The Park

Until the 1970s Chillingham Park was the property of the family of the Earl of Tankerville, owners of Chillingham Castle. At one time the family owned at least 65000 acres in the UK, over 100 square miles. It was said that you could walk from Chillingham to the coast, and from Chillingham to Scotland, without leaving Tankerville land. The estates were been broken up and sold in the 20th century. The Chillingham Wild Cattle Association now owns the historic Cattle Park of about 350 acres, together with the surrounding woodlands and, of course, the Wild Cattle herd.

This is a beautiful parkland landscape, but it is not really natural! Chillingham Park has gone through many make-overs since it was first enclosed in the 13th Century, but what we see today is largely due to the design of John Bailey, who was the Earl of Tankerville’s estate manager in the 18th Century. 

The landscape he created is very different from how Chillingham had ever looked before.

When Chillingham Castle was built over 800 years ago, there was an enclosed deer park, which included what we know as Chillingham Park today. Most castles had one to provide hunting and venison for honoured guests.

The northern part of the Park was covered by the Great Wood of Chillingham. Up on the hillsides there would have been common land which local villagers could use for grazing. There would have been scattered trees here. The different areas were separated from each other by ditches and walls or fences.

But from about 1711 onwards there were big changes. It appears a lot of the common land was taken away from the villagers and enclosed. Many of the ditches, walls and fences were cleared away, and the Great Wood of Chillingham was all cut down, along with every other tree in the Park. It is thought that today there are only three trees in the Park that pre-date this felling. The timber was sold for £4000 in the 1750s, about half a million pounds in today’s money.

This paid for new walls which partitioned off the “New Park” next to the Castle, plus the “Old Park” which occupied most of the rest of the area.

We don’t know exactly how it happened, but by the 1790s, it appears all the cattle and a lot of deer were kept in the castle deer park.

It’s possible that a lot of the outer park was now being tenanted as a farm. It must have looked a mess because the stumps from the old Great Wood were still there.

In the 1790s the Earl decided on a big landscape project. This was directed by John Bailey. A seven-mile wall was built around the whole Chillingham Park area.

The old walls and tree stumps of the 1750s were cleared away, carriage ways and stone bridges were built, the flat ground was drained to improve the pasture. Several small woods were planted, mostly on the slopes which the cattle weren’t keen on grazing anyway.

The stumps of the Great Wood were removed – all except those along the streams and ditches and in the wettest patches. These areas we call Robin Hood’s Bog and the Allers, which are truly ancient woodland because as far as we know there has always been tree cover.

The grassland has never been intensively managed, so it has lots of flowers, grasses and other plants which wouldn’t have survived on a productive farm.

With its ancient trees and pastures parkland can be a wonderful habitat for lots of plants and animals that cannot thrive so well elsewhere in our modern world.

Chillingham Park is unique in the world because it has been, without interruption, the ancient home of its very own breed of cattle. The Wild Cattle, along with the deer, have grazed the land for centuries but the pastures have not been altered by cultivation or artificial fertilisers, and the soil has not been affected by veterinary residues.

Until the 1970s Chillingham Park was the property of the family of the Earl of Tankerville, owners of Chillingham Castle. At one time the family owned at least 65000 acres in the UK, over 100 square miles. It was said that you could walk from Chillingham to the coast, and from Chillingham to Scotland, without leaving Tankerville land. The estates were been broken up and sold in the 20th century. The Chillingham Wild Cattle Association now owns the historic Cattle Park of about 350 acres, together with the surrounding woodlands and, of course, the Wild Cattle herd.

This is a beautiful parkland landscape, but it is not really natural! Chillingham Park has gone through many make-overs since it was first enclosed in the 13th Century, but what we see today is largely due to the design of John Bailey, who was the Earl of Tankerville’s estate manager in the 18th Century. 

The landscape he created is very different from how Chillingham had ever looked before.

When Chillingham Castle was built over 800 years ago, there was an enclosed deer park, which included what we know as Chillingham Park today. Most castles had one to provide hunting and venison for honoured guests.

The northern part of the Park was covered by the Great Wood of Chillingham. Up on the hillsides there would have been common land which local villagers could use for grazing. There would have been scattered trees here. The different areas were separated from each other by ditches and walls or fences.

But from about 1711 onwards there were big changes. It appears a lot of the common land was taken away from the villagers and enclosed. Many of the ditches, walls and fences were cleared away, and the Great Wood of Chillingham was all cut down, along with every other tree in the Park. It is thought that today there are only three trees in the Park that pre-date this felling. The timber was sold for £4000 in the 1750s, about half a million pounds in today’s money.

This paid for new walls which partitioned off the “New Park” next to the Castle, plus the “Old Park” which occupied most of the rest of the area.

We don’t know exactly how it happened, but by the 1790s, it appears all the cattle and a lot of deer were kept in the castle deer park.

It’s possible that a lot of the outer park was now being tenanted as a farm. It must have looked a mess because the stumps from the old Great Wood were still there.

In the 1790s the Earl decided on a big landscape project. This was directed by John Bailey. A seven-mile wall was built around the whole Chillingham Park area.

The old walls and tree stumps of the 1750s were cleared away, carriage ways and stone bridges were built, the flat ground was drained to improve the pasture. Several small woods were planted, mostly on the slopes which the cattle weren’t keen on grazing anyway.

The stumps of the Great Wood were removed – all except those along the streams and ditches and in the wettest patches. These areas we call Robin Hood’s Bog and the Allers, which are truly ancient woodland because as far as we know there has always been tree cover.

The grassland has never been intensively managed, so it has lots of flowers, grasses and other plants which wouldn’t have survived on a productive farm.

With its ancient trees and pastures parkland can be a wonderful habitat for lots of plants and animals that cannot thrive so well elsewhere in our modern world.

Chillingham Park is unique in the world because it has been, without interruption, the ancient home of its very own breed of cattle. The Wild Cattle, along with the deer, have grazed the land for centuries but the pastures have not been altered by cultivation or artificial fertilisers, and the soil has not been affected by veterinary residues.