Howbery’s Manor House, which dates back to 1850, has been owned by various nobleman and political figures over the years, and has even hosted Royal visits including Prince Henry who camped as an ordinary soldier at the Park in 1927 through to Queen Elizabeth II in 1956.
The Manor House was built in about 1850 by English Member of Parliament (MP) William Seymour Blackstone. Blackstone fell into debt, largely because of the costs of building this new home, and spent time in the debtors’ prison at Oxford. His debt problems also contributed to the end of his political career. He died in Brighton, never having lived at Howbery Park.
A Hydraulic Research Station’s water flume was built in the old garden-room, which is part of the front of the Manor House. The garden-room has since been remodelled into the coffee lounge, and this experimental work is now carried out in other parts of the HR Wallingford site.
Other owners of Howbery Park were Henry Bertie Williams-Wynn (who purchased the house in 1867), Harvey du Cros (in 1902) and George Denison Faber, 1st Baron Wittenham.
The estate passed into the ownership of the government in the 1930s and was used during the Second World War to house US and Canadian servicemen and then refugees from Central Europe. After the war it was selected as the location for the new Hydraulics Research Station (HRS) established under the directorship of Sir Claude Inglis. HRS was privatised in 1982 from the Department of the Environment (DoE) and HR Wallingford Group was created. The new company was limited by guarantee, had no shareholders and was given the remit to invest in hydraulic research. The assets transferred with Howbery Park in 1982 included the grant-funded-state-of-the-art Fountain Building, and a new mainframe computer. The Manor House and Stable Block are Listed Buildings Grade II (1985).
Celebrating 25 Years
Howbery Business Park has come a long way in its 25 years from 1994 when the Environment Agency – known then as the National Rivers Authority – moved to the park and became our first tenant. Today Howbery Business Park is home to over 50 different businesses, ranging from small family enterprises to large organisations.
As we reach our 25th anniversary, we are proud of our consistently high occupancy rates and customer satisfaction levels. We work hard to encourage a sense of community on the park, as well as supporting a healthy work-life balance. As the UK’s first solar-powered business park, we have put sustainability at the heart of everything we do, and continually work to reduce our carbon footprint. The park has a diverse range of businesses which make it a fascinating place to work. Howbery Park also boasts a long-standing water science/technology cluster which continues to develop today.
The park has won many accolades over the years. Recently, we are proud to have won the South & Vale Business Space of the Year 2019. We were also awarded Business Park of the Year (Thames Valley) in 2017.
Read more about the significant milestones during the past 25 years of the park’s development.
You might not be aware that Howbery Park and its Manor House also boast a much longer and unique story. This goes back centuries, from a visit by Henry VII in 1489 to the various noblemen and political figures associated with the fascinating past of the present Manor House. Find more about the park’s history and see a collection of images, on our history page.
We are now planning ahead for the next chapter in the park’s development, continuing to expand sustainably whilst preserving the park’s unique character and mature landscape.
Red Kite House
Construction of the Environment Agency’s Red Kite House began in 2004 and it opened in 2005 when it was awarded Best Bespoke Office Development Outside Central London. BREAAM excellent-rated, the building exemplifies best practice in sustainable development.
This second BREAAM excellent-rated office building was built for HR Wallingford to mirror Kestrel House. Kestrel House’s cooling system works by extracting water from a borehole before returning it to the River Thames.
Tree preservation orders were introduced to protect the park’s mature parkland. Howbery Park has hundreds of trees, many of which were planted in the Victorian era when the Manor House was a family home. Watch the video.
The solar farm was completed by Lightsource BP and Solarcentury in 2011. Not under park ownership, the solar farm generates about 25% of the park’s annual energy needs. View the latest Park figures.
The Manor House rear patio was landscaped together with a refurbishment of the coffee lounge/restaurant in 2011. Enhancing this amenity for the park community and public customers has proved very popular, particularly on sunny days.
Zero to landfill
Since 2012, working in partnership with Grundon Waste, Howbery Park has been proud to be able to say that waste generated on the park – including plastic waste – has been zero to landfill.
Fast Flow Facility
HR Wallingford’s Fast Flow Facility opened in 2014 providing state-of-the-art physical modelling facilities. Applications include testing the stability of offshore energy foundations. It can also house a tsunami simulator.
This new building was constructed to house and improve the facilities offered by the UK Ship Simulation Centre which moved from the Innovation Centre, allowing additional office space to be created. The UK Ship Simulation Centre houses state-of-the-art ship navigation simulation.
Bee hives were introduced to Howbery Park in 2016. The Howbery Bees now take part in educational workshops for the park community, research with the National Beekeeping Unit. Plus Howbery Honey is sold in the on-site shop.
The sensitive conversion of the former Lodge at the entrance to the park created a unique self-contained office, designed by on-site architects, Starbuck + James.
In a major refurbishment, high-efficiency de-centralised boilers replaced old inefficient plant. This has led to further significant carbon savings.
A dozen allotments were created with grounds company, Nurture Landscapes, for the park community to get together to tend for a year at a time. One of several initiatives that encourage a healthy work-life balance on the park.
EV charging points
Electric vehicle charging points were installed in 2018. The charging points use on-site electricity, of which more than 25% per year is generated by the adjacent solar farm.
Business Space of the Year
Howbery Business Park was named Business Space of the Year in the South and Vale Business Awards in March 2019. The judges highlighted the park’s environmental initiatives, and the activities it runs which encourage a community feel to the park.