Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category

The well-travelled pagoda

March 9, 2016

 

The Japanese pagoda in the Water Garden at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire.

The Pagoda in the Water Garden at Cliveden. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The garden pavilion called the Pagoda, at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, has recently been restored. Its stone pillars had become eroded, the paint was flaking and its dragon finial was corroding.

Investigation of the paint layers by Lisa Oestreicher had revealed six successive decorative schemes. It was decided to recreate the third one, which was thought to date from shortly after the pavilion’s arrival at Cliveden in 1900.

Golden Dragon Weathervane on the top of the Chinese Pagoda in the Water Garden at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire

View of the painted decoration on the Pagoda in the Water Garden at Cliveden. ©National Trust Images / Rob Stothard

Decorative artist Saskia Huning was commissioned to recreate the painted decoration and gilding. Several tones of green were used, as well as polychrome decoration, to give the Pagoda back its delicate sparkle. The colouring of the trompe l’oeil fluting on the columns was graded to suggest the effect of sunlight towards the outside and shadow towards the inside.

The sinuous zinc dragon (or is it a sea monster?) on the roof was repaired by conservator Anna-Lena  Adamson and its tongue welded back in place by Rupert Harris Conservation. The restoration is described in detail in the winter 2013-14 issue of ABC Bulletin.

Illustration from William Chambers 'Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines and Utensils' (London 1757) at Springhill, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Plate showing Chinese ting garden pavilions, from William Chamber’s book Designs of Chinese Buildings. (1757, from a copy at Springhill, County Londonderry). ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

As I mentioned previously, the Cliveden Pagoda was originally part of the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867. After the close of the exhibition it was purchased by the Marquess of Hertford and set up in the garden of his Paris residence, Bagatelle, in the Bois de Boulogne. In 1900 it was bought by William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, and brought to Cliveden to provide added oriental ornament emphasis to the newly created Water Garden.

In fact its history goes back even further, as it is a copy of a pavilion that was erected in the garden of the château de Romainville, near Paris, in the 1780s. That pavilion, in turn, was based on the designs of ting-type garden pavilions in William Chambers’s book Designs of Chinese Buildings, published in 1757.

That just goes to prove that a pavilion is never just a pavilion.

Space for contemplation

February 25, 2016
The Oval Pavilion at Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire.

The Oval Pavilion, built in the 1740s, at Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire. Images/Chris Lacey

Fellow Twitterer K. Alexander (亞天恩, @thian_un) just mentioned how nice it would be to have a hermitage where one could retreat for a bit of sustained thinking and writing. In response I suggested this charming structure, the Oval Pavilion at Farnborough Hall, Warwickshire, as a model for the ideal retreat.

c18th domed ceiling at Farnborough with rococo plasterwork possible by W Perritt in the oval pavilion

Rococo plasterwork decoration inside the Oval Pavilion, Farnborough Hall. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

In good weather you could sit on the open lower level, admiring the landscape and perhaps doing a bit of sketching. The contemplation and writing could take place in the cosy and yet light-filled room upstairs.

The only problem might be that the exuberant rococo decoration would be rather distracting and might lead to frivolous thoughts.

The wonder of the north

November 12, 2015

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The extraordinary landscape garden at Studley Royal is the subject of a major new book by Mark Newman.

The cascade and the fishing tabernacles at Studley Royal, created in the 1720s. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The cascade and the fishing tabernacles at Studley Royal, created in the 1720s. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Based on many years of research, this book charts at the history of Studley Royal from its origins to the present day, while devoting most attention to the development of its pioneering garden in the eighteenth century.

The rustic bridge at Studley Royal, built in the 1720s. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The rustic bridge at Studley Royal, built in the 1720s. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

John Aislabie (1670-1742) may have been a blatantly venal government minister – he was was convicted of corruption following the collapse of the South Sea Bubble in 1720 – but he had a sophisticated taste in landscape design.

Statue of Bacchus in front of the Temple of Piety, probably built in the early 1730s, at Studley Royal. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Statue of Bacchus in front of the Temple of Piety, probably built in the early 1730s, at Studley Royal. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Following his banishment from politics he poured his energies into Studley Royal. He bent the landscape to his will, but at the same time allowed for a degree of naturalness and irregularity, which was new at the time.

The Octagon Tower at Studley Royal, completed in 1735. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The Octagon Tower at Studley Royal, completed in 1735. ©National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Studley represents the early phase of the English landscape garden, juxtaposing formality and informality, architecture and foliage, water and greenery, light and shade.

View over the half moon pond and the weir at Studley Royal towards Fountains Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

View over the half moon pond and the weir at Studley Royal towards Fountains Abbey. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

His son William Aislabie (1700-81) continued to develop the landscape, incorporating the medieval ruins of Fountains Abbey into it and creating the ‘Chinese woods’ further up the valley.

