Back in 1875, our magnificent estate was purchased by James William Carlile. Seeking to learn more about the history of the area, he undertook a series of historical research projects.
During his research projects, he found out that Ponsbourne was part of the Hatfield estates of the Bishop of Ely during the 12th century. He also discovered that the ancient Roman road connecting the royal residences of Bishop’s Hatfield and Theobalds Park was used frequently by merchants.
During the 15th century, many of the large estates in England came into the Crown following the Dissolution. This particular estate was different, given that it had already been sold to Sir John Fortescue, the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and the author of De Laudibus Legum Angliae, the Commendation of the Laws of England. He was responsible for building the original “stately and large” mansion in the valley.
During the 18th century, the manor was sold to Lawrence Sullivan esq. of Mile End, who proceeded to knock down the mansion that Fortescue built. He then built the current mansion in a slightly different location, offering a better vantage point than the previous. He also undertook large amounts of landscaping, creating a series of features that successfully added to the ornate beauty of the estate.
It is easy to see the work that was completed when James William Carlile eventually purchased Ponsbourne in the 19th century, as we can see a series of Victorian improvements, including the addition of a memorable staircase. We can also still see some of the stained glass windows that he added, along with monograms that have been hidden throughout the building and the Carlile Coat of Arms.
Naturally, Carlile focused on creating a landscaped garden to reflect the beauty of the world around him. This included the establishment of rock pools, waterfalls and bridges that can still be seen in the grounds today. At one point, there was also a “Winter Garden” in the basement of the mansion, but it has unfortunately been lost to time.