BEAUTIFUL ENGLISH GARDENS
One would repeat with emphasis the advice to garden-lovers to seize all opportunities of visiting good gardens. In this connection one would say that the movement organised in 1927 by the Women‘s Committee of the Fund for the National Memorial to Queen Alexandra, to obtain the opening to the public, by payment of a small sum, on selected dates, of some of the most beautiful of the private gardens of England, was in every way an admirable, one might almost say an inspired, step. The results were highly gratifying. In the first place, a substantial addition was made to the fund. In the second, many thousands of people were provided with opportunities of seeing garden art in its highest phases, and thereby of receiving a stimulus at once pleasant and instructive.
Where the gardens were so numerous, and of so high a standard of beauty, it would be invidious to particularise, and one must be content with naming a few, such as the beautiful gardens of his Majesty the King, Sandringham, Norfolk; of the Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire; of Mr. C. E. Keyser, Aldermaston Court, Berkshire; of Viscountess Hambleden, Greenlands, Berkshire; of Mr. L. de Rothschild, Ascott, Buckinghamshire; of the Duke of Westminster, Eaton Hall, Cheshire; of Mrs. Tremayne, Carciew, Cornwall; of Major Dorrien-Smith, Tresco Abbey, Isles of Scilly; of the Earl of Carlisle, Naworth, Cumberland; of Lord Walter Kerr, Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire; of Sir Randolf Baker, Ranston, Dorsetshire; of Lady Barnard, Raby Castle, Durham; of Miss Ellen Willmott, Warley Place, Essex; of the Duke of Beaufort, Badminton, Gloucestershire; of the Marchioness Curzon, Hackwood Park, Hampshire; of the Earl of Carnarvon, Highclere, Hants; of the Hon. Vicary Gibbs, Aldenham House, Hertfordshire; of the Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House, Hertfordshire; of Sir Charles Nall-Cain, Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire; of Sir Otto Beit, Tewin Water, Hertfordshire; of Sir Edmund Davis, Chilham Castle, Kent; of the Lord Sackville, Knole, Kent; of the Lord de Lisle and Dudley, Penshurst Place, Kent; of Mr. A, C. Leney, The Garden House, near Hythe, Kent; of the Women‘s Horticultural College, Swanley, Kent; of Mr. C. E. Gunther, Tongswood, Kent; of the Marquis of Exeter, Burghley House, Lincolnshire; of the Lady Battersea, The Pleasaunce, Norfolk; of the Duke of Portland, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire; of the Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire; of Viscount Ulswater, Campsea Ashe, Suffolk; of the Lord de Saumarez, Shrubland Park, Suffolk; of the Duke of Northumberland, Albury Park, Surrey; of the Earl of Dysart, Ham House, Surrey; of the Lord Dewar, East Grinstead, Sussex; of Mr. William Robinson, Gravetye Manor, Sussex; of the Lady Loder,. Leonardslee, Sussex; of Mr. J. G. Millais, Compton‘s Brow, Sussex; of the Marquis of Lansdowne, Bowood, Wiltshire; of Earl Beauchamp, Madresfield, Worcestershire; and of the Lord Bolton, Bolton Hall, Yorkshire, These and other lovely gardens were open to the people.
Visitors to great private gardens find remarkable differences in treatment. Such gardens as, for instance, Chatsworth and Aldenham, both nobly beautiful, have practically nothing in common, One gladly takes the opportunity of referring briefly to the features of each in turn.
The appeal of old buildings which have been sanctified by time and history is irresistible, and not less so is that of old gardens, such as those of Chatsworth. Over the meads of our pleasant land of England there lie spread the stately seats of her nobles, set in age-old gardens. In many cases the names of the founders may exist, while those of the architects and the landscape gardeners have been lost, and then there is an unavoidable sense of incompleteness. In other instances, however, the names of all concerned are enshrined in irrefutable records, so that the history of the place is complete; and it is precisely in these, given the necessary distinction in building and garden, that the interest of cultured people is keenest.