The seven bridges walk at Studley Royal, near the area formerly known as the 'Chinese woods'. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The seven bridges walk at Studley Royal, near the area formerly known as the ‘Chinese woods’. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The book can be purchased via the National Trust online shop.

Dyffryn Gardens voted most special place

August 25, 2015
The Herbaceous Borders at Dyffryn, looking south. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

The Herbaceous Borders at Dyffryn, looking south. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Dyffryn Gardens near Cardiff is the winner of the 2015 Special Places in Wales competition, organised by the National Trust in collaboration with Cadw, Cynnal Cymru, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Visit Wales, the RSPB, Ramblers Cymru and Keep Wales Tidy.

Dyffryn's entrance front, seen from the Rockery. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Dyffryn’s entrance front, seen from the Rockery. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Public voting began in May to select the most-loved place in Wales. By July 21st the selection had been narrowed down to Dolaucothi Gold Mines, Dyffryn, Gladstone’s Library, Rhossili and Snowdonia.

The view from the house at Dyffryn onto the Great Lawn. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

The view from the house at Dyffryn onto the Great Lawn. ©National Trust/Andrew Butler

Dyffryn was the winner in the second round, receiving more than a third of the final votes.

The Vine Walk at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The Vine Walk at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The current house at Dyffryn was built by coalmine owner and philanthropist John Cory. In the early 1900s he commissioned landscape architect Thomas Mawson to lay out new gardens.

The Herbaceous Borders at Dyffryn, looking north. ©National Trust

The Herbaceous Borders at Dyffryn, looking north. ©National Trust

After John Cory’s death in 1910 his son Reginald Cory collaborated even more closely and enthusiastically with Mawson in building up the garden.

The interior of the Glass House at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The interior of the Glass House at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

Reginald Cory was a keen plant hunter and dahlia enthusiast. He established the Cory Cup which is still awarded annually by the Royal Horticultural Society for the best new hardy hybrids.

Produce in the Walled Garden at Dyffryn. ©National Trust/John Millar

Produce in the Walled Garden at Dyffryn. ©National Trust/John Millar

After Dyffryn left the ownership of the Cory family in 1936 it was in institutional use for a number of decades. In 1996 the Vale of Glamorgan Council bought the freehold and the Heritage Lottery Fund provided substantial grants to begin the restoration of the gardens.

The garden front of the house at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The garden front of the house at Dyffryn. ©National Trust

The National Trust has managed Dyffryn since 2013. Staff and volunteers are continuing to improve the gardens and to make this an Edwardian refuge for the twenty-first century.

The Gothic Tower at Wimpole refurbished

August 18, 2015
The Gothic Tower at Wimpole after the scaffolding came down earlier this year. ©National Trust

The Gothic Tower at Wimpole after the scaffolding came down earlier this year. ©National Trust

At Wimpole Hall a project has been underway to refurbish the Gothic Tower, which has acted as an eyecatcher since the eighteenth century. I will just show a few highlights here – more about this complex and fascinating project can be found on the Wimpole Estate blog and the East of England Conservation blog.

Design for the Gothic Tower at Wimpole by Sanderson Miller, 1751.

Design for the Gothic Tower at Wimpole by Sanderson Miller, 1751.

The Gothic Tower was designed by Gothic Revival pioneer and folly specialist Sanderson Miller in 1751, but was only built twenty years later. Many of the features of the Tower were made of clunch, a soft limestone. As this deteriorated over tine the building was patched up with brick and the tower lost its distinctive crenelation.

Photograph of the Gothic Tower in 1881, showing the crenelations beginning to deteriorate.

Photograph of the Gothic Tower in 1881, showing the crenelations beginning to deteriorate.

Between 1805 and the late 1920s the Gothic Tower was inhabited by the estate gamekeeper and kept in reasonably good condition. But during the twentieth century the building deteriorated, which prompted this conservation project.

The Gothic Tower before the conservation project began. ©National Trust

The Gothic Tower before the conservation project began. ©National Trust

The work was funded by a Higher Level Stewardship grant from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and was undertaken by Cliveden Conservation.

The Gothic Tower encased in a scaffolding tower. ©National Trust

The Gothic Tower encased in a scaffolding tower. ©National Trust

The walls have been repaired and repointed with lime mortar. The crenelations have been replaced using Chilmark stone, which looks similar to clunch but is more durable.

View of the Gothic Tower across the lake. ©National Trust

View of the Gothic Tower across the lake. ©National Trust

The doors and windows have been remade and the scrub has been cleared from around the Tower. It is now once again accessible to the public and ready for a new lease of life.

