The Landscape Guide

Life of John Claudius Loudon his wife

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Ferme ornee at Great Tew

Mr Loudon, during the length of time he was compelled to remain at Pinner, became so interested respecting English farming, and so anxious that the faults he observed in it should he corrected, that he wrote to his father, stating the capability of the soil, and the imperfect state of the husbandry, and urging him to come to England. It happened that at this period the farm called Wood Hall, where he had been staying so long, was to be let, and Mr. Loudon, senior, in consequence of the recommendation of his son, took it, and removed to it in 1807. The following year Mr. London, who was then residing with his father at Wood Hall, wrote a pamphlet entitled An immediate and effectual Mode of raising the Rental of the Landed Property of England; and rendering Great Britain independent of other Nations for a Supply of Bread Corn. By a Scotch Farmer, now farming in Middlesex. This pamphlet excited a great deal of attention; and General Stratton, a gentleman possessing a large landed estate, called Tew Park, in Oxfordshire, having read it, was so much interested in the matter it contained, that he offered him a portion of his property at a low rate, in order that he might undertake the management of the rest, and thus introduce Scotch farming into Oxfordshire.

The farm which Mr. Loudon took from General Stratton, and which was called Great Tew, was nearly eighteen miles from the city of Oxford, and it contained upwards of 1500 acres. " The surface," as he describes it, " was diversified by bold undulations, hills, and steeps, and the soil contained considerable variety of loam, clay, and light earth, on limestone and red rock. it was, however, subdivided in a manner the most unsuitable for arable husbandry, and totally destitute of carriage roads. Iii every other respect it was equally unfit for northern agriculture, having very indifferent buildings, and being greatly in want of draining and leveling." At this place he established a kind of agricultural college for the instruction of young men in rural pursuits; some of these, being the sons of landed proprietors, were under his own immediate superintendence; and others, who were placed in a second class, were instructed by his bailiffs and intended for land-stewards and farm-bailiffs. A description of this college, and of the improvements effected at Great Tew, was given to the public in 1809, in a pamphlet entitled The Utility of Agricultural Knowledge to the Sons of the Landed Proprietors of England, and to Young Men intended for Estate Agents; illustrated by what has taken place in Scotland. With an Account of an Institution formed for Agricultural Pupils in Oxfordshire. By a Scotch Farmer and Land-Agent, resident in that County. In this pamphlet there is one passage showing how much attached he was to landscape gardening, an attachment which remained undiminished to his death; and how severely he felt the misfortune of having his knee become ankylosed from the effects of the rheumatic fever before alluded to. The passage, which occurs in the introductory part of the work, is as follows: - " A recent personal misfortune, by which the author incurred deformity and lameness, has occasioned his having recourse to farming as a permanent source of income, lest by any future attack of disease he should be prevented from the more active duties and extensive range of a beloved profession on which he had formerly been chiefly dependent."

Notwithstanding the desponding feelings expressed in this paragraph, Mr. Loudon appears from his memorandum books to have been still extensively engaged in landscape gardening, as there are memoranda of various places that he laid out in England, Wales, and Ireland, till the close of 1812. Before this period he had quitted Tew; and finding that he had amassed upwards of £15,000 by his labours, he determined to relax his exertions, and to gratify his ardent thirst for knowledge by traveling abroad. Previously, however, to doing this, he published two works: one entitled Hints on the Formation of Gardens and Pleasure- Grounds, with Designs in various Styles of Rural Embellishment: comprising Plans for laying out Flower, Fruit, and Kitchen Gardens; and the Construction and Arrangement of Glass Houses, Hot Walls, and Stoves ; with Directions for the Management of Plantations, and a Priced Catalogue of Fruit and Forest Trees, Shrubs, and Herbaceous Plants; the whole adapted to Villa Grounds from one Perch to One Hundred Acres in Extent: and the other, Observations on laying out Farms in the Scotch Style adapted to England.

The first of these works I have no copy of, and have never seen; but the second is now before me, and it contains many interesting particulars respecting the farm of Great Tew rented by himself and those of Wood Hall and Kenton Lane rented by his father. From this work it appears, that, though Mr. London, senior, enjoyed but a few months' health after settling at Wood Hall, which he entered upon at Michaelmas, 1807, his death taking place in December, 1809, the estate was so much improved, even in that short period, that it was let after his death for a thousand pounds a year, being three hundred pounds a year more than he had paid for it. It also appears that Mr. Loudon entered on the farm at Great Tew at Michaelmas, 1808, and left it in February, 1811; General Stratton paying him a considerable sum for his lease, stock, and the improvements he had effected.


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