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

Stoke Park

Previous - Next

Stoke Park, J. Penn, Esq. - This is a very interesting place on many accounts. Its present possessor is the grandson of the celebrated William Penn, the founder of the state of Pennsylvania; and, had this gentleman's father not been a royalist, his income from his American possessions, we are informed, on the best authority, would now have exceeded six hundred thousand pounds a year. Stoke Park is also interesting, as being the scene of Gray's "Long Story," and of his celebrated "Elegy in a Country Churchyard." The yew trees immortalised by the poet are still in existence; but most of the "rugged elms" have been cut down. "What we principally regretted, however, was the removal of nearly all the old Elizabethan mansion, which is said to have been one of great architectural beauty. Gray was buried in the churchyard; and near it, in the grounds, there is a plain massive pedestal, surmounted by a sarcophagus, erected to his memory. On the four sides of the pedestal are four appropriate extracts from his Elegy. There is also a monumental column in the park, to the memory of Sir Edward Coke, the celebrated lawyer. The grounds consist of a considerable extent of table land, from which an irregular winding slope descends to the south. This slope is very gentle; but it is still sufficient to give the walks along the brow, and especially the house, commanding views of Windsor Castle and the adjoining country. The grounds were first modernised under the direction of Mr. Humphry Repton, about the time when he and Mr. Main were laying out those of Chalfont House; but they have been since almost entirely changed by Mr. Perm, and his present most intelligent gardener and land steward, Mr. Osborne. The pleasure-ground is laid out in what may be called the classical style of the poet Mason; the forms of the masses of flowers and shrubs being generally circular or oval, and each scene distinguished by appropriate statues, or busts on therms, like those formerly in the flower-garden at Newnham Courtney. We hope at some future period to be able to give a plan and description of these grounds. The house in the Grecian style, and Doric, appears to a stranger remarkably well placed, though, like most others built about the same time, it wants an architectural basement and appendages. The summit is crowned with a cupola, which, from want of showing deep reveals to the openings, has a temporary air, as though it were built of boards, and coloured in imitation of stone. The truth is, it was an after-thought, and these are always bad. The whole place was in good order. [Editor's Note: John Penn (1760 - 1834) built the present house with the compensation (�130,000) he was received from the new United States Government for his family's 26 million acres in Pennsylvania. The house is now (2005) a golf club house ). Lancelot Brown produced a plan in 1750 and Repton's produced a Red Book in 1792.