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

Tottenham Park

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Tottenham Park, Marquess of Aylesbury.-Aug. 16. This is an immense place, of which we had heard much; and while, in its immensity and in the general management of the estate, it exceeded our expectations, in its architecture and gardening, which we had heard most praised, it fell short of them. The estate consists of 60,000 acres in a ring fence, one half of which, we suppose, may consist of the ancient forest of Savernake, said to be the largest in Britain in the possession of a private individual, with the house in the centre. Fifteen years ago, the stewardship of this estate fell into the hands of Mr. Iveson, who has effected the most extraordinary improvements and ameliorations, seconded by the marquess, who is one of the best of landlords and masters. When Mr. Iveson came into charge of the property, none of the cottages on the estate had gardens attached to them, and the labourers were in the most wretched condition of any in this part of England. They are still bad enough, in more than one sense of the word; their wages being made up out of the poor's rate (a system which the magistrates of the county, we were informed, have not the courage to break through): but, in consequence of every cottage, without exception, having had a quarter of an acre of land attached to it, the dwelling itself having been put in repair, and, when necessary, enlarged so as to consist of four rooms with lean-tos, &c., they are in a state of great comparative comfort and happiness. Mr. Burns, the well-known, and, we may say, celebrated gardener, at Tottenham Park, propagates 300 apple trees yearly, to distribute among them; and supplies them with cuttings and seeds of whatever he thinks will be either useful or ornamental in their gardens. For all repairs, and for such additions as they may choose to make, Mr. Iveson and his under stewards allow them rough materials to any extent for nothing. The walls of these cottages are of brick, or of cob, built in the manner described in our Encyc. of Cott. Arch., ᄎ 838. to ᄎ 842., and their covering is almost invariably thatch. The cottage and land, with all these advantages, are let at 2l. a year, and every cottager comes to the mansion to pay his rent twice a year, when he has what is, for him, a sumptuous dinner, and abundance of ale, or, as it is called in Wiltshire, strong beer. In consequence of this treatment, they have become quite a different people. There are now three schools for twenty girls each, where before there were none; but in this respect improvement has not been carried half far enough. We heard of no boys' schools, and we were informed that very few labourers on the estate could read. The cottagers, some years ago, used to live chiefly on bread and water; but now every married man keeps a pig; all grow potatoes and other vegetables in their own gardens; and many brew their own beer. Several of them have expressed to Mr. Stanley, the marquess's wharfinger, their astonishment how they could live at all, either in their former houses, or on their former diet. [Savernake House is 5 miles south east of Marlborough, Wiltshire]