The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Blenheim Park design

Previous - Next

The side entrance, through which strangers are admitted to see the house, is beginning to be dilapidated, and a large portion of stone from the architrave over the gateway has lately splintered off and fallen down. The grand court of honour seems in better repair than any other part. The side courts require jointing, and protection by the repair of the roofs and copings. On first appearing before the entrance-gate of the outer court, one of the striking effects used to be the long architectural vista, seen through the first court, across the court of honour and across the third court; but this is now destroyed, in consequence of a hot-house having been put up in the third or stable court, which obtrudes its end across the line of archways. The duke has turned that court into a kind of melon, hot-house, or rubbish ground; and a strange place it is, taken altogether. On entering the grand hall, we were struck by the long vistas through doors to the right and left; and also by the view through two doors to the lawn in front: on turning round, and looking towards the bridge, the long straight avenue passing over it, and having in its centre, at a certain distance, the lofty column crowned by the statue of Queen Anne, completes the impression of dignity and grandeur. This avenue was formerly continued in a straight line for six or eight miles through the Ditchley and Heythrope demesnes, including the mansions of each in the line of the avenue. There is something very grand, and at the same time very sociable, in the idea of thus connecting three magnificent residences. We see from these straight lines, right angles, and lengthened vistas, how well Vanbrugh understood grandeur of effect, both in architecture and in the principal features of its accompaniments. The architecture at Blenheim has trifling faults of detail; such, for example, as the combination of the obelisk and the pilaster with the recesses cut into the latter at the side entrance; but, taking the pile altogether, we know nothing like it either ancient or modern. Some attempts were made, during the late duke's time, to improve the terminations of the towers; and even the present duke has tried an experiment of this kind: but, if it is allowable to make an attempt to improve one part, why not attempt to improve the whole? But this would be absurd; because the palace would then no longer be the work of Vanbrugh, or the national monument raised in honour of the first duke. In justice to the memory of both the great architect and the great warrior, we think every thing removed, either by the late or the present occupier, ought to be restored; and no farther liberties taken by the present or future possessors. Indeed, there must be something defective in the arrangement by which the heirs of the great Marlborough hold this property; otherwise neither these alterations could have been made, nor the lake and the building have been suffered to be so much injured by neglect as they now are.