Wrotham Park (pronounced Root-am) is an 18 bedroom house set in a 300 acre estate. It was designed by Isaac Ware in 1754 and built by Admiral John Byng, and is still owned by the family. Byng was Court Martialed in 1757 for negligence which provided the occasion for Voltaire's famous quip: “Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de truer de temps en temps un admiral pour encourager les autres” which translates as "In this country it pays well, from time to time, to kill an Admiral to encourage the others". It is one of the largest private houses within the M25 corridor.
The pleasure grounds are situated in Hertsmere, a local government district and borough in Hertfordshire, based in Borehamwood.
Hertsfordshire, it cites on the inward boundary is the ‘County of Opportunity’ and it certainly is opportune for the NISG to be invited here, as the Institute has not yet experienced sonic eruption in this district and it is exciting to discover a new and rich area for investigation.
Wrotham Park lies between Potters Bar 1.5km to the north and Barnet 1.5km to the south it is bounded by public roads, with the A1000 Great North Road to the east, Dancers Hill Road to the north and Kitt's End Road to the west. Two broad, shallow valleys cross the park, rising from west to north-east and west to south-east respectively, from a lake on the west boundary. The house stands on a promontory between the two valleys. We might suggest that this landscape acts as something of a funnel or channel for rich sonic deposits.
The immediate setting is rural, with a town development close by to the north, south and south-east. The M25 motorway runs roughly parallel and 500m north of the north boundary. Long views extend westwards from the house and surrounding grounds across the adjacent countryside. There are mature oaks surrounding the sounding space, and a lake at the bottom of the park. The garden is crossed by a network of paths, with a serpentine lake at the centre. The area is laid out with sunk flower gardens, picturesque tree plantings, collections of exotic plants, shrubberies and ponds. In the environs of this parkland we have heard conversational, melodic, ambient and proto-historic sonic phenomena.
We were alerted to the emanations by Robert Byng a direct descendent of Admiral Byng who lives in the house and has managed the estate since 1991.
Originally part of an estate known as Pinchbank (also Birchbank), first recorded in Middlesex in 1310 and owned in the 17th and early 18th centuries by the Howkins family, the property passed to Thomas Reynolds, a director of the South Sea Company, who renamed the estate Strangeways. His son, Francis, sold the property to Admiral John Byng who had the house rebuilt by Isaac Ware in 1754. In 1883 a disastrous fire broke out in the house and it was gutted, although it burnt slowly enough to remove the valuable contents of the house as it burnt. The interior was re-built to exactly the same design.
We are unsure of the reasons for this forceful eruption event, although some of the NISG team have been working on a thesis that frequent loud music or parties may trigger or stimulate sonic venting.
The soil is mainly London Clay and beneath the clay lies a thick layer of chalk, which is exposed to the west of the Barnet by-pass and also in the valley of Mimmshall brook, where, resting on it, is a narrow band of Reading Beds. On the highest land are patches of pebble gravel, rarely more than 10 ft. thick. They cover a narrow ridge from Barnet to Bentley Heath, a wider area along Potters Bar High Street to Little Heath, and parts of Mimmshall wood, Dugdale Hill, and Dyrham Park. Other drift deposits include boulder clay in the north and north-east and alluvium fill in the valley of Mimmshall brook.
Considerable traces of Roman Road found at the boundary of the estate, and then later Saxon settlement. It is also near to the site of the Battle of Barnet, a decisive engagemet in the Wars of the Roses fought in 1471. Historians regard this battle as one of the most important clashes in the Wars of the Roses, since it brought about a decisive turn in the fortunes of the two houses. Edward's victory was followed by fourteen years of Yorkist rule over England. In our early research phase we perceived sounds of proto-historical battle emanating from the ground beneath our feet.