The outstanding formal gardens at Wrest Park were inspired by the gardens at Versailles.
Outside the house are the parterres with the beautiful Archer Pavilion standing majestically at the end of the Long Water.
Other features include the wilderness, canals and woodland walks.
The estate was rescued by English Heritage in 2006 who have begun an ambitious restoration project – on my visit in 2019, the gardens were looking magnificent.
English Heritage members visit for free.
From the 13th century, the de Grey family owned land at Silsoe.
In 15th century, Edmund Grey was created the Earl of Kent. The 12th Earl updated the medieval and 16th century house and laid out the formal gardens, focused on the axial canal called the Long Water.
At the beginning of the 18th century, their son Henry commissioned several leading designers of the day including Nicholas Hawksmoor, Batty Langly and William Kent to lay out the woodland gardens interspersed with garden buildings. Thomas Archer creating the magnificent Garden Pavilion or Banqueting House at the far end of the Long Water.
After the Duke’s death in 1740, the estate was inherited by his granddaughter Jemima, Marchioness Grey. In 1758, ‘Capability’ Brown remodelled the Park but left the formal layout of the gardens for fear of ‘unravel[ling] the Mystery of the Gardens’.
In 1833, Wrest Park was inherited by Thomas Robinson, 2nd Earl de Grey. An accomplished architect, Grey pulled down the old house and built a new one in Louis XV style. He also laid out the parterres and built the Orangery and vast Kitchen Garden. de Grey left the area around the Long Water untouched.
The de Greys sold the estate at the end of World War I and after the Second World War, the house, gardens and part of the park were bought by English Heritage. They lease the site to the Silsoe Research Institute.