Sophie Chessum has published an article about the garden at Claremont in Surrey in the May 2012 issue of ABC Bulletin. Sophie describes some of the archival evidence which provides glimpses of the use of the garden in the eighteenth century.
In 1711 the site of Claremont was bought by Thomas Pelham-Holles, later Duke of Newcastle and twice Prime Minister. The Duke employed Sir John Vanbrugh to build the dramatic Belevedere which still sits on the top of its Mount. He also commissioned Charles Bridgeman to create a number of avenues, paths, a pond and a grass amphitheatre in a mixture of geometric and naturalistic styles.
In the early 1730s the Duke employed William Kent to introduce more garden buildings and to make the planting even more picturesque. Kent introduced grassed ditches, or ha-has, as a means to achieve visual unity between the garden and the fields beyond while keeping the cattle out.
Kent also gave the lake an irregular shape and created an island with a pavilion, linked to the shore by a wooden bridge. The archives show how the Duke wrote letters in the pavilion, presumably using it as a quiet and relaxing kind of study.
One of the Duke’s letters to his wife provides another glimpse of life at Claremont, as he writes that ‘the King is extreamly fond of our peaches […] I beg my Dearest would order Greening to send tomorrow & Every two days, eight peaches only the best sorts, the same L.Y [Lady Yarmouth, George II’s mistress] had last, the red sort chiefly, six nectarines, & six plumbs […].’
The same issue of ABC Bulletin also has an article by visitor experience consultant Anita Goodwin about an ongoing project to use the archival evidence to make Claremont speak more directly to visitors. Instead of traditional text panels, the project has created benches with historical quotes and picnic blankets printed with images of people important to the history of Claremont. The aim is to present Claremont not just as a work of art, but also as a pleasure garden.