Garden Rescue: Westbury Court

July 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm (estates, history, places) (, , )

This morning I was “waxing nostalgic”: I had pulled out some original Smith & Gosling documents. One *find* was “the last letter” Mrs. Eliza Colchester wrote to Aunt (Judith Smith of The Grove, Stratford, Essex). It is a precious letter, written in 1826, filled with Mrs. Colchester’s delight at hearing the marriage of Charles Joshua Smith and Mary Gosling had taken place. Eliza Colchester died, and both Aunt and one of her nieces wrote on the cover of the letter “why” it had to be saved: it was the last letter received from Aunt’s very dear friend.

How I’d LOVE to unearth more letters between the ladies (even though Aunt has execrable handwriting!)

Mrs. Colchester wrote from The Wilderness, an estate near Mitcheldean. It was while looking (once again) for information on the family and/or the estate that I came across this delightful blog post about the rescue and resuscitation of the garden at another Colchester (also called Colchester-Wemyss) estate, Westbury Court (Gloucestershire).

“Typically rectangular in shape, classical Dutch style gardens relied on a strong use of symmetry and geometrical form…. But the Dutch style had a short life in Britain. The gardens were incredibly expensive and labour intensive to maintain.”

Gardening specialist James Todman‘s post then goes on to describe the “history” of Westbury Court garden – and the several times it was almost lost. The lack of finances for the Colchesters may indeed have been, in the long run, its saving grace.

After a sale to developers in the 1960s, in 1967 the National Trust purchased “the ruined garden”. Thanks to some historical records, a “restoration” was not only possible, it took place! And you can see the results, to this day. (Visit the National Trust webpage for Westbury Court.) The National Trust claims Westbury Court gardens the FIRST “garden renovation project of its kind”. The garden now displays “how it would have appeared … in 1720”. Although well before the time of “my” Eliza Colchester, I think she’d be pleased! They all so loved a good garden.

You must read James’ original blog post to appreciate the yews, canals, topiary, flowers (click on the 2nd photo, below).

Westbury garden canalWestbury Court gardens: canal

Westbury garden parterreWestbury Court gardens: parterre

 

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Diary of a Victorian Gardener

November 5, 2016 at 2:04 pm (diaries, estates, history) (, , )

I have been very impressed – after finding the Capability Brown accounts book online – with the online outreach of the Royal Horticultural Society.

This is their blog post about a diary – of a Victorian Gardener. Who cannot take to heart a diary that is described by its new owners (RHS, since 2014) as an “old, worn exercise book, in very poor condition”.

diary-rhs

Inside, was the diary of James Child (born in 1838).

The manuscript should be termed a memoir, as James looked back on his life, working himself through the ranks at several large and important garden sites. But he also added to it, commenting on his life and the state of the nation through the first World War.

RHS’s article has accompanying photos and more on James’ life – including his living in EPSOM! The journal book has been conserved – so maybe we will hear more in the future.

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Capability Brown @ the Royal Horticultural Society, London

October 17, 2016 at 12:59 pm (estates, history, london's landscape, people) (, , )

If you missed the installation “A CAPABLE BUSINESSMAN” at London’s Lindley LibraryRoyal Horticultural Society, you’re in luck: the internet is able to help.

Back in August 2016, the RHS posted this press release, alerting fans of Capability Brown that the Society’s copy of Brown’s Account Book was going on public display.

account-book

Calling Brown “one of the 18th century’s most successful and pioneering businessmen,” the research into this account book has revealed the “astonishing amounts” paid to Brown – and I can say, for Castle Ashby, by one of the Earls of Northampton! (the 9th Earl being uncle to my diarist, Emma Austen)

“Mostly written in his own hand,” Brown’s clientele numbered 125 individuals in this book alone (dating from 1759 until his death in 1783).

The book descended through family, and – though loaned to the Society in the 1950s – has now been donated to the Society.

The display coincided with the (ongoing) 300th Anniversary of the birth of Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Clicking on the photo above will bring you to the online “copy” of Brown’s Account Book.

The London Parks & Gardens Trust also featured Capability Brown in its newsletter; some articles are found online.

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Bloomin’ Rhododendrons

May 28, 2011 at 11:17 am (a day in the life, estates, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

One *amazing* discovery, made reading these 200-year-old (more or less) letters and diaries, is the passion for FLOWERS everyone, young and old, exhibited. There are those who loved to draw and sketch flowers:

Miss Meen came & I began to learn painting flowers” – Emma Smith, 6 February 1815

That same year, in late Summer, Castle Ashby, home of the Marquess of Northampton, when Emma’s cousin Spencer Lord Compton married Margaret Maclean Clephane, the rooms were bedecked with “flowerpots, to the number of 32”. These were placed “in most of the rooms“, although the Great Hall received special floral treatment.

In her 1798 diary, Augusta Smith (Mrs Charles Smith of Suttons) kept a listing of flowers, probably those she found at Suttons following her March wedding, or else those she had cause to see planted. Among them, “White Lilics & Day Lilies. Lillies of the Valley Bigonia…Magnolias  Seeds of Anemonie, sown directly

In the summer she exults about eating “The first dish of Strawberries from our garden.”

In August 1832, when her younger daughter “little Augusta shews a great taste for flowers” Mary (Lady Smith) makes sure to note it in her diary.

These are just a few that popped to mind, which I could find and quote. As my own garden turns to blooms, they join recollections of springs and summers abroad, in England and Wales. The rhododendrons that grew wild along the roadside my father and I trekked along in search of a castle estate in North Wales always comes to mind when I see my own blooms (left).

And there is nothing more humble than the little purple violets which grow wild hereabouts; weed to some, it is a valued little flower to me, as much as Augusta’s Lilies of the Valley must have been to her:

Truthfully, I have very little love of gardening. But to have such color and scent to hand is something I too watch and note every year. The crocuses that bloom on the “first” warm day — only to decimated by the ensuing cold… The rhodos that grew larger and larger — and attract too many bees to safely cut them for an indoors look… The Day Lilies which, despite being orange and therefore not really a favorite color, I watch to see their daily progression from open blooms to dying relics.

So it is any wonder everyone writes of the passage of their gardens, whether working in them or simply admiring them?

I am reminded to note two new books added to my collection, bought for $2.99 each at the local Goodwill: The Glory of the English Garden, by Mary Keen; and Royal Gardens, by Roy Strong. Will have more to say about them when I’ve looked through them more thoroughly. Having a keen interest in the Royal Gardens, I was ready to purchase that one straightaway; the other I was less sure about — yet, I have a feeling that one will prove the more valuable in the end. Such wonderful chapters, and glorious pictures (by Clay Perry).

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