Balls Park in Hertford is a Grade I Listed mid-17th-century house. The estate and house are set in over 63 acres of parkland which is Grade II Listed and features on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. The estate and house are believed to have been the inspiration for some of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice.
History of the site
The history of Balls Park begins with Sir John Harrison, a wealthy financier and customs official, who constructed the house between 1637 and 1640, possibly to the designs of Nicholas Stone, the king’s master-mason.
The building is designed in the so-called Artisan Mannerist style similar to several other Hertfordshire houses of the same date but shows purer classical traits which suggest metropolitan influences. Several later phases of remodelling can be traced stylistically to changes initiated by Harrison’s son Richard Harrison, and his grandson Edward Harrison, who had served in the colonial government of the East India Company.
In the later 18th century, the house passed to the family of the marquesses Townshend of Raynham in Norfolk, and so became a secondary home, though favoured by Lord John Townshend, who initiated further changes; possibly roofing over the courtyard as a saloon or atrium in the early 19th century.
In the 1880s it was let to the Faudel-Phillips family, who purchased it outright in 1901 and made further changes. The estate offices and surviving stable block were built in 1902. In the early 1920s Sir Benjamin Faudel-Phillips commissioned the Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer to enlarge the house, by removing a series of service buildings and constructing a new west wing, mirroring the form of the mansion. The coach house was also remodelled at the same time.
The estate was sold in 1946 and converted into a teacher training college, and served in an educational capacity for over 50 years, before closure in its final incarnation as the Hertford campus of the University of Hertfordshire in 2002.
City & Country acquired Balls Park in 2001 from the University of Hertfordshire. In 2003, planning permission was granted for a comprehensive redevelopment of this highly sensitive site according to English Heritage Enabling Development Guidelines that allowed the minimum new build possible to ensure the repair of the listed buildings and park. The scheme included commercial use for the listed buildings, the demolition of unsightly 1960’s college buildings and the development of 132 new homes that were designed to respect the setting and context of the listed buildings and the historic park.
Several years later it was concluded by English Heritage that ‘the optimum viable use’ for this important Carolean country house was into residential apartments. Planning permission was granted in 2010 and The Mansion, Coach House and Stables have been restored and converted into 40 apartments by City & Country.
Balls Park cricket
Balls Park is a cricket ground in Hertford, Hertfordshire. The ground is located in the grounds of the Balls Park estate. The first recorded match on the ground was in 1865 between Hertford and a United South of England Eleven. In 1901, the ground hosted its first Minor Counties Championship match which was between Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. From 1901 to present, the ground has hosted 70 Minor Counties Championship matches and 2 MCCA Knockout Trophy matches.
The ground has played host to two List-A matches, the first of which came in the 1999 NatWest Trophy between Hertfordshire and the Sussex Cricket Board. The second and final List-A match played on the ground was between Hertfordshire and Worcestershire.
- Detached Homes, Conversion Apartments, Hertford
- Balls Park on CricketArchive
- Balls Park on Cricinfo
- Balls Park Old Students Homepage