A deer park to the south of the Mansion had long been a feature of the estate. In the early 1800s, Oak trees were planted in the park depicting the arrangement of the English and French fleets at one of Nelson’s greatest victories, the Battle of the Nile. Recent research into contemporary maps of the grounds, comparing them to maps of the formation of the feet at the Battle, supports this story. A statue of Nelson was placed in an elevated position visible from the Mansion in the field now known as Pyramid Field – what became of it is not known; only the stone plinth is visible. A cast-iron plaque with the words ‘Erected by Sir Gilbert East Bart 1826’ has been discovered in one of the fields. Its origins are unclear, but one possible theory is that it used to be the plinth of the statue, or upon one of three original brick pyramids.
In the early 1990s, the College re-planted the battle lines in English Oaks in time for the 200th Anniversary of the Battle marking each as a ship of the line, her guns and in the case of the French line, her fate.
Brick pyramids were also erected along a spring line within the deer park; only one of these pyramids remains today. The spring water was fed down copper pipes to a large tank in the South Garden and pumped into a water tank in the roof space of the Mansion, thus providing the house with running water long before this became the norm, the wooden framework of the tanks remain in the roof today.
Marking a later but additional ‘modern’ convenience the estate also had its own gasworks, shown on a 1912 Ordnance Survey map. The Learning Centre now occupies the site.
At its height Hall Place estate is reputed to have covered around 3,000 acres (1214 hectares) including Ashley Hill (descendants of the deer from the original park can still be found in the Forestry Commission’s woodland); running down to the village at Hurley and towards Stubbings.
The half-mile drive to the Mansion retains the initial impact that one imagines William East intended to create. The open vista of the house and lawn with its circular carriage driveway still convey an aura of solidarity and style.
The landscaped grounds and gardens to the west of the house have an uninterrupted view of fields and wood beyond. The wide and deep lawn is bordered by mature trees, a number planted in Victoria’s reign. The College maintains a fine collection of trees dating from the Victorian era to modern paintings to maintain continuity in the natural framework to the Mansion and to provide interest for students and visitors.
Garden borders will vary, planted as they are to provide colour throughout the seasons and to act as a demonstration and practical resource for horticulture students.
In managing safety, from time to time, the old Lime trees along the three drives require felling. A policy of renewal is in place using a cultivar of Tilla Europea (European Lime) most similar to that which was originally planted, ‘Pallida’.
Around 1870, the unusual beehouse to the north of the back lawn was constructed. The ten-sided building has been restored and is probably the finest example of a Victorian beehouse in England. At one stage there was also a peacock house which stood on the site of one of the teaching buildings.
The extensive lawn to the west of the Mansion leads off an impressive gravel terrace and terminates in a ha-ha. This is in the form of a walled ditch designed to keep livestock out of the gardens whilst forming an invisible boundary between the garden and the fields beyond. From the house, it looks as if the garden stretches to the woodland on the horizon.
A grass amphitheatre close to the bee house, with old brick walling and remnants of stone steps, is allegedly a cockfighting pit from Georgian times.
The Estate is farmed as mixed farming to support the College curriculum and demonstrate good practice. Arable crops; biomass; pasture for sheep and cattle, and paddocks for exercising and training horses, there are today probably far more horses on the estate than in earlier times. Woodland and conservation management are important factors within overall estate management. Woodland areas have been increased and a one-acre stretch of open water created below the spring line at the south end at the estate puddled with naturally occurring clay.
A proportion of the ‘wetter’ areas have recently been planted with Willow to be harvested (coppiced) as biomass for wood chip boilers as a sustainable energy crop. Old stools in High Wood are a testament to hazel coppicing carried out on the estate many years ago.
A proportion of the estate is on the Register of Parks and Gardens of special historic interest.