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Mote Park lake with Mote House in the distance

Mote Park is a 180 hectare multi-use public park in Maidstone, Kent. Previously a country estate it was converted to landscaped park land at the end of the 18th century before becoming a municipal park. It includes the former stately home Mote House together with a miniature railway, pitch and putt golf course and a boating lake. The park has also been used as a cricket ground for the Kent County Cricket Club.

Contents

History

The park's name is derived from 'moot' or 'mote' in Old English meaning "a place of assembly".[1][2] Its proximity to nearby Penenden Heath (the site of shire moots during the Middle Ages) indicates that it may once have formed part of an administrative region in central Kent.

In the 13th century, the "mote" lands were incorporated into the manor of local landowners and a manor house in the area of the present-day park is described as being castellated (or fortified) with emparked grounds. This is believed to indicate the area was used as a one of the earliest deer parks in Kent.[3][4][5]

The park is incorporated into royal history as a possession of King Edward IV's consort, Elizabeth Woodville (daughter of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers) and was later raided by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick angered by the King's marriage. The Woodville family continued to lay claim to the land despite various interventions during the reign of Richard III and Henry VII. Passing to Thomas Wyatt the younger, the estate again returned to the Crown under Queen Elizabeth I before finally passing, in 1690 to the Marsham family, who would later become the Lords Romney.[4]

Under the ownership of the Marsham family, the estate was considerably improved.[5] The grounds were laid out in the so-called Anglo-Dutch style illustrated in an engraving by Johannes Kip in 1750.

Volunteers Pavilion Doric Temple

In 1799, King George III and Prime Minister William Pitt visited the property to inspect around 3,000 assembled troops of the Kent Volunteers, a local militia trained to defend the county from a possible invasion by Napoleon I of France. A Doric-style temple was constructed to commemorate the occasion.[2][6][7][8]

Between 1793 and 1800 the original Mote House was demolished and a new mansion constructed, designed by Daniel Asher Alexander.[9] At the same time the River Len was dammed to form a lake. The addition of internal roadways, walls, a boathouse and a bridge (the 'Great Bridge') over the lake stretched the financial resources of Charles Marsham, 3rd Baron Romney.[2] Eventually the family gathered enough funds to expand the property and the park reached the size it is today, approximately 180 hectares. The Great Bridge was demolished and the lake itself expanded to around 30 acres.

At the peak of its opulence in 1888 an article in the Gardener's Chronicle described extensive gardens, exotic plants and a walled kitchen garden including orangeries, vineries and peach houses, staffed by 25 gardeners.

In 1895 the estate was sold to Marcus Samuel, 1st Viscount Bearsted. The estate had included the Mote Cricket Club since 1857 however the Viscount Bearsted expanded the facility and built a pavilion between 1908 and 1910 (see below).

In 1929 Walter Samuel (the 2nd Viscount Bearsted) sold the majority of the estate to Maidstone Borough Council (then the Maidstone Corporation) for £50,000[10] and converted the house to an orphanage.[9] The family still retains an interest in the park today.

Mote House in 2005

The house was later commandeered by the British Armed Forces (who continued to use the kitchen garden) as a headquarters and training facility during the Second World War. It was subsequently used as offices for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food before becoming a care home for the disabled. After lying empty for a number of years it is (as of late 2007) in the process of being redeveloped (along with its outbuildings) as retirement apartments and cottages.[9]

The park itself was remodelled following its purchase in the 1930s and now contains a number of recreation facilities (see below). It was also used as a venue for the annual Kent County Show between 1946 and 1963. Being central to the town, much of the population was able to walk to and from the Show which was and is held during the middle of July each year[11]

The park is now registered at Grade II on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Mote House itself is a Grade II* listed building incorporating historic outbuildings including the Grade II listed stables.[12][13]

The park also hosted Radio 1's Big Weekend (a music festival) on 10-11 May 2008.[14]

Cricket ground

Mote Park
Ground information
Location Maidstone, Kent
Establishment 1857
Seating capacity 8,500
End names
Mote Avenue End
West Park Road End
Domestic team information
Kent (1859 – 2005)
As of 17 December 2007
Source: CricketArchive