Uncloaking Dudmaston’s garden

August 13, 2015
Watercolour view of the house and park at Dudmaston, by Moses Griffith, 1793. ©National Trust Images

Watercolour view of the house and park at Dudmaston, by Moses Griffith, 1793. ©National Trust Images

The summer 2015 edition of our Arts, Buildings and Collections Bulletin has just been published. One of the contributions is an article by Sarah Kay about the garden at Dudmaston Hall in Shropshire.

The Big Pool at Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

The Big Pool at Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

As Sarah writes, the garden at Dudmaston has had a long and varied history. In the late eighteenth century it was a landscape garden, with the pastures coming right up to the house.

View of the entrance front of Dudmaston from the north-east. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

View of the entrance front of Dudmaston from the north-east. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Then in the nineteenth century the garden was embellished with terraces, parterres, island beds, ribbon borders and exotic specimen trees. The local Morfe Cottage Garden Society, founded in 1851, organised fiercely competitive annual flower shows.

Sculpture by Anthony Robinson in the grounds of Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Sculpture by Anthony Robinson in the grounds of Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Following retrenchment in the Edwardian period, the garden saw a renewed phase of innovation during the second half of the twentieth century. Sir George and Lady Labouchere reinvigorated the garden with the help of designer James Russell, even introducing contemporary sculpture into the grounds.

Path along the edge of the Big Pool at Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Path along the edge of the Big Pool at Dudmaston. ©National Trust Images/Clive Nichols

Now a project is underway to ‘uncloak’ some of the picturesque features and views which have been lost over the years, while simultaneously keeping alive the spirit of innovation shown by successive owners of Dudmaston.

The Chinese bridge at Croome rebuilt

August 11, 2015
The new Chinese bridge at Croome. ©National Trust

The new Chinese bridge at Croome. ©National Trust

On 28 July a long-lost feature of the garden at Croome Court, the Chinese bridge, was reopened to the public.

The Chinese bridge was originally commissioned  by George Coventry, the 6th Earl of Coventry, from the designer William Halfpenny in the 1740s. It is clearly shown in a 1758 painting by Richard Wilson, but had rotted away about a hundred years later.

Design for a Chinese bridge in William Halfpenny's pattern book 'Developments in Architecture and Carpentry', 1749.

Illustration of the Croome Chinese bridge in William Halfpenny’s book ‘Improvements in Architecture and Carpentry’, 1754.

Halfpenny illustrated the bridge in his book Improvements in Architecture and Carpentry of 1754, stating that it was ‘executed for the Right Honourable the Earl of Coventry at his Seat at Croom [sic] in Worcestershire.’ Pattern books like Improvements helped to spread the taste for Chinese-style designs in the eighteenth century.

Elevation of the new Chinese bridge. ©Green Oak Carpentry Company

Elevation of the new Chinese bridge. ©Green Oak Carpentry Company

For the new bridge, constructed by the Green Oak Carpentry Company, Halfpenny’s design and Wilson’s painting have been used as models. Although Chinese-style bridges were popular in Europe in the mid-eighteenth century (I showed some other examples here), this particular design by Halfpenny only seems to have been used at Croome.

Axonometric drawing of the new Chinese bridge. ©Green Oak Carpentry Company

Axonometric drawing of the new Chinese bridge. ©Green Oak Carpentry Company

The original footings of the bridge were identified through archaeological excavations. Dams were inserted into the river and the water pumped out to create a relatively dry working area for contractors WM Planthire. The aquatic wildlife, including mussels, perch, tench, rudd and eels, was caught and moved to other parts of the river, to the great interest of visitors who could watch the work progressing.

The completed new Chinese bridge. ©National Trust/James Dobson

The completed new Chinese bridge. ©National Trust/James Dobson

The final section of the bridge was lifted into place with large cranes. The bridge will be left unpainted for a year to allow the traditional joints to tighten, but it will ultimately be painted in the off-white colour seen in the Wilson painting.

Martin Drury opening the new Chinese bridge. ©National Trust/Tracey Blackwelll

Martin Drury opening the new Chinese bridge. ©National Trust/Tracey Blackwelll

The bridge was officially opened by Martin Drury, a trustee of the Monument 1985 Fund (set up by the late Simon Sainsbury) which provided a grant towards the cost of the reconstruction, together with Lord Flyte of Worcester who helped to raise the remaining funds. The bridge can now be seen and walked over whenever the park at Croome is open.

The Chinese taste in British gardens

June 16, 2015
A 'peacock pheasant' perched on a camellia, plate 67 in George Edward's Natural History of Uncommon Birds, 1745.

A peacock pheasant perched on a camellia, plate 67 in George Edwards’s Natural History of Uncommon Birds, 1745.

This Friday (19 June) I will be speaking at the New Approaches in Chinese Garden History conference, organised by the Centre for East West Studies at the University of Sheffield.

