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Forty Hall Park * Enfield

Forty Hall Park *

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* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Forty Hall was built by Sir Nicholas Raynton between 1629-36, at the top of the hill south of Elsyng Palace, which existed here by the C14th. The Palace become the property of the Crown in 1539, popular due to its proximity to the royal deer park of Enfield Chase. Elizabeth and Edward stayed here as children. Known as Little or New Park, the estate was eventually sold by Charles I and became part of the Forty Hall Estate in 1656 when Raynton's great-nephew purchased the land that held the remains of the Palace, laid out the park and extended the grounds. The estate changed hands many times and in 1895 was sold to H C Bowles for his eldest son who owned Myddelton House. It remained in that family until 1951 when it was purchased by Enfield UDC who subsequently opened the grounds to the public and in 1962 began restoring the Hall and outbuildings. The house is surrounded by 4 hectares of ornamental grounds, the fragmentary remains of the C17th garden overlaid with C18th and later developments.
Previous / Other name: Elsyng Palace/New or Little Park/The Warren
Site location: Forty Hill, Enfield
Postcode: EN2 9HA
Type of site: Public Park 
Date(s): C17th; C18th
Listed structures: LBI: Forty Hall, Screen wall, gateway and north pavilions to west of Hall. LBII: Main entrance gateway; stable ranges to west of Forty Hall; Barns & walls to Forty Hall Farm west of Forty Hall; Dower House and garden wall. Elsynge Hall: SAM 59
Borough: Enfield
Site ownership: LB Enfield
Site management: Place Shaping and Enterprise, Parks Business Unit. Friends of Forty Hall
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: unrestricted (parkland); Forty Hall: closed until spring 2012. Courtyard Café daily from 10.30am-4pm (closed Christmas, Boxing Day)
Special conditions:
Facilities: Local history museum, exhibition space, car park, disabled access, toilets, Courtyard Café, 2 fishing lakes
Events: Full programme, includes music, performance, heritage, arts - Summer Breeze in August; walks etc.
Public transport: Rail: Turkey Street; Enfield Town; Enfield Chase then bus/walk. Bus: 191, W10 then walk.
'Forty-Hall, the Seat of James Meyer Esq. JP', reproduced from Edward Ford, 'A History of Enfield in the County of Middlesex', 1873
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Inigo Jones Gateway, reproduced from Edward Ford, 'A History of Enfield in the County of Middlesex', 1873
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Katherine & Mary Colvin Meyer on the lake, Forty Hall, undated photograph. Enfield Local Studies Centre and Archive
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Forty Hall and lake, photograph 1989. Enfield Local Studies Centre and Archive
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The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.;

Fuller information:

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see

The area that is now Forty Hall Park appears to have been inhabited since the C13th and by the 1570s there were several settlements here. During the mediaeval period a portion of land adjacent to Turkey Brook became the site of Elsyng Palace, first mentioned in 1381 as belonging to Thomas Elsyng, a Citizen and Mercer of London. In 1492 it was acquired and enlarged by Sir Thomas Lovell, Speaker of the House of Commons and one of Henry VII's Ministers. Elsyng bordered Enfield Chase and, due to this proximity to the Royal hunting grounds, attracted Royal visitors; after 1539 the estate, which was called Little Park, was owned by Henry VIII and used as a base for hunting. His children spent part of their childhood here, and it was where that Elizabeth and Edward heard of their father's death in 1547, and Edward's accession to the throne. During her reign, Elizabeth I visited Elsyng at least 4 times, but it appears that even by then the great house was falling into disrepair, although attempts were periodically made to restore and maintain it, and works continued to be done in the gardens in the first half of the C17th. In 1641 it was sold by Charles I to the Earl of Pembroke for £5,300 who probably lived there until his death in 1650. By 1656, apparently after a short spell as a bathhouse, it became part of the Forty Hall Estates.

In 1624 Sir Nicholas Raynton (or Rainton), a wealthy haberdasher and later Lord Mayor of London in 1632, had purchased land in the area and between 1629 - 1636 he built Forty Hall at the top of the hill, south of Elsyng Palace. The name apparently derives from Sir Hugh Fortee, the owner prior to Sir Nicholas. There was some suggestion in the C18th that Inigo Jones was responsible for the house but this is unlikely, and there is no proof for this. The estate included land known as The Warren and New or Little Park, c.150 hectares of Enfield Chase that had been enclosed during Elizabeth I's time. Sir Nicholas was imprisoned in the Tower of London for 5 days by Charles I following a dispute over his refusal, along with other Aldermen, to supply a list of citizens able to loan money to the King. He died in 1646 and is buried in the family tomb in St Andrew's Church (q.v.). He was succeeded by his great-nephew, also Nicholas, who was responsible for extending the grounds, purchasing the land that held the remains of Elsyng Palace. He laid out the park including its double avenue of lime trees that led north from the house down towards Turkey Brook; a depression confirms that the brook was at one time widened to form a basin on the line of the avenue, which formerly continued on the far side of the water. The main drive continues as a lane westwards from the stables across farmland towards the New River, which almost encircled Forty Hall; the remains of two loops survive in the grounds. Again there is no proof for the suggestion that Le Nôtre may have been involved in the park's design.

