Discover our hidden gems including an ornate marble fountain, the 18th century Bowling Green House and a striking Chinese Bridge and Temple. Stroll up the Long Water to the spectacular Archer Pavilion with its stunning interior making it the focal point of the gardens. Marvel at the fancy French curves and intricate Italian geometry of the restored bedding displays. From autumnal reds to lush greens in the summer, explore Wrest Park’s gardens anew throughout the seasons.
Early 14th CenturyFirst de Greys
The de Grey family establish the manor of Wrest as their main residence.
1463-5Peak of Prominence
The family fortunes peak when Edward IV makes Edmund Grey his Lord Treasurer in 1463 and Earl of Kent in 1465.
1512-24A Fortune Squandered
Having squandered his inheritance, Edmund’s grandson Richard sells most of the family’s estates, including Wrest, to pay his debts. His half-brother Henry buys Wrest back 12 years later.
1658-1702First Formal Gardens
Amabel Benn, wife of Henry, the 10th Earl, together with their son, Anthony, and his wife, Mary, rebuild the north front of the house, lay out large formal gardens and create the Long Water.
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Henry Grey, Duke of Kent, inspired by what he has seen abroad, creates the Great Garden, a formal woodland garden centred on the Long Water.
1758Mystery of the Gardens
Henry’s granddaughter Jemima and her husband, Philip, bring in Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to soften the edges of the gardens while keeping their formal spirit – preserving, in Brown’s words, the ‘Mystery of the Gardens’.
Thomas Robinson, 2nd Earl de Grey, demolishes the old house, builds a new mansion in the French style and complements it with formal flower gardens.
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1859-1905End of an Era
The last Grey to live at Wrest is Anne, the dowager Countess Cowper, a staunch evangelical and philanthropist. Her son Francis, 7th Earl Cowper, inherits, but visits Wrest rarely.
1906-12American in Residence
Francis’s nephew Auberon (‘Bron’) Herbert leases Wrest to the American ambassador, Whitelaw Reid.
1914-16First World War
Wrest is used as a convalescent home and later a military hospital, which is forced to close in September 1916 after a fire.
Bron Herbert is killed in action, and his sister Nan sells Wrest to brewing and mining magnate John George Murray.
1939-45Second World War
The Sun Insurance Company buys Wrest for its wartime headquarters. Many of its employees live on site, sleeping in the converted stables or dormitory huts in the grounds.
The Ministry of Works buys Wrest and leases it to the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering (later the Silsoe Institute), which becomes world renowned for its research into farm mechanisation and trials of new techniques and equipment.
2006-Restoring the Gardens
English Heritage takes over the house and eastern service buildings, and embarks on a 20-year plan to restore the gardens to their pre-1917 appearance.
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