Braxted Park | History

Michael Clark | Obituary

Braxted Park is first recorded as being a Deer Park in 1342 when it belonged to the Countess of Pembroke, prior to the purchase of the estate in 1650 by Thomas Darcy. His son, Thomas Darcy (II), abandoned the old house which was situated close to Braxted church, and built Braxted Lodge on the site of the present house in 1680. In 1708 the park was described as having been extended to 300 acres with three large ponds.

The estate was then purchased by Peter Du Cane (I), a cloth merchant and entrepreneur. He reconstructed the house with the help and advice of Isaac Ware, Thomas James and Robert Taylor. Peter lived at Braxted Lodge from 1751 until his death at the age of 90 in 1803. Du Cane maintained the park with its original features but carried out new planting and reshaped the ponds. He planted two radiating elm avenues leading up to the front of the house and kept a meticulous account of the work he carried out.

Peter Du Cane (II) then inherited the park at the age of 62 and proceeded to carry out extensive alterations to the house and park. Du Cane removed his father’s elm avenues and enlarged the ponds to form a lake. He also planted numerous park trees and shelterbelts around the estate, and added the nursery plantation, a grove of oaks, holm oaks and cedars to the east of the walled garden.

Du Cane (II) died in 1823 and the estate was passed to his son Peter Du Cane (III), who renamed the house Braxted Park. His main contribution to the park was the acquisition of the lands of the Glebe to the north-east of the old park, the construction of the four and a half mile park wall, and the addition of six lodge buildings. From this point onwards the old park (pre 1800 extent) is to be distinguished from the new park, which includes the remainder of the land within the wall.

Peter Du Cane (III) died in 1841 and the estate was passed on to his cousin Charles Du Cane who maintained the estate in much the same condition. Unfortunately after his death in 1889 the estate took a gradual decline with much of the fine timber in the park being felled.

The estate was finally sold by the Du Cane family to William Boulton in 1919, who then sold it to The Plessey Company in 1947. The house was occupied by Sir Allen Clark, chairman of the company and subsequently by his son, Michael Clark. In 1955, 45 acres in the north-west of the old park was developed as a private golf course and this use continues today. The estate is now owned by a family trust and managed by Sir Allen Clark’s grandson, Duncan Clark who came out of a 17 year banking career in the City to devote all his energies full time to making Braxted a thriving and self sufficient diversified rural business.

Duncan Clark started a £2 million investment programme in 2004 and the Braxted Park wedding, conference and business venue was born. A 35m by 15m pavilion was erected on the foundations of an old tennis court within the walled garden. The pavilion can accommodate up to 350 pax for dining as well as conferences, parties and weddings. A wedding venue wouldn’t be complete without a bridal suite and guest accommodation so Clark refurbished the old stables into sophisticated and modern guest rooms. There are a total of 8 guest rooms plus a stunning bridal suite comprising its own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and sitting room. Part of the investment programme also included the restoration of 10 office units spread across a total floor space of 15,000 sq ft which are arranged around an elegant courtyard setting.