“The Howse that was so Fayre”
Discovering Campden House and Gardens
CCHS has been awarded a two-year grant of £26,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to undertake excavations on the site of Old Campden House and do further research, hoping to find out more about the original design of house and gardens.
The volunteers doing the excavations will be trained and supervised by an experienced archaeologist and Historic England will be taking a close interest. The dig will be in two parts – the first, this Autumn, will investigate the parterre below the house and the second, in Spring 2017, will look at anomalies which showed up in the geophysical survey around the house itself. The Landmark Trust supports the project, which builds on years of extensive research by the Trust and History Society into the history of the site and Sir Baptist Hicks.
Two years ago the Society did a geophysical survey and the outlines of the house and gardens came up clearly. With the support of Landmark Trust, CCHS obtained Scheduled Monument Consent and the money to do some real exploration, including soil sampling, which might uncover evidence of the original planting. The Society hopes that more details of the garden design will be revealed, such as walls and walkways and possibly a central fountain.
There are no contemporary drawings of the house, but five different ‘conjectures’ exist, drawn around 100 years later.
Baptist Hicks (1551-1629) was a wealthy London mercer who sold rich fabrics to Queen Elizabeth and her Court and then from 1603, when he was knighted, to King James and his courtiers. More crucially, he also lent vast sums of money to the King and others and it is estimated that he became the second richest man in England at that time. It is likely too, that he gained access to the Court at the highest level through the influence of his brother Michael, who was a friend and Secretary to Robert Cecil, the King’s chief minister.
In 1607, Sir Baptist purchased the Manor of Campden and about five years later the mansion was built. Hicks was clearly out to make his mark as a successful merchant because at the same time another Campden House was being built in Kensington, away from the bustle of Cheapside, and he also built a Sessions House for the Middlesex Magistrates, named Hicks Hall in his honour. In 1645, during the Civil War, Campden House was burned down by Royalists to prevent it falling into the hands of Parliament. Although the stone was gradually removed, the gardens and their pleasure buildings were left almost untouched. The gardens disappeared below the surface and the buildings became derelict over the centuries, until restored by the Landmark Trust in 1990. The London house survived longer than the one in Chipping Campden but suffered the same fate, being burned down in 1862.
Hicks was a great benefactor to Campden – he built the Almshouses opposite his own house, the Market Hall and made significant contributions to St James’ Church. However, not everyone appreciated his ownership of the manor and land in Campden. There were a number of lawsuits which provide a fascinating story of ‘the locals’ versus ‘the incomer’! He and his wife Elizabeth are buried in the Church in a splendid monument by Nicholas Stone.
Although the grant from HLF is substantial, we still have to find extra money to complete the project. DONATIONS would be most welcome: click here to go to our donations page
Chipping Campden History Society, The Old Police Station, High Street, Chipping Campden, GL55 6HB
Tel: 01386-848840 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Sir Baptist Hicks go to the CCHS website