had been added to the Gatelands field, adjacent to the Wilderness garden, and the carriageways were extended into the northern part of the park.
Late nineteenth century photograph of the extended house and formal
garden, St Catherine’s Estate
The Third Earl of Bradford died in 1898 and the estate passed on to his daughter, Lady Mabel Kenyon-Slaney, who used the property as an occasional residence until at least 1905. By 1899 much of the estate had been sold off, and the remainder was thereafter in a state of decline; significantly, there were very few changes to the estate between 1899 and 1914. The property remained in the ownership of the family until 1914 although it appears that the house was let and was no longer visited by the family.
Plan of St Catherine’s Estate – 1899
On the 29th September 1914 Lady Mabel Kenyon-Slaney sold part of the main St Catherine’s Estate to John Robinson, which included St Catherine’s house, Low Hagg Wood, Rawes Green, High Haggs, Browhead Spring, as well as the Cottage and buildings at the Crosses. The Robinson Family soon after constructed a house called ‘The Hoo’ just to the south of the estate. John and Ellen Robinson and their two daughters Marjorie and Jessica lived at ‘The Hoo’ and the empty house at St Catherine’s was alternatively used as a studio or rented out in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1925 Ellen Robinson was widowed and in the same year Jessica married Edwin Ferreira. The main house and kitchen range were demolished on the orders of Ellen Robinson at some point between 1928 and 1935. Mrs Robinson feared that the empty house would be used by tramps and had it demolished whilst the rest of the family were on holiday wintering in France.
The surviving stable range at St Catherine’s Estate
In 1952 Jessica Ferreira inherited the estate upon the death of her mother and in 1954 Jessica and Edwin Ferreira moved to St Catherine’s and lived above the stables, and by 1955 a bungalow was built on Gatelands field. The Ferreiras had a son, Christopher, who remembers hay making in the parkland in the 1950s, and at this time Jessica Ferreira owned a small herd of Jersey cows which were housed in the stables. By 1987 after the death of the widowed Jessica Ferreira the remainder of the estate was entrusted into the hands of the National Trust.
The survey identified the nature and extent of many formal features from the nineteenth century estate, including the nature and extent of the formal carriageways within the parkland and, more importantly, the surviving elements of the formal pathways within the woodland. Other important formal elements were recorded such as the foundations of the summer house in Gatelands Field, formal planting and an arbor in High Hag Wood, and a putative formal planting area and possible sunken glade, in Low Hag Wood.
A volunteer measuring a rabbit smoot
The garden survey revealed surviving fragments of the formal layout of the separate gardens and buildings which were the focal point of the St Catherine’s Estate. Very little survives of the original plantings within the gardens apart from several veteran non-native trees on the north end of the formal garden; a terraced flattened area within the wilderness garden which may have had decorative function and, possibly, the rockery on the east side of the coach house.
The detailed garden survey undertaken at St Catherine’s Estate
In the wilderness garden formal pathways and garden furniture include a flight of steps and four crossing points over Wynlass beck. The course of the beck has been modified and it runs over a small waterfall, which would have been overlooked from two of the bridge crossings. Structural elements associated with the upkeep of gardens are limited to the foundations of a greenhouse within the walled vegetable garden and the putative potting/tool shed on the edge of the formal garden.
Late nineteenth century photograph of Wynlass Beck running through the wilderness garden