It was at this time that the old Palace was demolished, and all that remains today are some raised humps in the ground near the fishing lake, and excavations in the 1960s revealed brick foundations and drains. Early C17th sources refer to the Palace's 'courtyards, gardens, orchards and the field adjoining called the Walks' as well as a Portland stone sundial, an arbour and latticed seats, but these were presumably cleared when the house was demolished. However, a complex of earthworks at the north-west corner of the park may have formed C16th water gardens comprising ponds, canals and islands, and fishponds (similar to Hatfield's Wilderness) accompanying the former Palace. The 1773 and 1787 sale catalogues make reference to these, the latter suggesting that 'to augment the natural beauties of the Vale in front of the Home, a Magnificent Lake could be easily formed' out of the 'running Brook and successive Ponds'.

In 1787 the Hall and 159 acres were sold for £8,800. In 1811 Daniel Lysons remarked upon the remains of fishponds, including those near Forty Hill where the stream joins Enfield Wash. The main entrance to Forty Hall is situated on Forty Hill where there are a number of fine houses dating from the C18th onwards when the area began to attract the wealthy, some of which, such as Myddelton House (q.v.), were built with money from the New River. Just north of Forty Hall's fine C18th stone entrance gates stands Jesus Church, which was built in 1835 to the designs of Thomas Ashwell by the then owner of Forty Hall, James Meyer (whose initials and the date 1800 appear on rainwater heads) whose children apparently balked at walking as far as Enfield Parish Church on a hot Sunday morning. The estate changed hands many times and in 1895 was sold to H C Bowles for his eldest son, Sir Henry Ferryman Bowles who owned Myddelton House. It remained in that family until 1951 when it was purchased from Derek Parker Bowles by Enfield Urban District Council who subsequently opened the grounds to the public and in 1962 began restoring the house and outbuildings. The flagstone terrace to the south of the house was laid in 1951, replacing an earlier gravel surface.

In 1966 Forty Hall was opened as a museum containing items of local historical interest, including a Roman coffin found in Bush Hill Park (q.v.) in 1893/94, with temporary exhibition galleries and private function rooms. The house is surrounded by 4 hectares of ornamental grounds, the fragmentary remains of the C17th garden overlaid with C18th and later developments. To the south of the house is a rectangular lawn that has a C17th Cedar of Lebanon and other specimen trees including Wellingtonia, various shrub and herbaceous beds, grass areas and a large ornamental pond, which dates from the C18th. At the western end of the pond is a wooded area within which is a mound formed from the spoil from the lake. Close to the house overlooking the pond are two stone lions, one of which appears on an early C19th drawing, the other placed here in the 1980s from Broomfield House (q.v.). A perimeter belt of shrubberies with yew, laurel, sycamore, hornbeam, holm oak and flowering shrubs runs along the east and south sides of the gardens acting as a screen, through which a path winds. South-west of the Hall and the C17th stable block is a walled garden, formerly a kitchen garden, which has its original north wall. In 1773 this contained fruit trees and was described as being 'capable of producing vegetables in vast profusion'; it is now planted with lawns, shrubs and flowering trees in beds. The grounds including the drive and pond, are shown in much their present form on surveys of 1773 and 1787 when the estate was sold following the death of the last owner Eliab Breton in 1785. Beyond the formal gardens, the estate consists of parkland containing notable C18th oaks and sweet chestnuts north-east of the house, woodland, a fishing lake and a working farm, the site of Elsyng Palace and the earthworks and ponds that may have formed part of the Palace grounds.

The estate today is managed by LB Enfield for recreation and nature conservation; native tree species are encouraged in the woodlands where ancient methods of management such as coppicing and pollarding have been reintroduced, which increase the lifespan of trees and the variety of plants and wildlife. Lime trees have been re-planted along the Lime Walk, which was damaged in the Great Storms of 1987. Forty Hall Park has been awarded a Green Flag from 2007 - 2010, and in 2009 won Gold Medal in Enfield in Bloom as well as Gold Medal for Best Countryside Park in London in Bloom. Paths lead from the country park to Whitewebbs and Hillyfields (q.q.v.) and there is a local heritage trail along the New River course. Also within the estate is a working farm, whose buildings are being restored by Capel Manor (q.v.). As a result of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Enfield Council, Forty Hall is being restored as part of the Forty Hall Development Project, due to be completed in 2012.

Sources consulted:

EH Register update1999; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames except the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1972); Victoria County History; I Jones and I Drayton 'The Royal Palaces of Enfield', Enfield Archaeological Society, 1984; William Keane 'The Beauties of Middlesex' 1850; Daniel Lysons 'The Environs of London, Middlesex' 1790s; Revd George Hodson (Church History) and Edward Ford (General History), 'A History of Enfield in the County of Middlesex including its Royal and Ancient Manors, the Chase and the Duchy of Lancaster, with Notices of its Worthies, and its Natural History, Etc. Also an account of The Church and the Charities, and a History of the New River' (Enfield Press, printed by J H Meyers, 1873); Geoff Garvey & Leigh Hatts 'Country Walks around London' (Mainstream Publishing with London Transport) 1998; LB Enfield leaflets; Elain Harwood & Andrew Saint 'London', HMSO/English Heritage 1991; Edward Walford, 'Village London, the Story of Greater London, Part 2 - North and East', first published 1883/4 (1985 ed., The Alderman Press); The Paul Drury Partnership for LB Enfield, 'Forty Hill Conservation Area Character Appraisal', 2009
Grid ref: TQ338984
Size in hectares: 110.58
On EH National Register : Yes
EH grade : Grade II
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: Yes
Conservation Area name: Forty Hill
Tree Preservation Order: Not known
Nature Conservation Area: Yes - Borough Importance
Green Belt: Yes
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: Yes - Enfield Chase Heritage Area AOSC (Area of Special Character)
Other LA designation: Included in National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens

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