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The Tudor Wall & Renaissance Water Garden

A "stunning Tudor wall" has recently been uncovered in the development site adjacent to our existing gardens. Alas no sooner was it discovered than the developer recklessly tore down up to 10 metres of prime Tudor work. This was only possible because the developer had not undertaken the archaeological survey which we had requested since 2003 and which was a condition of the planning consent. The complete destruction of the wall was only averted by our intervention and by involving English Heritage, who immediately Listed Grade 2 what remained.

History of the site, the wall & why its only just come to light

The Tudor wall lies to the south of our garden. This site of about 2 acres known as the Sentry site, was formerly a cash and carry and before that a brewery (Woodhams Est 1750). The owner of Sentry acquired the garden of our neighbouring Vines House by buying up Vines House and appropriating its garden to his business, providing some extra warehousing and car parking (and some future planning gain). He or his heir sold the site in 2002 and what had been residential and with restraining covenants became commercial. Or perhaps Brown-field.
At any rate the protests from a small group of residents at the ensuing plans for redevelopment were unsuccessful at preventing the emergence of a set of buildings which day by day became a larger reality set to blight our beautiful garden.
Having commissioned an archaeological survey of our garden in 1994, and from other information and inspired guesses, we were pretty sure that a good part of the Sentry site –all of that abutting our South boundary wall- was originally part of the garden of “sir Francis Clerke’s pretty seat” as Restoration House then was. Amongst our representations to the planning officer therefore was an urgent request for an archaeological survey, stressing as we did  the common levels of the two sites and other information. As a result an archaeological survey was required of the developers, who got this changed to a watching brief, which is far less exacting.
Just before Christmas 2007 we were delighted –indeed somewhat astonished- to discover (from our Viewing Mound, doubtless intended to exploit this very feature) the ongoing uncovering of an extraordinarily arresting retaining wall of knapped flint and diapered brickwork. (shown above) Though patched and braced with tie bars it appeared in reasonable condition, though we had no opportunity to get on site and examine it closely. Returning a fortnight later from a Christmas break, we were appalled and deeply saddened to find a 13 metre section of this wall had been demolished, and the remainder in great danger.
We immediately contacted the Conservation  Officers of Medway Council. To our dismay they knew nothing about the wall, though they claimed that a watching brief had been required, via the offices of Kent County Council. The developer had appointed Archaeology Southeast who have refused to comment.
It has become clear that what has been uncovered (and recklessly destroyed) is a flamboyant Tudor retaining wall of a formal garden dug back into the hill, and probably was the North facing South wall of a large detached garden.

Above: 1864 ordnance survey with later boundaries superimposed.

What's so special about this wall ?

The wall is shown on Sale's map of Rochester of 1816. The wall is a retaining wall of which 26m survives to a height of 3.1m from the foundation course. The width shown exposed at the South Western end is 0.91m at the base & 0.6m wide at the top, and is composed of flint and brickwork with large lumps of clunch.The wall is highly decorative with its diamond pattern running the length, the rare knapped flint flush work acting both as stunning infill with long bonding flints tying back into the chalk clunch. This method of construction has enabled the wall to survive for nearly 5 centuries. doing its orignal job as intended. The structural sophistication denotes a wall of the highest quality and must have been an expensive central feature of a lavish Tudor garden. The reflective lustre of the flint may well have offset a water garden.

What's its relation to Restoration House?

The level it runs at is consistent with a raised walkway, parts of which still survive at RH, notably as the Viewing Mound or Mount. This raised walkway enclosed a lower –Sunk Garden- level, which again runs through to our sunk Time Court. An 1860 OS map (Above) also shows this to be the case; and indeed may well represent the essential form of the Tudor/Stuart garden. Additionally, alternate courses of black and white limewash as quoins to the house, saved by a fluke of being internalised  and panelled over by the extension of the house in the 17th century, raise the possibility of a holistic scheme of house and garden decoration.
The wall was built when Restoration House was still evolving from the Tudor hall house into the city mansion we know today. Our present south wing was the new northern cross wing to that Tudor hall. These buildings would have enveloped the detached garden with its stunning wall.