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Live and breathe the story of England at royal castles, historic gardens, forts & defences, world-famous prehistoric sites and many others.
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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.
The de Grey family establish the manor of Wrest as their main residence.
The family fortunes peak when Edward IV makes Edmund Grey his Lord Treasurer in 1463 and Earl of Kent in 1465.
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.
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.
Find out more about the history of Wrest Park
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.
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.
See highlights from the collection at Wrest Park
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.
Francis’s nephew Auberon (‘Bron’) Herbert leases Wrest to the American ambassador, Whitelaw Reid.
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.
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.
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.
Learn more about the history of Wrest Park