Brent Pelham Hall was first built in the C16-C17 century as a timber framed structure, which in the late C17 was brick encased. It forms the principal house of Brent Pelham village near Buntingford. The formal walk form the garden front of the house to St. Mary’s Church is the principal axis. Horses and carriages arrived directly to the stables and ancillary buildings to the right. Grids of formal planting, vegetables and orchards lay to the left.
A 1700 engraving of Brent Pelham Hall shows the house and its surroundings laid out in a formal arrangement of walled gardens. The engraving clearly illustrates the hierarchy of spaces with an axial approach through a series of enclosures. The service accommodation to the right is arranged in courtyards, which line through to the walled gardens on the left. The layout of the estate evolved with the removal of the glazed link on the approach and the service courtyard reconnected to the main house. Much of the ancillary accommodation has now gone as has a definite edge between the cultivated gardens and the parkland. The fish pond has been extended into a lake with a small island.
Brooks Murrays proposals were to create an appropriate garden to complements the painstakingly restored Grade 1 listed house and restores the hierarchy of enclosures from the original design. They also created a garden that the client can live in and enjoy, with a tennis court and swimming pool as well as flower beds, vegetable gardens and orchards.
The original formality of the layout of the house and surrounding gardens provides a language that informed all the design decisions, from the approach sequence to the hierarchy of garden spaces and the distinct boundary with the surrounding agricultural landscape.
The guiding principal was to work with the original garden structure, retaining and extending the walled garden grid. The ancillary building separation can be restored by reinstating the curving drive to the front door and garaging vehicles in the stable yard.
The strong framework of the historic design grid has suggested a return to the simplicity of the original layout, responding to the hierarchy of spaces with the house and the church at the centre of the landscape. The owners are very keen gardeners and wished to bring back the flower borders and vegetable gardens.
The modern facilities of the tennis court, swimming pool and garaging have been fitted as discretely as possible within the historic structure by extending the walled and hedged enclosures out into the orchard and vegetable plot area. The new facilities lie within the historic pattern of cultivation and enclosure, but beyond the immediate views from the hall windows.
The scheme is designed to reflect the original layout of the grounds, enhancing the restored hall and reinstating its relationship with St Mary’s church and the surrounding landscape. The restored and extended gardens are bringing back the life and setting of the hall, respecting the hierarchy of the historic spaces and incorporating 21st-century domestic requirements for a house of this status.