The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: London to Manchester in the Spring of 1831

Chatsworth landscape garden in 1831

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Chatsworth has always appeared to us an unsatisfactory place. The house is not situated on a platform of adequate size; and there is great awkwardness in the approach proceeding abruptly up hill. A square pile of building, too, in such a situation, is less suitable than a lengthened one; and the waterworks, though good in themselves, are scattered about the grounds in such a way, that, while they interfere everywhere with the natural beauties of the place, they no where combine in forming one grand artificial effect. They want concentration. The improvements now going on will probably remedy most of these evils. The house is being extended in length; there is an opportunity of concentrating the waterworks in the only situation fit for them, on the west front; and the approach may be made by a bridge across the river, directly on this front, to arrive at the house on a level. All, or almost all, the artificial waterworks we would form on this west front; and, instead of the cascade of twenty-four steps on the east front, we would lower the earth, and carry from the house a level surface diminishing in width back to the base of the rock lately laid bare by Mr. Paxton, and so produce a waterfall from a precipice of upwards of a hundred feet in height. The water of this cascade, which might be compared to that of Mamora, near Terni, in Italy, should fall into a basin at its base, which would supply the lower jets of the waterworks on the west front; while the same tubes which now supply the waterworks in the long canal would supply the high jets on the same front. If it were necessary, we believe the river might be turned off at a sufficiently high point, and led along the sides of the hills, so as to supply the highest pond, and of course the hundred-feet cascade, abundantly. After the united waters had supplied all the waterworks on the west front, they might be led southwards in a tunnel, and delivered so far up the river, as that the quantity of water where it passes the house would not be in the least degree diminished. The avowed art being concentrated on the west front, we would restore the other parts of the grounds, not to nature, but to a more natural style than that which they now assume; retaining or forming a platform of an irregular boundary, and on the same level as that now existing on the south front, on the east and north fronts. But we are aware of the risk of misconception which we incur by offering these hints without the illustration of a sketch. The additional flower-gardens are in a highly enriched architectural taste; not being yet completed, it may be considered hardly fair to criticise them. Nevertheless, we must protest against the use of gravel in the walks of these architectural gardens. Smooth pavement, as at Heaton Park, ought unquestionably to be used, on the principle of utility or fitness; because pavement prevents the risk of the feet taking up gravel, and carrying it into the apartments. Such pavements would also suit much better with the stone basket-work, as it is called, on the turf. We protest also against the same edgings to flower-beds as are adopted in common shrubberies, but we shall defer further objections and suggestions till we have leisure thoroughly to explain them. The kitchen-garden here contains twelve acres, and, as the foreman informed us, there are twenty-two men allowed for keeping it in order. With regard to weeds, it was cleaned down to the economic point; but the box-edgings were ragged; and, in one part, a long bed of ornamental plants was introduced, and bordered by turf serrated on the edges, or, as the ladies call it, vandyked. Nothing of this sort ought, in our opinion, ever to be introduced in such a kitchen-garden as that at Chatsworth; we would as soon introduce a plot of cabbages in the newly formed parterre at the house. What properly belongs to a kitchen-garden ought to be carried to the highest degree of excellence; but any thing foreign to it is in bad taste. With kitchen-gardens adjoining the mansion, and used as a place to walk in, or where there is little or no flower-garden, the case is different. Where the head-gardener's house is in the kitchen-garden, a flower-garden ought to be allowed for his wife; but it ought not to be placed at a distance from her residence, or so as to interfere with the general effect of the garden. Mr. Paxton has erected extensive ranges of wooden forcing-houses, and heated them by smoke flues. The construction we think good of its kind; but, after the experience of the wooden houses and smoke flues at Chiswick, and the general progress of opinion among gardeners on this subject, we confess we were rather surprised to see them adopted here. We have since learned that Mr. Paxton disapproves of metallic houses, and of heating by hot water; and we are not sorry that this is the case, because the public will have an opportunity of judging between his productions and those of other first-rate gardens where metallic houses and hot water are alone employed; viz., Woburn, Syon, Eaton Hall, Bretton Hall, &c. We regret that we did not find Mr. Paxton at home; and this circumstance prevents us from saying more on the subject at present. All the neighbouring gardeners agree in stating that he has greatly improved the garden department at Chatsworth, and we are happy in adding our testimony to the same effect. It is most gratifying to us to be able to state that the Duke of Devonshire allows all persons whatever to see Chatsworth, the house as well as the grounds, every day in the year, Sundays not excepted, from ten in the morning till five (the latest hour at which the house can be entered) in the afternoon. The humblest individual is not only shown the whole, but the duke has expressly ordered the waterworks to be played for every one, without exception. This is acting in the true spirit of great wealth and enlightened liberality; let us add, also, in the spirit of wisdom. We are happy to learn that the duke intends to establish a picture and sculpture gallery, which, we have no doubt, will in like manner be open to the public, and, as at Woburn, delight and improve, while it attaches and reconciles. We have never heard of any injury being done to any object at Chatsworth; every party or person always being accompanied by an attendant.