The Landscape Guide

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see
Kip and Knyff's drawing of  Chatsworth c1700 Kip and Knyff's drawing of Longleat c1700

The Dutch style in England was characterised by an emphasis on parterres, topiary, water features, orchards and the planting of avenues in the countryside(see fig 4). Little survives of London and Wise's executed work but sufficient drawings exist to give an impression of their design practice. It was more Dutch than French. Switzer described London as 'superintendenet of their majesties' gardens and director-general of most of the gardens and plantations of Great Britain' , but in fact he and Wise were great designers of parterres and only occasional designers of avenues and plantations. The parterres were simple by French standards. They had water features, statues and topiary but little 'embroidery' or 'scroll-work'. The avenues were occasionally formed by cutting through existing woods but more often by planting lines of trees. London's most important commissions were the gardens at Longleat and Chatsworth. Both were dominated by extensive parterres and had lines of trees projecting into farmland. At Longleat there was also a small star of avenues. It occupied a smaller area than the parterre and could not be compared to a French hunting forest. [Note: though the styles were considered 'Dutch' and 'French' by English commentators in the eighteenth century, historians now see the influences  on them less in national terms and more in art-historical terms: Renaissance and Baroque than nationalistic]

    Return to section heading 

The best surviving example of London and Wise's work is at Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire. The garden at Melbourne Hall was made between 1696 and 1705 by Thomas Coke who also had a hand in its design. Almost half the site is given over to a large parterre. The other part is occupied by a grove of irregularly planned avenues which display a taste for axial vistas but not the will to align them with the main axis of the house and garden. As at Longleat the grove appears to be as an addition to the layout rather than its main feature. The parterre has now become a lawn which is marred by a variety of specimen trees which have replaced London and Wise's topiary. 

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see
Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire, designed by George London and Henry Wise. From Triggs' Formal Gardens
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see
Melbourne Hall

Henry Wise worked at Blenheim with Vanburgh. The division of work between the garden designer and the architect is not known but it is likely that Wise designed the large parterre behind the house, which has gone, and the single avenue in front of the house which survives and is being replanted where necessary. In Kensington Gardens Wise designed a series of parterres and a mount which have been replaced by a modern 'Dutch garden'. There is another recent 'Dutch garden' at Hampton Court in Richmond but the large semi-circular parterre which Wise certainly maintained, and may have designed, has been replaced by a grotesque semi-circle of yew trees. It is also probable that Wise designed the famous maze at Hampton Court. He became a rich man and retired to a country house with a parterre and avenue garden at Warwick Priory. The earthworks for the garden survive in a public park. The Priory building was taken to America in the 1920s and the County Records Office has been built on the site. 

The painting of 'The south east prospect of Hampton Court in Herefordshire ' by L Knyff gives a better impression of London and Wise's work than any surviving garden. The design has been attributed to London and is essentially Dutch. Parterres flank the house on all sides and a canal with two summer houses runs across the front of the garden. The avenues do radiate from the house but they are clearly an afterthought and have been made with lines of trees running through agricultural land. They appear to lose all sense of purpose on reaching the hills. The painting of Hampton Court by Knyff has a distinct resemblence to the drawing of Sir William Temple's own garden at Moor Park in Surrey, which might have been drawn by Kip or Knyff. Temple's garden was designed c.1680 and named in remembrance of Lucy Harrington's house where Sir William and Dorothy had spent their honeymoon in 1655. The description of this garden in Temple's essay On the gardens of Epicurus is the best written account of a garden in the Dutch style. Temple was a protestant who admired the Dutch but hated the French 'upon account of their imperiousness and arrogance to foreigners'.

     Return to section heading 

The drawing of the Moor Park shows six large enclosures and numerous sub-divisions. One of the enclosures is laid to grass and was probably used for bowling. Three of the other main enclosures at Moor Park are laid out as knots and parterres and the remainder are used for growing fruit and vegetables. Some topiary can be seen which takes the form of small pyramids and cubes of the kind which were later ridiculed by Pope, who was a catholic with French sympathies. The pleached lime walk and the canal at the bottom of the garden are typically Dutch. On the left of the drawing a serpentine stream can be seen wriggling in its efforts to enter the garden. Hussey has suggested that the presence of this line corresponds to Temple's famous remarks on the desirability of irregularity in gardens. 

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see Moor Park in Surrey, Sir William Temple's own garden. Note the serpentine stream in the bottom left corner - one of the earliest 'irregular 'features in an English garden.
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see The river at Moor Park
Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see The enclosed garden at Moor Park

One of the main pleasures of Temple's garden was the dry gravel paths which were so much more convenient to walk on than the muddy unpaved public roads and country paths. The ladies of the house could take the sun and air, safe from wild animals and brigands. After the pleasure of watching the plants grow came the profit of harvesting fruit and vegetables for the kitchen.  

In his essay 'Upon the Gardens of Epicurus', Temple took a Virgilian interest in fruit but says little about flowers and explains his ommission as follows:  

I will not enter upon any account of flowers, having only pleased myself with seeing or smelling them, and not troubling myself with their care, which is more the ladies part than the men's. 

    Return to section heading 

Bacon's jest of 1625 that 'you can see as good sights many times, in tarts' as you can see in knot gardens had also made the point that the ladies were responsible for the making the knots and cooking the tarts. Sometimes the patterns for knot gardens were provided by the same tradesmen who supplied embroidery patterns.  

The contemporary books which dealt with flowers were known as herbals and presumably belonged in the ladies' parlour rather than the gentlemen's study. Herbs were essential for cooking and medical care, and knowledge of them was a necessary part of a woman's education. John Parkinson, the author of the most popular seventeenth century herbal, was an apothecary but gave more attention to flowers than his predecessor, John Gerard. Parkinson also illustrated some patterns for knot gardens which resemble embroidery patterns.  

The patterns which can be seen in the Temples' garden are of intermediate complexity between the traditional knot garden and the elaborate parterre de broderie as developed by Claude Mollet and Jacques Boyceau. Temple does not say what flowers were planted at Moor Park but many other contemporary accounts survive and we can guess that Dorothy Temple's flower garden contained tulips, crocus, polyanthus, gillyflowers (clove scented pinks and wallflowers), roses, cornflowers, cyclamen, hollyhocks, jasmine, lavender, pansies, poppies, rosemary and violets. The small plants would be used in the knot gardens and the larger plants would be placed against the walls and hedges.

There were no forest trees inside the garden at Moor Park, but the avenues outside the garden are very significant. They project outwards into the countryside and thus signpost the future development of British garden design. A careful examination of the avenues in Kip and Knyff's Britannia Illustrata reveals that the practice of attaching avenues to enclosed gardens became common in England. Very few of their drawings show a systematic pattern of avenues radiating from a central point. Most are formed by newly planted lines of trees which meet the walls of the enclosed gardens at right angles. The birdseye viewpoint adopted by Kip and Knyff makes these avenues look more radial than they would appear on a a plan. Non-radial avenues of this type are shown on the drawing of Dumbleton and were added to Ham House after the plan of the enclosed garden was drawn in 1671.

    Return to section heading  

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see
Westbury Court, Gloucestershire, c1902 is the best example in England of a Dutch canal garden.

The best surviving examples of the Dutch style are the canal garden at Westbury Court, which is being restored, and the topiary garden at Levens Hall. Since the latter was designed by a Frenchman, Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont, for a supporter of the Stuart cause it illustrates the general confusion between the French and Dutch styles. There is also an 'informal avenue' at Levens Hall which reaches out into the landscape on undulating ground.

Go to next Section