The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Brighton and Sussex in 1842

Eridge Castle

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October 16. - Eridge Castle; Earl of Abergavenny. This is an immense place, being, as the Guide to Tunbridge Wells informs us, seven miles from north to south, and five miles from east to west. The house stands on a widely extending knoll in a park containing above 3000 acres, and it is surrounded by a demesne of 10,000 acres. The drives through the plantations measure fifty-four miles, and there is a lake of twenty acres. The plantations have been entirely made by the present earl; they have thriven in a most extraordinary degree, and they are kept in far better order than is generally the case. We have already noticed the numerous handsome lodges and cottages on the estate. The house is in the castle style, remarkable for the profusion of ornament with which it is covered, both externally and within. We were in all the principal rooms, and found the ceilings every where covered with carved work, generally oak, or an imitation of it. A peculiarity in all of the rooms is, that there are no curtains; the backs of the shutters, when they are closed, showing the same finish and ornaments as the walls of the room. The ornaments which are placed on the exterior of the house are chiefly portions of the quarterings of the Abergavemy arms, one of which is a portcullis, and another a St. Andrew's cross, and both these are used not only on the house, but in the grounds, on a large scale, as wicket-gates. The walls of the castle exteriorly are painted of a French grey, and the ornaments fixed on them are of a pure white, and in part gilt. They appear put on at random; and, notwithstanding their abundance on the plain part of the walls, yet the windows are without facings or labels of any kind. At the base of the walls there is a raised border of dug soil, with an embattled stone edging, planted chiefly with geraniums, which, though pretty in itself, is too much in the cottage style for a castle; and, besides, this border cannot fail to produce damp in the rooms within. In short, we should say that this castle exhibited the very reverse of good taste; but, as all these ornaments were made by the workmen of the country on the spot, much good was done by the employment given, and by the creation of a number of superior workmen. Every part of the buildings, fences, and roads, seemed in complete repair, and in high order and keeping, which, for such an extensive place, is saying a great deal. In passing on to Tunbridge Wells, we observed the nursery-grounds of Mr. C. Hollamby, at Strawberry Hill, well cropped, showy, and in good order. At the Wells we examined those of Mr. Cripps, where we saw a variety of Nemophila atomaria with black flowers, a new cleome from Texas, Mr. Cripps's white fuchsia, and several other new things. [Editor's Note: One can but read this report of a garden visit by The Conductor without admiration and melancholy. By Jane Loudon's account, John Claudius Loudon's was in terrible health at the time of these last visits. Yet the keeness of his oblervation and judgement is undimmed. As always, his mind ruled his body. Loudon, his wife noted, was a most public-spirited man. He would, no doubt, have been delghted by the World Wide Web in general and Wikipedia in particular, noting that (2006): 'In 1792 the second Earl of Abergavenny converted the old Eridge House into a gothic Castle , which he named Eridge Castle. It was replaced with a Nen-Georgian Mansion in the 1930s.']


[2009 Note:The house and formal gardens still enjoy stunning and peaceful views over the Park, although the estate today is also home to a myriad of small businesses occupying former farm and estate buildings, as well as providing a unique venue for weddings and private parties, open air concerts, game and country fairs, film locations and many more: Eridge Park Events Ltd, Eridge Park, Eridge Green, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 9JT]