Aralia tackling restoration of lost country estate

Landscape design firm Aralia has been appointed in collaboration with Clear Architects to reinstate a piece of architectural history that was set to be swallowed up by woodland.

Artist's impression of Debden Hall. Image: Clear Architects
Artist's impression of Debden Hall. Image: Clear Architects

Known locally as Debden Hall, the Loughton-based country estate was a prominent place in the 18th century, boasting a large Georgian mansion with beautifully landscaped grounds. Today it is all but lost with only the original grade II listed gates and original driveway tree-avenue as proof of its existence.

Epping Forest District Council's planning committee has now approved "Debden Hall III" in a 12:2 vote, due to the design's 'exceptional' architectural merit and landscape design inspired by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.

The original architect, Henry Holland, was a very prominent figure whose clients were drawn from the highest English nobility. Historic references to Holland's personal and professional relationship with Lancelot 'Capability' Brown suggest the country estate would have been designed with Brown, or at the very least would have been influenced by his landscape ethos.

The new Debden Hall uses these two historic figures to create a new layer of history with hints to what came before by restoring lost features. But the design also embraces the current context, including the encroaching woodland setting, to enhance its ecological and aesthetic value.

The Grade II listed ornamental gates will be restored, creating a focus at the entrance to the site, which has been simplified to allude to the site's previous grandeur. The scheme will enhance the current condition of the woodland through implementation of a 10-year woodland strategy.

Over the past few decades the site has been increasingly encroached upon by woodland species, resulting in the original landscape of Debden Hall has been lost. The intention of the development is to reinstate the site as a typical English estate true to its heritage while taking careful consideration to maintain, develop and enhance the amenity and ecological value of the infringing woodland.

The country estate will become a legacy for the local area creating ecological links to nearby Epping Forest. The project has so far been received well by local residents who are eager to see the estate's history revealed and the disused land reinvigorated.

A public consultation on the Debden Hall III scheme, held on 18 November 2015, was attended by more than 70 local residents with the majority supporting the project. Aralia is now working with on the next design stage.

Aralia managing director Patricia Fox said: "We are delighted that Debden Hall III has been planning approved. This is an exciting time for Aralia and feel privileged to be a part of a project with such historical relevance. The Aralia team and I are now looking to get the next design stage underway to further progress on this fantastic journey."

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