What is Houghton Hall Park?

Houghton Hall Park is parkland in Houghton Regis. It is within walking distance of Houghton Regis town centre. It is owned and maintained by both Houghton Regis Town Council and Central Bedfordshire Council. Houghton Hall Park is ‘the green-lung of Houghton Regis’, and as such its value to local residents cannot be underestimated. The Hall, an important landmark, is now privately owned and does not form part of the park. Houghton Hall originally looked south onto estate parkland stretching toward the A505 (since developed for housing and industry). It was commissioned by Alice Brandreth in 1700.

Historic changes in ownership (including council boundaries) have left the parkland diminished in size and this project aims to:

    •    halt the degradation of landscape
    •    refresh heritage features
    •    preserve (and protect) the park for future generations

The park was awarded a funding bid to transform the park from Heritage and Big Lottery Funds ‘Parks for People’ grant scheme. The Renaissance and Renewal project aims to restore the vitality of the park, by:

    •    bringing together different user groups 
    •    increasing accessibility and pride
    •    celebrating park heritage
    •    improving facilities to meet the needs of a growing modern community

Pam Cameron Quote

"In those days, you see, everybody knew everybody else. I’d go up the village and I used to know everybody I met"

Pam Cameron
Houghton Regis

History of the park Open

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.

The park today Open

Houghton Hall Park is a publicly accessible, 17 hectare urban public park, located centrally within the town of Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire. The Park has a rich heritage that is valued by the local community. It plays an important role in the history, culture and landscape of the local area to form an integral part of people’s lives.

The Park includes The Green and the area formerly known as the Renault Sports Club (football fields). Houghton Hall House and its outbuildings are still present and visible to the north of the Park but are in private ownership. Consisting of distinct areas, the Park currently has the former Kitchen Garden, an ornamental Orchard, Eastern and Western Woodlands, as well as a network of scenic walks. Free car parking provision is located at the Park Road North entrance; entrance to the Park is free and it is open all year round.

Sculpture in the woods Open

Ever wondered about the sculpture in the Houghton Hall Park wood?

The artist who created it says it’s a mixture of concepts and ideas, assisted by the enthusiasm of local school-children!

The children were interested in woodland/fairy tale-like art so the artist decided on a how a petal grows and spirals in mathematical terms, thus going under the path and remerging....

If you look through the holes in the artwork they were created as if a tunnel was going into the ground.

Lastly, one child was adamant the artwork needed a monster theme so the artist made the edging of the design lend itself to looking like a dinosaur skeleton!