A survey and plans of the estate of Richard Barwell, 1785 (Add Mss 2158)

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Chosen by James Cooper, Director at Stansted House

This map shows in artistic and graphic detail the lands and tenements belonging to the Stansted Estate, one of the foremost estates in Sussex in the late 18th century, then owned by Richard Barwell. The extent of the lands at the western end of the county is huge. With it, as a parallel document, comes the estate terrier, a list of who was in occupation in some cases, the areas, the use of the land and its valuation in the 1780s.

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Engraving by Bonner of the remains of the original medieval house, 1783 (PD 19)

Stansted is an estate with a long and varied history. It had its origins in the 11th century as a hunting lodge for the Earls of Arundel. By 1480 there appears to have been a house there which survived until 1686 at when point the then owner, Richard Lumley, started work on a new, and extremely lavish, residence. The original house was used as farm buildings and gradually fell into disrepair but in the 19th century, the remains were converted into a chapel by the then owner, Reverend Lewis Way.

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Engraving of Stansted House, printed 1727 (PD 1123)

Richard Barwell, a former member of the Supreme Council of Bengal, entered Stansted’s history in 1781 when he purchased the estate, including land which extended far beyond Stansted, into the parishes of Westbourne, Racton, Stoughton, Compton, Up Marden, East Marden, Treyford, Chidham, Bosham and Appledram. He made several significant alterations to the exterior of the building and the grounds.

Barwell appears to have been a somewhat controversial figure locally, reluctant to allow access to his beautiful grounds. Barwell’s friend, William Hickey, wrote in his Memoirs that Barwell ‘made it his study to render himself obnoxious to persons of all ranks, shutting up gates and paths through the park that had, as an indulgence, been always open to the public; His name from such conduct was soon held in such detestation that men, women and children hissed and hooted him as he passed in all his oriental state through the villages’.

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Stansted Forest from a survey of Stansted estate, 1785 (Add Mss 2158)

Stansted was struck by tragedy in 1900 when a fire destroyed the house. It was rebuilt in 1902 by Arthur Conran Blomfield Jnr on the same footprint as the older house with efforts to replicate the oak panelling, carving and plasterwork, and this is is what can be seen today. The estate was purchased by Vere Ponsonby, 9th Earl of Bessborough, in 1924 and since 1983 the House and Estate have been owned by Stansted Park Foundation, a charitable trust charged with the preservation of the estate for the benefit of the nation.

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View of Stansted Park, with the house in the background, 1910 (PH 26116/201)

Stansted Park is open to visitors and plays host to an exciting range of events. More information about visiting the Stansted and what’s on can be found on the Stansted Park website.

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