The Garden Guide

Book: Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1816
Chapter: Fragment XxvIII. Containing Extracts From The Report On Woburn Abbey.

Landform at Woburn Abbey

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THE SHAPE OF GROUND. The surface near the house has been so altered by the various works of art, at different periods, that it is difficult to ascertain precisely what were the natural levels; but it is not improbable that the abbey was originally placed across the valley, or near the conflux of the two small rivulets; leaving a space on one side, if not on both, for the water to take its course towards the west. As the buildings became enlarged, the valley was lessened, till at length they nearly filled in the whole of the hollow between the two hills [see fig. 219.]*. *[Very soon after I had buried the lower story of the house at Welbeck (as described in my volume of "Sketches and Hints, &c.") [see p. 50], Mr. Holland began to do the same thing at Woburn, but never proceeded further than the south front.] The natural surface is the shaded line. That natural surface is now altered to the lower dotted line [a]: the earth had been brought, and filled in, to the upper dotted line [b], making a plane, or, rather, an inclined plane, sloping towards the windows of the south front: [c is the floor of the principal rooms, and d the floor of the basement story.] If this was done under an idea of giving a natural shape to the ground, the principle was a mistaken one; for had such been the original shape, we must suppose a hole dug in the ground, in which the house had been placed; but the fact is, that, near a large house, the shape of the ground must be made to accord with the building, since no house, however large or small, can be erected without the interference of art, and without disturbing the natural surface of the ground. We must, therefore, study the convenience of the mansion, to which the ground about it must be altered in the way most conducive to its uses and appearance, without fettering the plan by any fancied resemblance of nature. I am quite sure that the old magnificent taste for straight lines, and artificial shapes of ground, adjoining to a palace, was more consonant to true taste and greatness of character, than the sweeping lines and undulating surface of modern gardening.