Combe Abbey Park

Description of this historic site

Combe Abbey Park, a park which was landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century. The park incorporates a deer park, wood, and field system. The fishponds, of which one survives, are possibly Medieval.

Notes about this historic site

1 In 1634 Baron Craven was given permission to inclose 650 acres to make a park.
2 Shirley mentions there were deer there in 1714.
3 The park is shown on Beighton’s map of 1725, but its exact boundaries can first be seen on an estate from 1778. This map also shows “the Great Pool” which was probably added by Capability Brown when the gardens of Combe Abbey were re-landscaped during 1770’s. During the 19th century the park was well stocked with game and fish. A later map of 1823 shows the game somewhat reduced in size and in 1850 White mentions it contained 500 acres, a 90 acre sheet of water and 200 deer. The deer park was still stocked in 1908. Capability Brown is also thought to have designed the menagerie and the dog kennels. The dog kennels were built in ‘folly style’ as a castle wall with battlemented parapets. They were demolished in the 19th century. The menagerie was probably a multi-purpose building, primarily a hunting lodge. One section had an octagonal shaped wing with a domed roof- presumably emulating an observatory. It still exists, though in somewhat altered form. The building is now used as a private dwelling.
11 The park now contains about 390 acres and is owned by Coventry Corporation. There are no longer any deer, but the large pool is still well stocked with fish. Some of the parkland is farmed, but most of it is kept as an amenity area for the public. There are no traces of ridge and furrow in the grassy areas to the south-west of the main entrance to Combe Abbey.
12 As well as the Smite Brook, there were two ponds in the park, both probably earlier than the formation of the lake. One still exists, and is known as the Top Pool; it is now used for boating. The other lay downstream, and was at one time an arm of the lake, but has now been infilled. These may have been the medieval fishponds.
Not a great deal of the 17th century landscape survives within the present park, partly on account of Brown’s replanning, and partly as a consequence of modern destruction. Although the present main drive was the principle axis of the first park, and was part of a ride extending south for 1.5 miles from the cloister, the tree lines are not original, having been entirely replanted in c1900.
The new Combe Park must have approached its zenith in the early 1800s, when Brown’s planting began to mature. It was not long, however, before some 28 acres at the eastern extremity of the park were parcelled into fields and turned over to agriculture, and a further 27 acres were separated as pasture.
Various clay pits were dug in the park, to provide material for brick making.
13 Lovie reports that house and immediate grounds now an hotel; park owned and run by Coventry City Council as country park. Kitchen garden (Probably by Eden Nesfield) in poor state of repair. Formal gardens by Nesfield/Miller quite well maintained. Park, lake, 2 lodges/drives with formal gardens around the house. Menagerie in park.

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