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 Lancelot Brown

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Before his improvements were commenced, Lord Caernarvon called in the assistance of the celebrated Brown, whose plan is still preserved in the mansion at Highclere, though it was not followed. It serves to show the great superiority which a proprietor of cultivated taste, who resides upon his demesne, and makes himself master of its capabilities, will always possess over the professional landscape-gardener, taking a transient view, and forming his plan upon undigested data and imperfect knowledge of local details. Lord Caernarvon began his operations by partially destroying the avenue leading to Sidon Hill, throwing down its boundary hedges, and laying down the arable fields in grass on its right and left; thus including Sidon Hill within the park, and extending the latter up to the foot of Beacon Hill, now apparently, though not actually, within it. Then, turning his attention northwards, the park was carried over all the fields and rabbit warren between the mansion-house and Milford Water; which last, having its three subdivisions formed into one lake, was, with its adjoining woods, thrown also into the enclosed grounds. Very extensive plantations stretching from the natural beech wood, along the eastern side of the park, and forming a rich woodland boundary, next occupied Lord Caernarvon's attention. After this, his planting operations upon a large scale were carried to the northwards: Dunsmere Water, in short, a multitude of operations, followed; every successive year producing some extension or developement of his original plans, which were not only pursued with unabated activity during his own life, but were continued by his son, the late Earl of Caernarvon, with equal ardour. A curious memorandum book was kept by the first Earl of Caernarvon [which has been shown to us]. It records many interesting facts connected with his improvements, chronicles the planting and progress of his favourite trees, gives the dates of his successive operations, and must be regarded as a document of great local interest. The mode of preparing and removing large trees described by Sir Henry Steuart, was largely practised by Lord Caernarvon, sixty years ago. Many of the beech trees, now of large dimensions, in Sidon Vale, to the right and left of the old avenue, were so removed soon after 1770. In 1795 and 1796, many large beech trees were transplanted to the north of the house; again, in 1798 and 1799, others were transplanted; again, in 1800; and to various spots, and at various intervals, between these periods and since. These attempts were almost invariably successful.