The settlement of Houghton Regis is of Saxon origin. At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 AD it was a Royal Manor, with a church and an estate of just over 2000 hectares. Documentary and archaeological evidence suggests that, at the time of the Norman Conquest, Houghton Manor was wealthy and prosperous.
In 1132 the Royal Manor of Houghton was given to the Norman baron, Hugh de Gurney and the manor stayed with families connected to Hugh de Gurney until the 16th century. Between the mid 16th and mid 17th century it passed through a succession of owners until it was bought by Henry Brandreth.
The Brandreth family created Houghton Hall Park as we know it today and had a significant impact on the town of Houghton Regis throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries. The family are key to the history and heritage of the site and are a key focus for restoration and interpretation works at the site.
In the 1980′s, parts of the estate (including the Grade II* listed Houghton Hall, Grade II listed Stable Block and land to the South of the existing Park) were sold off. Houghton Hall itself is now a privately owned office building and is not open to the public. However the Grade II* listed red brick manor house is visible from the Park and provides a useful reference point in understanding the layout of the Park and the building’s period architectural features (such as the windows, architraves, cornicing and decorative brickwork) and the attached walls and outbuildings (like the dovecote tower) add to the aesthetic appeal of the area. The grounds of the house contain a ha-ha wall and historic earthworks which will be interpreted as part of the project.
The 1879 First Edition Ordnance Survey map shows the introduction of a more formalised designed landscape. A kitchen garden, orchard, landscaped gardens, kennels and yew tree walk had been established and by 1901, other ‘rides’ and formal paths had been cut through the woodlands. Whilst Houghton Hall Park is not a large or complex designed landscape it does reflect many of the changes and advances in private parklands and gardens that took place in the 19th Century. Interpretation will highlight how quickly the estate was developed to reflect changing trends and cutting edge design.
Despite the separation of the Hall from the parkland the historic landscape remains largely intact; retaining the eastern and western mature woodlands documented in the 1879 OS map, a number of feature/ specimen trees, tree groupings and meadowland to the south.