The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Lincolnshire, Staffordshire, and Middlesex in the Spring of 1840

Harlaxton cottage ornamentation

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4. Not altogether to omit objects purely ornamental, where they can be introduced with propriety. There is no reason why a cottage garden should not have its sculptural ornaments as well as the garden of a palace; and it is quite reasonable that in both cases the occupant should endeavour to get the best ornaments he can afford. Formerly, the doctrine used to be, that the dwelling of the cottager ought to be low, in order to be expressive of humility; and void of exterior ornament except creepers and flowers, to express the condition of life, or, in other words, the poverty of the inhabitant. But the cottager is now becoming a reading and thinking being; and having a taste for health, comfort, and ornament, in common with other classes of society, he requires higher and better lighted and ventilated rooms; and these, as well as his garden, he will ornament as far as his circumstances will permit. The time has gone by for one class of society to endeavour to mark another with any badge whatever, and therefore we would wish all architects, when designing cottages, to abandon their long-received ideas. "In the construction of cottages, as well as of all other kinds of buildings, great care should be taken that every part should be in its proper character; for nothing can appear more absurd or out of place, than to see mouldings or ornaments, which belong to the regular styles of architecture, introduced in a cottage." This was published in 1805, in a work on labourers' cottages, by an architect of eminence; but in 1840, in the recently improved cottages throughout the country, we see the "mouldings and ornaments which belong to the regular styles of architecture" as carefully applied as in larger dwellings; and, fortunately, vases of the most elegant forms are so cheap, that no cottage parapet, seat, or bee-house, need be without them. What is most offensive to taste, both in the gardens of the wealthy and of the poor, is the misplacing of sculptural monuments. In Harlaxton village there are sundials and vases, of different forms and kinds, most judiciously placed; for example, as terminations to piers to gates, or along parapets on piers or other preparations, on the piers at the ends of stone seats, &c. In how many instances, not only in cottage gardens and on cottages, but in the gardens and on the buildings of the wealthy classes, do we not see vases set down where they have no legitimate right to be placed whatever; in places from which they might be removed without ever being missed, or without any derangement to the scene in which they were put, but of which, in an artistical sense, they formed no part. Some of the situations proper for vases are: where the vase forms a termination to an object, as to a pillar of a gate, a pier or pilaster in a wall, or a detached column, &c.; where lines of walks or of walls join, meet, or intersect, as in the centre of a system of beds for flowers, or at the angles made by the junction of walks in a pleasure-ground; where niches in buildings, or gravelled or other recesses along walks, are prepared for them, &c. In all cases where a vase is put down in a garden, it ought not only to have a base formed of one or more plinths, but a pedestal to raise the vase nearer the eye, and above the surrounding vegetation, as well as to give it dignity of character. No ornament whatever, whether in a garden or on a building, ought ever to be placed in an inconspicuous situation, or in the less noble parts of the grounds or edifice; and no ornament ought to be made use of which is formed of a material of less value and durability than the material or object on or against which it is to be placed. Hence the bad effect of rootwork and rusticwork in many situations in gardens and in verandas, and other additions or accompaniments to brick or stone houses.