The first Kent County Cricket Club match at The Mote was in 1859, two years after the founding of The Mote Cricket Club. However, visits by Kent to The Mote were limited until the intervention of the 1st Viscount Bearsted at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1908, Sir Marcus Samuel oversaw the levelling of the original playing area to form the middle of three terraces (the upper and lower levels became rugby pitches) and the wicket was moved to its current position, perpendicular to the original orientation. [15]

In 1910, two permanent, buildings (still present on the ground today although extended) were opened. The pavilion, contains the players' dressing rooms and covered seating for club members. A smaller building, to the left of the pavilion is The Tabernacle, formerly the private pavilion of Viscount Bearsted. Apart from some restoration work, the ground otherwise still resembles the facility constructed in the early 20th century.

Following the estate's sale in 1929, the ground ended up in the ownership of the Band of Brothers Cricket Club and Mote Cricket Club in the 1940s.

The ground continued to be used by the county side for an annual cricket week until the end of the 2005 season. After 140 consecutive years of play, Mote Park was taken off the list of county grounds used by Kent when an over-watered 'green' wicket, prepared for the County Championship match against Gloucestershire, led to a low scoring game and a subsequent points deduction.[16] The facilities had only months before been approved for redevelopment as part of a larger scheme to increase the profile of cricket in the county town.[17] Since that time, The Mote Cricket Club have relaid a number of wickets with the help of grants and technical assistance from the county cricket club and Maidstone Borough Council, and it is hoped this will allow the return of county cricket in the near future.

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Notable cricket performances

  • Kent County Cricket Club's highest partnership for any wicket in first-class cricket was made at Mote Park during the 1995 season with Aravinda de Silva and Graham Cowdrey scoring 368.
  • In 1910, C. Blythe and F.E. Woolley bowled unchanged throughout both innings of a fixture with Yorkshire County Cricket Club repeating a performance from 1889, also against Yorkshire by bowlers W. Wright and F. Martin.
  • In 1995 Mark Ealham made the fastest century in the history of the 40-over game. In 44 balls, Ealham scored a hundred, with 9 sixes and 9 fours.

Facilities

References

  1. ^ Entry for 'Moot' at Dictionary.com
  2. ^ a b c Entry for Maidstone (referencing Mote Park) in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72) by John Marius Wilson
  3. ^ History of Mote Park at Maidstone Borough Council
  4. ^ a b England's Topographer: Or A New and Complete History of the County of Kent by William Henry Ireland pages 634 to 638 (Published 1829)
  5. ^ a b Park The town and parish of Maidstone: Town and manors, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4 by Edward Hasted (1798), pages 260-307
  6. ^ The Beauties of England and Wales, Or, Delineations, Topographical by John Britton and others (Published 1808) at Google Books
  7. ^ A detailed description of the review from Public Characters of 1805 by Alexander Stephens (1805) at Google Books
  8. ^ per Ireland (supra), pages 692-695
  9. ^ a b c Mote House, This is your life Press Release dated 9 January 2007 on behalf of Raven Audley Court plc
  10. ^ Kent in the Twentieth Century by Nigel Yates (2001) page 360, at Google Books
  11. ^ Kent Showground History
  12. ^ Mote House Development Brief: Record Of Decision Of The Cabinet Member For Transport And Planning Policy Maidstone Borough Council decision dated 7 November 2001
  13. ^ English Heritage: Buildings at Risk Register 2007
  14. ^ BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend
  15. ^ History of Mote Park Cricket Ground at CricInfo.com
  16. ^ kent end 140-year Maidstone deal from BBC Sport 30 September 2005
  17. ^ Major changes for cricket ground from BBC Sport 2 June 2005
  18. ^ Olympic training venues - South East from BBC Sport, 3 March 2008

External links

51°15′52.3″N 0°32′46.7″E / 51.264528°N 0.546306°E / 51.264528; 0.546306Coordinates: 51°15′52.3″N 0°32′46.7″E / 51.264528°N 0.546306°E / 51.264528; 0.546306


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