Hillfield House and Gardens

Hillfield House (grade II, list#: 1271659) was built on the site of an 1820s property known as Woodbine Hill by local builder Albert Estcourt for Charles Walker, a local timber merchant. Estcourt’s name is preserved today in the nearby Estcourt Road, part of the ring road laid down in the 1930s to ease congestion in the city centre.

The house was designed by architect John Giles, who went on to specialise in workhouse, hospital and asylum architecture and whose work included the 1883-built Coney Hill Hospital in Barnwood. The Italianate design popular in the 19th century was inspired by the 16th-century Italian Renaissance, and with its large gardens the property brings a touch of Rome’s more elegant quarters to Gloucester.

The property was acquired by the city in the 1930s, and the gardens became a public park in 1933. The house was used for local government offices, and was advertised for sale in February 2020 with a guide price of £1.85m.

Entrance and chapel remains

The entrance to the gardens on London Road is via grade II-listed gates (list#: 1245747), next to which is a grade II-listed gate lodge (list#: 1245738).

Behind the gate lodge are the grade II* listed remains of St. Mary Magdelene’s chapel (list#: 1245744). The chapel was built in the mid-12th century to serve the nearby St. Mary Magdelene leper hospital. The hospital was demolished and replaced in 1861–1862 by almshouses, now the Gloucester Charities Trust assisted living complex the other side of London Road. At the same time, the chapel nave was demolished as unsafe, leaving only the chancel surviving today.

There is some medieval graffiti scratched into the stonework near the doorway, while inside there is a 13th-century effigy, moved there from the long since demolished chapel of St. Kyneburgh near the city’s south gate. The effigy is traditionally held to be of Kyneburgh, the 7th-century daughter of King Penda, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, in which territory Gloucester was before the unification of England.

 

Gardens

The gardens are currently managed as a city park by the Friends of Hillfield Gardens. They include some of the oldest trees in Gloucester – three mature redwoods and a large oak – a sensory garden where the original kitchen garden was located, a woodland walk and a sculpture made by local schoolchildren.

Two grade II* listed structures are located in the park. The King’s Board (list#: 1245719) is an 18th-century gazebo, constructed in stone recycled from a 14th-century market house on Westgate Street that was demolished in 1780. Having been moved around various local properties, the gazebo was transplanted to the park in 1936 as a gift to the city.

Nearby, Scriven’s Conduit (list#: 1245720) was built on Southgate Street in 1636 as the conduit head for water piped down from Robinswood Hill. It also led a peripatetic life, being located in various properties until it too was given to the city in 1937.

Website: https://www.parksandgardens.org/organisations/friends-of-hillfield-gardens

© 2020–2021 All images copyright Shadowed Eyes unless otherwise credited

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