Just over an hour north of the capital, near Bedford, Moggerhanger Park is a grand, Georgian country house, designed by John Soane and set in 33 acres of beautiful Bedfordshire countryside, landscaped by Humphrey Repton.
It is an important historic building virtually on Londoners' doorsteps and yet very few have ever heard of Moggerhanger. April and May, when the estate is at its loveliest, its woodland carpeted in bluebells, is the best time to remedy our oversight.
The pleasurably Gothic-sounding name, Moggerhanger, is one that makes architects and historians very excited indeed. Rebuilt by Soane from 1790 to 1816, the house is renowned as the most complete surviving example of the work of the master also responsible for the Bank of England, Dulwich Picture Gallery, the remodelling of 10 Downing Street, and 12 and 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields – now the Soane Museum.
Having been the home of Godfrey Thornton, Governor of the Bank of England (1793-95) in its heyday, Moggerhanger was sold in the mid-19th century, and subsequently the estate was partially broken up and the building neglected. In 1919, Bedfordshire County Council put it to use as a hospital, until, in 1987, the whole estate was purchased by a developer. The house and 15 acres were acquired by Moggerhanger Preservation Trust for £1 in 1997, and it proceeded to raise and spend £6 million restoring the building, which was reopened in May 2005. (Work is still ongoing to restore the landscaping to Repton’s original plan of 1792.)
'Visitors can wander free of charge, discovering - any minute now - hundreds upon hundreds of bluebells'
Visiting Moggerhanger Park
Conferences and private events (including frequent murder mystery evenings) are held at the house, but far too few private punters see Moggerhanger. Daytrippers tend to confine their visits to the public tours offered from June to September.
However, Moggerhanger’s fantastic facade, with its pillared portico, is the highlight of any visit, and many of the real delights of the estate are to be found in the 33 acres of grounds, where daily visitors can wander free of charge (11am-4pm), discovering features such as the original ice house, the mature red cedar and beech trees and, above all, the magical woodland, coloured first by snowdrops, then daffodils and woodland anemones and - any minute now – hundreds upon hundreds of bluebells.
Moggerhanger Park, Moggerhanger Road, Moggerhanger, Bedfordshire, MK44 3RW, 01767 641007.
How to get there
The park is three miles from Sandy train station, or just off the A1 near Bedford by car. For directions and more details, see the website at www.the-park.net/moggerhangerpark.