- 1700 - Samuel Vincent
- 1736 - Estate acquired by Philip Howard, Baron Petre
- 1821 - Estate sold to Alexander Baring
- 1869 - Estate sold to William Amherst (who also owned Didlington Hall)
- 1942 - The estate became part of the Battle Training Area
The hall was built in the 1670s or 1680s by Samuel Vincent. The house is shown on an estate map of around 1700 as a typical Restoration-style house. The historian Francis Blomefield wrote that Vincent created a fishpond on the roof of the house, ‘with a basin of lead to contain the water, and had pipes of lead which brought water to an engine from a canal in the gardens, into every room (as it is said) of the house; he also built an elegant stable… and made a park’. The house also had an extensive array of service rooms and buildings, including a dairy and Brewhouse.
In 1803 the house was altered by the architect Samuel Wyatt for Petre family, at a cost of £35,000 – the equivalent of £2.8 million in modern terms. Wyatt remodelled the house in Neoclassical style, with classical pediments on each façade, although the core of the earlier house appears to have survived within.
The house was demolished in 1946, after the estate was incorporated into the Battle Training Area.
Vincent’s house was surrounded by walled formal gardens which were typical of the late 17th century, and which are shown in detail on the estate map of 1700. They included a canal, a garden building which may have been adapted from the remains of the medieval parish church, parterres and topiary.
When Baring bought the estate in 1821 the gardens were remodelled in Italianate style, with new terraces, steps and parterres, perhaps reusing some of the surviving elements of the early 18th-century gardens.
The estate map of 1700 shows that Vincent’s house and gardens were surrounded by a small park of around 60 acres. It was not until the late 18th century that a much larger landscape park was created, covering an area of 600 acres. In 1787 a number of roads were closed around the hall to allow for the expansion of the park, which had a serpentine lake formed from the River Wissey and a large number of clumps of trees and other plantations. The Ordnance Survey 6-inch map shows the park in detail in the later 19th century, when many of the clumps and plantations dating from the late 18th century were still in existence. There were also a number of entrance lodges and carriage drives through the park. Samuel Lapidge is referred to as working at Buckenham Tofts in a letter from a nearby landowner. Lapidge was the foreman of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and worked on some of his unfinished commissions as well as his own designs. The designer Humphry Repton also worked at Buckenham Tofts in 1789, although it is unclear what he proposed, or if his suggestions were carried out.
What survives in the modern landscape?
The site of the hall and the park are still within the Battle Training Area and are not accessible to the public. Earthwork terraces and stone steps, dating from the remodelling of the gardens in the 1820s, and the ruins of a garden building survive near the site of the Hall itself. The stables and the walls of the kitchen garden both survive. The location of the park within the Battle Training Area means that the parkland itself survives in good condition; the serpentine lake, clumps and plantations and a large number of trees survive within the boundary of the park. Many of these features are visible on aerial photographs of the park.
Where to find out more
- The archival material relating to the estate is held by the Norfolk Record Office, in a number of collections including the Petre Collection. The estate map of 1700, and the road closure order of 1787 referred to above are both held by the Norfolk Record Office
- Historical Maps of Norfolk shows the park on the Ordnance Survey 6 inch, the relevant tithe maps, and 1946 and 1988 aerial photographs.
- Faden’s map of Norfolk (1797) shows the layout of the park clearly
- The Ordnance Survey drawings (1821) held by the British Library show the layout of the park in detail.
- Buckenham Tofts Hall on the Norfolk Heritage Explorer
- Buckenham Tofts Hall on England’s Lost Country Houses
- Francis Blomefield, 'Hundred of Grimeshou: Bukenham-Parva, or Little-Bukenham', in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2 (London, 1805), pp. 266-271. British History Online
- T. Williamson, I. Ringwood and S. Spooner (2015) Lost Country Houses of Norfolk: History, Archaeology and Myth, The Boydell Press.
- T. Williamson, P. Dallas and R. Last (2013) Norfolk Gardens and Designed Landscapes, Windgather Press.
- T. Williamson (1998) The Archaeology of the Landscape Park: garden design in Norfolk, England, 1660-1840, Archaeopress.