What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
Holwood House, Keston
THE HOME OF WILLIAM PITT
=How to get there.=–Train from Charing Cross, Cannon Street, and London Bridge. South-Eastern and Chatham Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Hayes (2 miles from Keston village). About 3 miles from Holwood House. =Distance from London.=–12 miles. =Average Time.=–35 minutes.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 2s. 0d. 1s. 3d. 1s. 0-1/2d. Return 3s. 3d. 2s. 4d. 1s. 10d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–"The Fox Inn,” “The George." =Alternative Route.=–To Orpington Station by the South-Eastern and Chatham Railway, about 4 miles distant.
Visitors are able to pass through the park on a public footpath. About 3 miles’ walk from Hayes Station by a pleasant road over Hayes Common is Holwood House, a stately, classic building, for many years the home of William Pitt, the famous statesman and son of the Earl of Chatham. He owned the estate between 1785 and 1802, and it was during this period that the British camp in the park suffered so severely. The earth-works were occupied by some early British tribe before Caesar crossed the Channel, and the place probably owed its strength to its well-chosen position. Pitt, however, caused these fascinating remains to be levelled to a considerable extent, in order to carry out some of his ideas of landscape gardening. A magnificent tree growing near the house is known as “Pitt’s Oak,” from the tradition that Pitt was specially fond of spending long periods of quiet reading beneath its overshadowing boughs. Another tree of more interest still stands quite near the public footpath through the park. This is known as “Wilberforce’s Oak,” and is easily distinguished from the surrounding trees by the stone seat constructed in its shade. The momentous decision which makes this tree so interesting is given in Wilberforce’s diary for the year 1788. He writes, “At length, I well remember after a conversation with Mr. Pitt in the open air at the root of an old tree at Holwood, just above the steep descent into the vale of Keston, I resolved to give notice on a fit occasion in the House of Commons of my intention to bring forward the abolition of the slave-trade.”
With the exception of Knole Park, Holwood boasts some of the finest beeches in the country. The present house took the place of the one occupied by Pitt in 1825; the architect was Decimus Burton.
[Illustration: WILBERFORCE’S OR “EMANCIPATION OAK” IN HOLWOOD PARK, KESTON.]