The Garden Guide

Book: Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1816
Chapter: Fragment Xvi. Concerning Villas.

Streatham villa

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REPORT CONCERNING A VILLA AT STREATHAM, BELONGING TO THE EARL OF COVENTRY. MY LORD, I CANNOT but rejoice in the honour your Lordship has done me, in requiring my opinion concerning a villa, which, when compared with Croom or Spring Park, may be deemed inconsiderable by those who value a place by its size or extent, and not by its real importance, as it regards beauty, convenience, and utility. I must, therefore, request leave to deliver my opinion concerning Streatham at some length, as it will give me an opportunity of explaining my reasons for treating the subject very differently from those followers of Brown, who copied his manner, without attending to his proportions, or motives, and adopted the same expedients for two acres, which he thought advisable for two hundred. Mr. Brown's attention had generally been called to places of great extent, in many of which he had introduced that practice distinguished by the name of a belt of plantation, and a drive within that belt. This, when the surface was varied by hill and dale, became a convenient mode of connecting the most striking spots, and the most interesting scenes, at a distance from the mansion, and from each other. But when the same expedient is used round a small field, with no inequality of ground, and particularly with a public road bounding the premises, it is impossible to conceive a plan more objectionable in its consequences; for as the essential characteristic of a villa near the metropolis consists in its seclusion and privacy, the walk, which is only separated from the highway by a park paling, and a few laurels, is not more private, though far less cheerful, than the path of the highway itself. To this may be added, that such a belt, when viewed from the house, must confine the landscape, by the pale to hide the road; then by the shrubs to hide the pale; and, lastly, by the fence to protect the shrubs; which, all together, act as a boundary more decided and offensive than the common hedge betwixt one field and another. [George William Coventry, 7th Earl of Coventry b. 25 April 1758, d. 26 March 1831]