In seeking for an example of a place with which distinguished workers of all classes have been identified for several centuries, one need look no farther than Chatsworth. Many generations of noble owners, all eminent in public life; a series of stately buildings ( for the original structure has entirely gone, and more recent ones have been altered and extended); landscape gardeners of unequalled reputation; famous architects, decorators, sculptors and painters—all these are associated in a work of almost unique force and attraction.
The building, its gardens and its galleries having long been thrown open to public inspection on approved occasions, Chatsworth is well known to countless thousands of English-speaking peoples, by whom it is revered. It is, indeed, one of the national treasures —a private possession, yet a possession which is freely shared with others. It is a symbol of that tradition of faith, fidelity and substance which is so precious, so vital to an old nation, sometimes shaken but never overthrown, standing steadfast and four-square in a world of turmoil and alarms : a nation whose fibres sink like the roots of its ancient oaks into the depths of an unconquerable soil, into the hallowed memories of a past which, if not wholly unstained by passing human frailties, is yet in sum noble, pure and magnanimous.
It would be impossible to the most expectant garden-lover, as it would be unwise for the artist, the architect, or even the simple holiday-maker, to separate Chatsworth from its environment. It is not an agglomeration of different things which can be detached and examined as objects of art-value, horticultural interest, or mere curiosity; it is a great unit of inseparable elements. Fully to appreciate Chatsworth, one must take in with one comprehensive sweep all the impressions and implications which it is capable of conveying —natural objects such as the swelling curves of the surrounding hills and the course of the winding river; works of art like the building itself, with its lakes, fountains and gardens; the steep eastern slopes with their massive boulders, down whose stained faces unending streams of water pour; the whole informed with that mysterious yet intimate appeal, that absorbing human interest, which binds past and present, tradition and reality. It is not a brief nor an easy task, yet it is one worth the making, because the Chatsworths of England are not merely of her Yesterday nor even of her To-day; they are of her To-morrow. For in them, in the very ground on which they stand, in their walls, in the pleasure which they convey and the education which they impart to visitors, in the impression of substance and security which they make on people from overseas, and not least in the lesson they teach of the sense of public duty which inspires the owners—in these things there is instinct an assurance that faith, liberty and prosperity will remain secure in England in the future as in the past. [Editors Note: enthusiasm for gardens is rarely expressed in a darker shade of purple than the above. Wright has evidently been inspired by Gothein's views on Chatsworth]
One passes on to the famous gardens. In Chapter XIII. of the present work will be found one of those fine old engravings by the Dutchman, Jan Kip, from a drawing by Leonard Knyff, which have so great an interest for garden-lovers. The engraving, one of many which were published in that rare French book of 1714—16, Le Nouveau Theatre de la Grande Bretagne (in which Kip, Knyff and other gifted artists collaborated and which is now available in English Houses and Gardens (B. T. Batsford) ) shows the Chatsworth of other days. But there have been many changes. One must assume that Knyff saw a wide canal, with bridge connecting the western terrace, between Chatsworth House and the Derwent, since it appears in his drawing; but it no longer exists, nor is it known what purpose it could have served. Gone the range of low buildings to the north-west of the house, gone the parterre de broderie to the south of them. The garden on the south front lives, but with less elaborate adornment. Gone the vast series of intricate bedding on the east front.
There were great gardeners about in the early days of Chatsworth. Whether or no the famous Le Nôtre played any direct part there—and probably he did not—he had able disciples. Our author mentions one Grelly, a Frenchman, who was particularly clever in water-devices. Among the records in the Chatsworth library is a large volume, beautifully kept in a scholarly hand, showing payments made to various artists and workers late in the seventeenth century, and one of them named Grillet was perhaps the Grelly of our author.
