Hawkstone Park with its Follies is an historic landscape park with pleasure grounds and gardens formerly belonging to Hawkstone Hall, near to Market Drayton, in Shropshire, England, one mile (1.6 km) east of the A49 road.
The Hawkstone house was established by Richard Hill of Hawkstone (1655–1727), also known as 'The Great Hill', circa 1707, whilst the follies, estate and reputation were mainly established by his nephew and heir Sir Rowland Hill, 1st Baronet Hill of Hawkstone (1705–1783) and Sir Richard Hill, 2nd Baronet (1733–1808) in the 18th century.
The park then fell foul of a century of neglect and decay until an ongoing programme of restoration was started in 1990, enabling it to be re-opened in 1993. It is now scheduled as Grade-1 listed on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. It takes a 2.5-hour hiking tour to completely see each folly and their landscapes (a reasonable level of physical fitness and mobility is required and there are many steps, ascents and descents). At some times of the year, not all site trails are accessible.
Attractions include a red brick tower, once lime washed and still called the White Tower, the Monument standing over 100 ft high commemorating Sir Rowland Hill who was the first Protestant Mayor of London, the Cleft which is spanned by the Swiss Bridge, the Grotto which may have originated as a 5th-century copper mine and the Arch atop of Grotto Hill, plus various caves, tunnels through the rock, walkways, viewpoints and trails winding through Rhododendron plantations.
Hawkstone is currently combined with an adjacent hotel (formerly a lodge of the hall) marketed in association with the Principal Hayley Group, golf course. Hawkstone Hall, nearby, is a Catholic retreat, open to the public in August, courtesy of English Heritage roof repair funds.
The first castle at Hawkstone Park was built in 1227 by Henry de Audley, Lord of the Welsh Marches, Constable of Shrewsbury, and Constable of Bridgnorth. The subsequent generations of Audleys were known as the Lords of Red Castle.
John Tuchet, 4th Baron Audley (1371–1408) inherited the title via his sister, then survived the uprising of Owain Glyndŵr and the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, where he fought against Henry "Hotspur" Percy. His son James Tuchet, 5th Baron Audley (1398–1459) was killed by Sir Roger Kynaston, whilst leading the House of Lancaster at the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459.
The Audleys forfeited the title when James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley (c. 1463–1497) led a rebellion against King Henry VII of England in 1497 and was executed. The castle fell into ruin, but the title was restored to John Tuchet, 8th Baron Audley in 1512.
Eventually the lands passed via Sir Andrew Corbet of Moreton Corbet to Sir Rowland Hill, 1st Baronet Hill of Hawkstone (1705–1783), who lived nearby at Shelvock Manor. He was the great, great, great, grandson of Sir Rowland Hill, the first Protestant Lord Mayor of the City of London and Member of Parliament for the City of London in 1533, and who had owned Hawkstone and nearby Soulton.
Richard Hill, 'The Great Hill', traveller and diplomat, had made a fortune by 'lucrative arithmetick' (sic), raised the family into the aristocracy and rebuilt Hawkstone Hall as the family seat.
Sir Rowland Hill, 1st Baronet (1705–1783), landscaped the Red Castle and extended the estate, with walks over the four natural hills and a wide range of follies that included a hermit to dispense wisdom to visitors.
Sir Richard Hill, 2nd Baronet (1733–1808) took over on his father’s death in 1783, published a guide for visitors and built the 'Hawkstone Inn' to accommodate them. He engaged landscape gardener William Emes to build a vast manmade lake, the Hawk River and his follies included a 'ruined' Gothic architecture Arch on Grotto Hill, the urn, a tribute to an English Civil War ancestor, the Swiss Bridge, and the 100-foot (30 m) obelisk with an internal staircase, topped by a statue of the original Sir Rowland Hill. Hawkstone Park had become one of Britain’s top attractions by the time he died in 1808. It maintained this status under his brother Sir John Hill, 3rd Baronet (1740–1824).
Sir Rowland Hill, 4th Baronet Hill of Hawkstone, 2nd Viscount Hill (1800–1875) inherited, spent and lost a large fortune. He created two new drives, one at vast expense through a rock cutting, and even considered completely relocating the hall across the park. In 1824-5 he built a dower house known as The Citadel in Gothic Revival style. His extravagance and bad management caused a descent into a mess that was inherited by his son in 1875.
Rowland Clegg Clegg-Hill, the 3rd Viscount Hill (1833–1895) was bankrupt by the time of his death in 1895, forcing the sale of the contents of the hall and then the split up of the estate by 1906.
The hall was purchased by George Whitely, later Baron Marchamley of Hawkstone, Liberal Whip. He had extensive restoration and reconstruction done by Wm. Tomkinson and Sons of Liverpool, managed by H.P. Dallow, which included shortening in length and reducing in elevation, the wings of the house. The chapel wing was reconstructed as a games room with a dance floor, and the other wing was converted to servants accommodation.
The hall and lake became a religious retreat in the 1920s, while the hotel and a large part of the park later became a golf course. During World War II, parts of the park were used as a prisoner of war camp.
Hawkstone Park is now being restored and is protected as a Grade I historic park, as rated by English Heritage.
Dr. Johnson visited and wrote of...
- "its prospects, the awfulness of its shades, the horrors of its precipices, the verdure of its hollows and the loftiness of its rocks ... above is inaccessible altitude, below is horrible profundity." (1774).
Erasmus Darwin also visited, and notes the outcrops of copper-bearing rocks...
- "at Hawkstone in Shropshire, the seat of Sir Richard Hill, there is an elevated rock of siliceous sand which is coloured green with copper in many places high in the air." (1783).
- Hawkstone Park
- Hawkstone Hall
- Images of Hawkstone Park on Odd-stuff!
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Hawkstone Park and surrounding area
- "Red Castle (picture)"