Wivenhoe Park: A History of the House and Grounds
By Rosemary Feesey, Benham,1963, 47pp, (Essex County Libraries 942.671)
Summary by Pat Marsden
An essay written for the Emmison Prize Competition comprising a detailed account of the Park written shortly before the establishment of the University of Essex.
Material for this account was drawn from the Rebow Papers at Colchester Public Library and the Essex County Archivist’s Department in Chelmsford plus other background reading. It outlines the growth of the estate from its acquisition of Bacon’s Green in 1734. Farms, complete with farmhouse buildings and cottages were built or acquired, woods planted and roads laid out to form a sizeable and integrated agricultural estate. Farms from the Corsellis family estate were added sometime after the 1840s. ‘The First House’, the home of the Rebows, with an inventory of its contents is described. The building was large enough to be included on a Private Estate Map of Wivenhoe, 1734 ‘Surveyed, delineated and embellished by Hayward Rush, writing master and teacher of navigation in Wivenhoe’.
A country house was built by Thomas Reynolds circa 1759 and the Articles of Agreement outline details of the structure of the house and there are later details of its actual construction, furnishings, and stocking of the garden. In the mid 1770s Richard Woods, a landscape gardener proposed alterations and additions to the Park including the construction of dams, a canal and ponds to be stocked with carp. Extensive alterations to the park by Thomas Hopper, Surveyor to the County of Essex for 40 years, commenced in 1846 and there are details and plans of his improvements, including comments about the deer destroying the gardens.
In 1856 the Prince Consort visited the house where he reviewed the Colchester Garrison from a balcony. There was still a herd of black fallow deer (taken over by the Rebows in 1734) in the Park until 1940. The property was commissioned for the use of about three thousand military personnel during the first and second World War. After it was decommissioned the Park was ploughed and cropped with corn for several years before being laid back to grass and stocked with cattle and sheep. The estate and farm offices were re-established in the East Wing and a grain drying and storage plant and workshop installed in the coach- houses, stabling and outbuildings and so it remained until being taken over by the University. The account includes various photographs and illustrations of Tithe Maps and Private Estate Maps, plans of Hopper’s improvements, accounts and diary entries, etc.