Grillet (or Grelly) may have anticipated Paxton in the first garden on the west front, now called the Italian garden, also with the parterre de broderie on the southern portion. The Italian garden exists to-day, and very beautiful it is, although there is no trace of the elaborate bedding shown by Knyff and Kip. Instead, there are wide walks and broad areas of grass, broken by vases and clipped yews, with stone-framed mounds carrying golden yews amid which are drifts of yellow barberry. There are roses on the terrace walls, and here and there belts of tawny snapdragons, but of bedding so called there is none whatever. Nor, standing at the front of the terrace, and looking down to where there may once have been a large canal, but where indubitably there is to-day the river with its picturesque bridge on the right, can one feel that it would be in tune with the surroundings. But there is at the middle of the terrace garden a round pool with what is known as the Duke‘s Fountain, and that is more in keeping than the gayest of flower-beds.
No more garish than the Italian garden is the garden on the south front. The same note of cool spacious lawns, wide walks, and ample water is struck. Flowers there are, admittedly, but not in the form of wide borders and large beds, When one says that the brightest floral objects are the hedges of monthly roses, one has perhaps paid the best tribute that could be paid to the standard of taste which governs the planting.
Where, then, are the flower-beds of Chatsworth? Of formally grown flowers there are few anywhere. Perhaps the nearest approach to bedding is in the French garden (Fig. 646), which is close to the buildings on the east side. It fronts what was once the orangery (readers of this work will have grown familiar with the orangeries in the great gardens of the past), but which is now a camellia house. Here there is really bedding, albeit of no gaudy kind—simply a group of beds of bright old-fashioned flowers, flanked by rows of tall pillars bearing statuary that was once within the building. A charming place, this French garden. One lingers by it.
The hand of Sir Joseph Paxton is not apparent everywhere in the Chatsworth garden of to-day, although it might almost be said that he belonged to the place, since he went as a young man and stayed all his life. One may believe that when he found there the gardens and the fountains of Grillet (or Grelly) he was not ill-content to leave them, while dispensing with most of the parterres. One can conceive that he widened the lawns and walks, in order to impart that air of dignity which is now so obvious and so satisfying. It is well known that one of his greatest achievements was the building of the vast conservatory described in Chapter XVI. Sic transit gloria mundi! The conservatory has followed the canal and the parterres into the limbo of past things. A vestige remains, no more. The Great War brought about its destruction. And perhaps, if Paxton could emerge from the shades to revisit the scenes that must once have been so dear to him, he would not repine. For after all the conservatory was not his greatest work, and there remain, ever becoming more and more beautiful under skilful hands, imperishable in their setting of stone, the gardens which he made on the hillside to the east. Gardens they are, despite the absence of shaven lawn and trim walk. There must be several miles of paths winding in and out over the declivities, every yard skirted by cunningly placed rocks and shrubs, for countless tons of stone were brought down to the lower slopes and there used to form an n immense variety of erections and homes for plants innumerable.
The treatment of this hillside, carried out by Paxton under the sixth duke, was a great achievement, and just as the abundant supplies of water from the higher elevations were used by Grillet (or Grelly) for the great cascade and fountains around the house, so they were utilised by Paxton for his gullies and ravines. The great cascade is avowedly artificial. It has pleased many eminent persons and displeased others. But Paxton‘s smaller cascades on the slopes of the hill, amid masses of rhododendrons and much other semi-wild growth, are so close to Nature as to have all her own native charm.
It is there that the chief gardening work at Chatsworth is now going on. The Italian garden remains, and will remain, the Italian garden. The French garden needs, and will receive, little renovation. The lawns, the great walks, the ponds, the pools, the fountains, will not be tampered with. The Chatsworth of to-day will remain, to become the Chats- worth of posterity. But up there, beyond the confines of the formal garden, where Paxton‘s great work was getting to be more and more overgrown with every passing year, where much that he had accomplished was actually hidden by ever-encroaching masses of vegetation—there active renovation is being pursued. Choked ravines are being opened out, new vistas are being cut, fresh plantings are being made, There is not the remotest fear, however, of any violation, however slight, of the spirit of the past. The traditions of Chatsworth will be maintained. It will remain an abiding monument of much that is best in English life, and a beacon to art-lovers in the years to come.