Archive for the ‘Lyveden New Bield’ Category

The lost garden of Lyveden

November 19, 2010

©NTPL/Paul Harris

In response to a comment on the previous post by Guy at Rose Uniacke, I thought I would show a few images of what remains of the garden at Lyveden New Bield. It disappeared after Sir Thomas Tresham’s death in 1605, but its main features are still there just below the surface.

The view from one of the mounts, which would not have had trees growing on them originally. ©NTPL/Paul Harris

The garden had several spiral mounts. These artificial hills were very popular in the Elizabethan period and provided a slightly elevated perspective over the garden and into the wider landscape.

Bird's-eye-view of Dunham Massey from the north by John Harris, c 1750. ©NTPL/Angelo Hornak

A similar mount can be seen surviving in a mid-eighteenth-century bird’s-eye-view painting of Dunham Massey, Cheshire.

One of the canals at Lyveden being cleared of algae. ©NTPL/Paul Harris

Tresham created a moated garden at Lyveden surrounded by straight canals. As was shown in the previous post, this area seems to have been planted in circular, possibly mazelike patterns.

The nineteenth-century Dutch Garden at Lyme Park, Cheshire, giving an impression of the effect of marigolds in a geometric garden design. ©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

Pollen grains found in the silt dredged out of the canals indicate that the plants growing at Lyveden in Elizabethan times included pinks, bur-marigold, coriander, parsley and fennel.

Mowing the raised terrace. ©NTPL/Paul Harris

The raised terrace also survives. This functioned as a kind of outdoor long gallery, a pleasant place to walk and enjoy the changing views.

The new plum trees being pruned. ©NTPL/Paul Harris

Tresham’s surviving letters mention some of the fruit trees he had planted at Lyveden, which included Catshead, Harveys and Queening apples, Windsor and Worcester pears, damsons, plums and cherries. The National Trust began replanting the orchard in 2002.

The Tresham Code

November 17, 2010

Lyveden New Bield at dawn. ©NTPL/Nick Meers

In the previous post I jokingly mentioned The Da Vinci Code, but Lyveden New Bield, in Northamptonshire, is a real example of a building embodying secret codes and cryptic riddles.

A recent aerial view of the building, showing the symbolic cruciform shape. ©NTPL/Paul Wakefield

Lyveden was commissioned by Sir Thomas Tresham, a cultivated Elizabethan landowner who was frequently imprisoned and fined for his Catholic faith. The pavilion is riddled with symbols relating to Catholicism, some of which are so cryptic that they have never been deciphered. It remained unfinished at Tresham’s death in 1605.

Some of the cryptic emblems on the facade. ©NTPL/Nick Meers

The plot thickened recently when National Trust curator Chris Gallagher (perhaps I should call him ‘renowned curator’, in true Dan Brown style) discovered an aerial photograph of Lyveden taken during World War II by the German airforce, the Luftwaffe. The photograph provides vital clues to the design of the garden, but until recently it had lain unexamined in the United States National Archives in Baltimore, Maryland.

The 1944 Luftwaffe aerial photograph, clearly showing the remains of the circular borders. The unfinished pavilion lies just to the lower right of this view. ©United States National Archives

Tresham was a keen gardener, and the ten concentric cicrles seen in the Luftwaffe photo, measuring about 120 meters in diameter, reveal more about the design of the garden. The circles are set within what Sir Thomas described in a letter a his ‘moated orchard’. Elsewhere there are references to 400 raspberries and roses that were to be planted within the ‘circular borders’.

©NTPL/Nick Meers

The 1944 photo proves that parts of these garden features remain, thinly covered by grass. This discovery of the physical evidence of the Elizabethan garden has prompted English Heritage to upgrade Lyveden to grade 1 on their Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

A first attempt at recreating the pattern through mowing. ©National Trust/D. Bagley

As a first stab at recreating the lost garden, National Trust staff have mowed a labyrinth in the sward, which is one possible interpretation of what the circles could have been part of. It is hoped that further research will allow an informed replanting of the area to be carried out.

And it may even inspire Dan Brown’s next book…


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