In 1833, wealthy barrister James Harman built his Elizabethan mansion, Ingress Abbey, on the banks of the Thames. He provided his architect, Charles Moreing, with £120,000 for the construction of follies, grottoes and hermits caves .
Harman moved in and in the 1880s, the Shah of Persia sailed up the Thames noting "The only thing worth mentioning was at Greenhithe where there was a mansion standing amid trees on a green carpet extending down to the water's edge."
However patience has paid off and today Ingress Park is rightly viewed as a great example of new house building and the value of the garden and structural investment can be seen in the outline of the Ingress Park Heritage trail
The Heritage trail includes a number of areas of park land and also the various follies. Access is limited at the moment, due to hibernating bat species including the Pipistrelle, Daubenton, Natterers and Brown Long Eared Bat.
The Gatehouse:Unfortunately the Gatehouse's future is still uncertain due to the Fast Track Public Transport Route. Crest do appear to be working on it at present (April 05) although whether repairing or demolishing is not clear
The Grotto consists of a number of small flint lined caves, in a semi-circle set just off the road from the gatehouse.
The Cave of the Severn Heads is hidden away beneath stone supports that have had to be installed to stop the road collapsing. An access point for the bats has been left but nothing at all of the cave can be seen. Hopefully the cave will be returned to its former glory shortly.
The Prioress tomb
Often overlooked, to the left of the path leading to the Grange is a small tomblike construction. Legend has it that the when Henry VIII confiscated the lands of Dartford Priory, the Abbess, Jane Fane, cursed Henry and all future owners of the estate to die without a male heir. Henry took over the Abbey estate in Dartford and had the still existing Manor house built and so and the Abbess moved (eventually) to Kings Langley where she died. After the death of Henry (without a male heir) the Sisters returned to Dartford briefly. Jane Fane was dead by this time and the new Abbess (Elizabeth Cressener - her niece) arranged for Jane's heart to be buried at Ingress Park. Shortly afterwards the sisters left England forever
There never was an Abbey at Ingress but there was a Priory, an offshoot of the Dominican Abbey at Dartford, from 1363 to 1559. Whatever original buildings there were attached to the Manor were destroyed around 1800 in order to make way for a Naval dockyard intended to help fight the war with Napoleon. Peace broke out before any work was started and it was not until 1820 that the work on the current building was envisioned.
n 1833, wealthy barrister James Harman built his Elizabethan mansion, Ingress Abbey, on the banks of the Thames, thinking it would be the start of the creation of a villa community similar to that Kew and Richmond. He provided his architect, Charles Moreing, with £120,000 for the construction of follies, grottoes and hermits caves using local flint and used stone reclaimed from the demolition of old London Bridge (1831) and the old Houses of Parliament (1834) to build a new House with stone blocks first cut as far back as 1176. in 1999, Crest appointed the PJ Livesey Group to rescue the Abbey at a cost of £6m and it is now owned by an IT company..
Set in the gardens to the South of Ingress Abbey, reputedly one of the largest folly arch's in Southern England. Although sometimes blocked by builders fences the Grange makes a wonderful entrance to the Cliff Park
As you approach, to the right is a 100metre dog leg tunnel with several chambers cut into the chalk and there is a second chamber as you pass through
The Monkswell has very recently been repaired by Crest and now includes both the well room and a platform. With expansive views across the Cliff Park it is a great place to enjoy the birdlife. But beware, at night it is not so friendly and there have been reports of a bluish light coming from inside the well room. This could be a natural gas phenomena but those who have seen it have sometime also reporting a low moaning sound like chanting or praying.
The park here is a great place for woodpeckers, tits and small woodland birds. The cliffs a good place to look for a Sparrowhawk, crows and other larger birds
The Lovers Arch has also benefited from Crest's attention and is in its best condition for many a year. Higher than the Monkswell but again overlooking Cliff Park at the top of a path that goes nowhere, the arch is a great spot to take in the view.
Coming down the path from the arch you are faced with Cliff Park Hill, a rather lob-sided mound that rises at the north side of the park and is crowned with a Ewe tree
On leaving the park you enter a small plaza with the entrance to the Abbey Coach House. How far the tunnel goes under the Abbey is not known and stories of secret passages would seem likely to be true given the designer's wish to add romance to the estate. A casual glance to the left of the entry doors shows a number of strange alcoves containing entrances to small and rather uninviting tunnels
Following the road directly away from the Coach House you come to the the Tudor Mound complete with its Hermit's cave. It will be interesting to see how this odd feature is incorporated into the pleasing circle of housing currently being occupied there
A short walk back to Cliff park brings you to a strange feature known as both the Model Farm Building and the Lime Kiln. Quite what this feature is is not clear but two tunnels disappear into the Cliff and there are the remains of a chimney. This is part of the park where chalk extraction was allowed in the days of the Priory but whether this feature was ever used is unclear. Rumours do persist that the caves here were used to store plane parts during the war, when factories on the site assisted in the war effort.
The Georgian Wall Tunnel has been blocked up and buried as it was felt it was unsafe to allow public access and the cost of repairing was prohibitive. The Folly Trust has expressed a wish to see this tunnel opened up at both ends but gated off so as the public can look into the tunnel but not gain access for health and safety reasons due to the potential for falling chalk through the years.
The Trust see this Grade2 listed folly as vitally important to the 18th century landscaped park that is currently being restored, the entrance is set in a dramatic cliff landscape and could possibly have been designed by Sir William Chambers or Capability Brown.
Cave of the Severn heads today
The Prioress Tomb
Vane swore profane
The curse of Jane Vane
The Grange Tunnel
Grange Tunnel Entrance
The Lovers Arch
Coach House Tunnel
The Model Farm