A respectable 26 members and friends of the SVHS found their way to Easton Lodge on a very pleasant Thursday evening where we were met by Kathryn who took us on a guided tour. The original estate was given to Henry Maynard by Queen Elizabeth I, for "services rendered" presumably as a result of his employment to Lord Burleigh. He had Easton Lodge built in 1597 which remained with the Maynard family for 450 years.
The Elizabethan house was completely destroyed by a fire in 1847, but the replacement house only survived until 1918 when it was partially destroyed by another fire, apparently caused by a sick monkey (obviously some monkey business going on). The last owner of the estate was Frances Evelyn Maynard, better known as Daisy, who was bequeathed the entire estate by her grandfather, Lord Maynard, dying at the ripe old age of 99, just surviving her father by 3 months.
Daisy married Lord Brooke who later inherited the title Duke of Warwick making Daisy the Countess. Up to 1895 Diasy was very much the (gl)amorous hostess, reputedly notching up Prince Edward as one of her conquests. Apparently she was the Daisy in the "bicycle made for two" song. However, in 1897 she appeared to have a Damascene conversion, changing overnight from socialite to socialist. In 1902 she commissioned Harold Peto to design and construct an extensive garden, including a sunken Italian Garden. A Japanese Garden with a tea house was also built. Much of the construction work was carried out by inmates of the Salvation Army Inebriates Home. She died in poverty in 1938 having spent all her money supporting good causes.
During WW2 part of the estate was converted to an airfield and used by both the RAF and later the USAF. The house was demolished in 1950 by the last Maynard owner, Daisyís son, Greville who created a very attractive arboretum which included silver birches but the formal gardens were abandoned. The estate was acquired by Brian and Diana Creasy in 1971 who started the painstaking task of restoring the gardens on a very limited budget. Some SVHS members may remember the talk Brian gave in April 2006 when the main concern was the strong possibility that much of the estate would be buried under the concrete of the proposed 2nd runway of Stansted. This, in what is possibly the best thing the Coalition government has done, was axed last year. The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Society was formed in 2004 who took over the restoration work of the Creasys.
One of the unusual garden features was a large sundial made from a yew and box hedge about 4 m high formed into a cursor and we were able to tell the time from it as it was a lovely sunny evening. This was a reconstruction of the original planted around 1890. Much of the work designed by Peto had been restored including the courtyard, on the site of the original house and the Italian garden with a 30m balustraded pool, abandoned in about 1950, then cleared of over 100 trees in 1996, sadly still not accessible. We ambled down the tree lined glade to the Japanese style viewing platform in front of the privately owned fishing lake and back along the Stirling Walk, a memorial to the RAF and USAF airmen who flew from the airfield adjacent to the estate.
We finished our very pleasant evening with a very welcome cuppa and a piece of cake near the now ruined Shelley pavilion.
Finally, for those who are able to attend our monthly meetings, we are delighted that Jane Hampshire will be talking about the history of Foxton and her fatherís international best seller "The Common Stream" on Thursday 13th October. On 10th November, 11 days after Halloween, Robert Halliday will be giving a talk entitled "Cambridge Ghosts" which will also include some Sawston hauntings. Please ignore the dates given for these talks on our printed programme. Somehow the dates were transposed.