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 Garden

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In point of skill displayed in landscape-gardening, decidedly the most interesting places we saw were Highclere (Earl of Caernarvon's), and Bearwood, near Reading, the seat of J. Walters, Esq. (We may observe here, that in not more than one or two of the numerous places at which we called, where alterations had been made, or were going on, was a landscape-gardener regularly employed. An architect if called in because he cannot be done without; but the alterations in the grounds are generally concocted by the master or mistress and the gardener, and carried into execution by the latter. Sometimes a nurseryman is called in; but, with one or two exceptions, among which we have great pleasure in including Mr. Page of Southampton, these gentlemen are very deficient in taste. From this wish of masters and mistresses to lay out their own grounds, arises, on their part, a good deal of reading about landscape-gardening, and the desire of studying it by visiting gentlemen's seats in different parts of the country. The result of this will be a great and permanent improvement in this department of our art. We say great and permanent, because experience has shown that there is no way of securing and rendering permanent improvements either in taste or science, but by their general diffusion. This affords a noble prospect to all who take an interest in these matters, or in the progress of society and their country; and it ought to show gardeners the absolute necessity of their paying every possible attention in their power to landscape-gardening and garden architecture. Let all who are under thirty begin sketching trees from nature; and all who are above that age set about a course of reading and reflection on the subject: and, further, let all who rend this Magazine pay particular attention to the notes which we make during our tours; for the main object these notes is to improve the taste of gardeners.) Nothing could exceed the order and high keeping of both the pleasure-ground and kitchen-garden at Norman Court; and the house there is also good: but the pleasure-ground is too confined; and, altogether, the scenery about the house wants rearranging to make it constitute a good whole. Among the larger places of the greatest natural beauty, and judicious general arrangement, were Highclere, the Grange, and Broadlands. We never were more struck with any thing than with Highclere, particularly with the variation of the grounds and views, and with the disposition of the trees. The first sight of the portico at the Grange, looking down upon it embosomed in wood, from the grove on the opposite bank, came upon us like enchantment. It reminded us of Martin's Paphian Bower; but is greatly superior even to that picture of ideal beauty in its noble foreground. The situation of the house at Broad-lands, and the view from it, with the noble river forming the boundary to the lawn beneath, and the meadows and finely wooded hills beyond, form the very beau ideal of an English country-seat. We were happy to find that, in all the places above named, and in several others, our remarks on the edgings of walks have been duly appreciated and acted on. - But, lest we should be thought partial, or should forget some person or place that ought to be mentioned in these rather hurried introductory remarks, we shall now proceed to details; premising that the whole of the remaining portion of these notes was written, ready for the press, while on our tour, every evening or the following morning: so that the remarks on each place form an exact transcript of what we felt at the time of seeing it.