Thursday 23 February 2012

The Tudor Garden

Another footstep forward in out journey through garden time.  Today the English garden under the Tudors.

Henry's Privy Garden at Hampton Court (image © J Foyle)
Regal Garden Making
After the Wars of the Roses, and the crowning of Henry Tudor as Henry VII in 1485, England entered the 16th century peaceful.  Garden making under Henry VIII was a distinctly kingly pass-time.  Henry regarded any outward sign of ostentation as a threat to the crown – a lesson Thomas Wolsey, who built Hampton Court, did not learn.  

Pond Garden, Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court became Henry’s favourite palace, and here, in the 1530s Henry made the premier garden in England.  The only part of Henry's layout to survive subsequent alterations are the Pond Gardens - today filled with a riot of bedding plants in the summer months.

Knot & Railed Beds from The Gardener's Labyrinth (1577).
New Ideas
Along with the ingredients inherited from the Mediæval garden - raised beds, maze, turf seat, bower, and fountains, there was much evolution.  The beauties of Nature were further tamed, spurred on by Henry’s rivalry with France.  A new feature was the mount - a raised mound of earth crowned with an arbour or a seat.  This gave views out over the enclosing walls to the wilds of nature beyond, and down over the formally designed garden below.

The Old Palace & Knot Garden at Hatfield House
The Knot Garden
Within the garden itself, the raised bed developed into the knotted bed or knot.  The knot was square bed in which low hedges of box or thrift picked out a complicated geometrical pattern.  The compartments of the knot were planted with ornamental flowers or shrubs.  Topiary was a rediscovered novelty, while another new feature were railed beds – the whole garden being enclosed by low fences of wooden trellis.  Trellis was also used to make galleries, enclosed walks that connected various parts of the garden.  Two of King Henry’s favourite features were sundials and ‘Kings Beasts’.  The latter wooden poles painted to look like marble and surmounted with carved heraldic beasts that displayed of the King's power and pax.  

The Restored Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle
Elizabethan Extravagance
Henry’s daughter Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, but unlike her father saw ostentation as a sign of loyalty, and noblemen vied with each other to provide magnificent houses and gardens in which to entertain Her Majesty.  The change towards more linear, less defensive architecture was reflected in the garden.  Gardens were still walled in, for ornament rather than protection, but the most important introduction was the terrace. One of Elizabeth's favourite gardens - at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire has recently been restored.

Terracing at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire
The Terrace
For the first time, the garden was intimately linked with the house, for example at Montecute in Somerset.  The terrace gave direct access from the house into the garden, kept the garden on the level and allowed views over the pleasure garden. Walks or ‘forthrights’ divided up the terraces into smaller areas - the favourite being a square.  These were filled with the familiar grass plats, mazes, and knot beds.  The patterns of the latter became more elaborate, as did arbours, which evolved into stone buildings such as gazebos.  Ornamentation also became increasingly popular and ornate and included statuary, topiary, sundials, fountains and pools, and the pleached allée.


The final evolution was the lawn – a flowery mead with the flowers omitted.  Carefully nurtured, this was used to play bowls, a game immortalised by Drake.  So popular did it become that legislation was required in order to curb the huge rise in gambling. 

Also well worth visiting is the Tudor House and Garden in Southampton.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the bit of information on the "Beasts"! :)