The conference is in honour of Dr Alison Hardie, who has been central to burgeoning field of scholarship on Chinese gardens. I am looking forward to learning more about historical Chinese gardens from an international group of speakers including Lucie Olivová, Georges Métailié, Lei Gao, Bianca Rinaldi and Peter Blundell Jones.

Detail of pheasants in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall, hung in 1752. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of pheasants in the Chinese wallpaper at Felbrigg Hall, hung in 1752. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

In preparing my own paper, which will be about the changing significance of the Chinese taste in British gardens, I came across the wonderful plate shown at the top of this post, of a peacock pheasant on a camellia, from George Edwards’s 1745 book A Natural History of Uncommon Birds.

Detail of a bird in the Chinese wallpaper at Erddig, hung in the 1770s. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Bushsh

Detail of a bird in the Chinese wallpaper at Erddig, hung in the 1770s. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Bush

Although Edwards claimed to have drawn the camellia from a real plant – and camellias were indeed beginning to be grown in Britain at that time – the picture is strongly reminiscent of a Chinese bird-and-flower painting.

Detail of a cockerel in an English printed cotton, about 1780. ©Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

Detail of a cockerel in an English printed cotton, about 1780. ©Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library

In the decades following the publication of that book by Edwards you can see the Chinese bird-and-flower imagery ricocheting back and forth between east and west: in the Chinese wallpapers that were starting to be produced in Guangzhou for export to the west, and in the European imitations of that wallpaper, for instance in the form of printed cottons.

Did the European interest in Chinese plants stimulate the development of Chinese wallpaper? Or was it the other way around? We may never find the exact answer to that question, but it is nevertheless useful to discover these correlations between gardens and interiors.

How to build a ha-ha

February 17, 2015
A section of ha-ha being rebuilt at Croome Court. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

A section of ha-ha being rebuilt at Croome Court. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha, a ditch with a wall built along one side, was developed as an aesthetically pleasing way of keeping grazing cattle out of the pleasure garden. Even from a short distance the ha-ha is invisible, and its name is said to have been derived from the exclamations of surprise it provoked.

The ha-ha at Croome Court before repair and rebuilding. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha at Croome Court before repair and rebuilding. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The ha-ha at Croome Court has been undergoing a rolling programme of repair and rebuilding. Previously it is was  in quite poor condition and it had even collapsed in places.

Sections of the ha-ha had completely collapsed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Sections of the ha-ha had completely collapsed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Advice was sought from a structural engineer in order to provide a more durable solution for the collapsed sections. A backing wall of concrete blocks was inserted first, which was then covered by historically appropriate bricks.

Stable sections were preserved. The large blocks further behind provide structural support to contain the earth. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Stable sections were preserved. The large blocks further behind provide structural support to contain the earth. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The sourcing of new, ‘old-look’ bricks proved to be quite challenging, as the colour and texture of the bricks of the original ha-ha varies considerably along its length. In the end different bricks and mortar mixes were used in different sections.

Concrete blocks provide the containment structure for the sections that had to be rebuilt. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

Concrete blocks provide the containment structure for the sections that had to be rebuilt. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

The stable sections of the ha-ha were preserved as much as possible and repointed with traditional mortar. As time goes by the new brickwork will further blend in with the old.

An original section of ha-ha is repointed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

An original section of ha-ha is repointed. ©Shaun Wilkes/National Trust

A significant proportion of the funding for this work was provided by Natural England.

 

William Chambers, Chinese design guru

January 22, 2015
Plate 4 from Sir William Chambers's book Designs of Chinese Buildings (1757). ©British Library

Plate 4 from Sir William Chambers’s book Designs of Chinese Buildings (1757). ©British Library

This evening I will be giving a talk on the Chinese designs of the architect William Chambers, as part of the seminar series on the history of gardens and designed landscapes organised by the Institute of Historical Reseach.

Plate 2 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Plate 2 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

I cannot give a full preview of the talk here, but essentially it will be about the pervasive influence of Chambers’s 1757 book Designs of Chinese Buildings on the appearance of chinoiserie garden pavilions across Europe.

Plate 5 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Plate 5 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Chambers claimed to have written the book to correct European misconceptions about Chinese architecture which were being perpetuated by the authors of fanciful and frivolous ‘Chinese’ pattern books.

Plate 10 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Plate 10 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Ironically, the popularity of Chambers’s ‘correct’ book meant that his designs were quickly adapted by others and used to design yet more cheerfully fantastical pavilions, especially as part of the so-called jardins anglo-chinois which were popular in France in the 1770s and 1780s.

Plate 14 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

Plate 14 from Designs of Chinese Buildings. ©British Library

But in some ways Chambers had the last laugh, as his version of Chinese architecture became the ‘correct’ chinoiserie style for about the next hundred years.