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

Highclere comment

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After this slight outline of the leading features of Highclere, it remains for us to give our general opinion of its beauties. Taking it altogether, then, and considering it as a whole, and with reference both to nature and art, we know of no inland place to equal it. There are more striking portions of ground at many places; for example, the brow on which the house is situated at Pain's Hill, with the river below: there are more romantic situations, as at Hafod; situations in which rocks and a natural river have a prominent effect, as at Auchincruive; or rocks without a river, as at Hawkstone: there are more striking situations by art, and where architecture is included: as in the view of Blenheim, on entering the Woodstock gate; or of the enchanted valley, at Alton Towers: but, decidedly, in our opinion, there is no place in England where so much dignity of character, so much elegant variety, and so much cultivated beauty, is preserved throughout a place of such great extent. We set little value on the rhododendrons and other pleasure-ground ornaments, compared with what we think of the style of planting which has been everywhere adopted, of the formation of the water, and of the distribution of the views of the house. The ground floor of the house is not sufficiently raised; and the direction of the approach to it might be improved. There are several minor points which may also admit of correction; and the woods, and plantations of American shrubs on the lawn, like all others that are intended to continue to look well, will require constant thinning: but all these things are as nothing in the scale, when weighed against the natural beauty of the grounds, and the judicious disposition of the woods, groups, and scattered trees. We know no place in which the trees are as well disposed over so great an extent of surface. Portions of Pain's Hill, Caversham, Esher, and a few other places, may be compared with Highclere; but these are only portions, not in all exceeding a few acres: while here we have a park three or four miles in length, and averaging a mile in breadth. Let the reader who has an opportunity compare the planting which has been done in the park at White Knights, both that done by the original planter about the same time as that at Highclere, and that done under the direction of the Duke of Marlborough, and say in which is the superiority of taste and judgment. There are few, however, who can profit from the study of such places as Highclere and Pain's Hill; and this is the reason why we have always heard the former place mentioned for its hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas, and the latter for having been the first where rhododendrons were raised from American seeds; and never, either of them, for the disposition of the trees.