The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Rotterdam garden design

Previous - Next

160. The gardens round Rotterdam are generally many feet below the level of the canal. On the Cingle, a public road which surrounds the city, are a continued series of garden-houses nearly a mile in extent; these miniature villas being separated from each other only by wooden partitions, which are generally neatly painted. To these the citizens with their wives retire on Sunday, to smoke and take coffee. (Neill's Hort. Tour, &c. p. 127.) The gardens and villas between Rotterdam and Amsterdam are thus described by a tourist who visited them in 1831: �'The road, as is generally the case in Holland, was paved with a particular kind of brick, called a clinker, set closely on edge, very neatly fitted together, and as level as a bowling-green. After running for some distance along the side of the canal, the road branched off; and here commenced a continued succession of neat, and sometimes very handsome, villas on both sides, and at no great distance from it. Here and there an elegant chateau occurred, surrounded by an extensive domain, well planted with trees, but generally in straight lines; the mansion being commonly approached through a grand avenue. The boundaries also of these large estates are frequently terminated by avenues of trees, each row belonging to separate proprietors; but the division of property is mostly marked by a dike and a ditch. Most of these country houses, whether large or small, have a ditch of stagnant water dividing the little front garden from the road; and close to this ditch, generally indeed rising out of it, and not unfrequently bestriding it, is sure to be found a small building, square or octagonal, called a lust-huis, or pleasure-house, with a window on each side, commanding a complete view of the road. These little buildings or pleasure-houses are so very numerous as to form a characteristic feature in this part of the country. They occur, indeed, as we afterwards found, by the sides of the roads throughout South Holland. In the summer and autumn evenings they are the common resort of families, where the men enjoy their pipes with beer or wine, and the females sip their tea; and both derive amusement in observing and conversing with the passengers on the road. In any other country these (the summer and autumn evenings) would be considered as just the seasons of the year, and the time of day, when these ditch-bestriding pleasure-houses would be shunned; the effluvia from the stagnant water being then strongest, and the frogs, which are every where seen skipping about, most lively and noisy. But the same vitiated taste, which has selected the ditch for the site of the pleasure-house, may deem the croaking of the frogs when in full song, just as melodious to their ears as the notes of the nightingale are to their more southern neighbours. As there is no want of water in any part of Holland, the flower-gardens attached to these villas have generally a fish-pond in some part of them; and when they happen to face the road, the pleasure-house is frequently placed on a hillock in the middle of the garden, and is accessible only by a bridge or flight of steps. Each villa has its name, or some motto, inscribed over the gateway, the choice of which is generally meant to bespeak content and comfort on the part of the owner; and they afford a source of amusement to the stranger as he passes along. Thus, among others, we read, 'lust en rust, ' pleasure and ease; 'wel to vrede, ' well contented; 'myn genegentheid is voldoen, ' my desire is satisfied; 'myn lust en leven, ' my pleasure and life; 'niet zoo guaalyk, ' not so bad; 'gerustelyk en wel to vrede, ' tranquil and content; 'vreindschap en gezelschap, ' friendship and sociability; 'het vermaak is in't hovenierin, ' there is pleasure in gardening. And over the entrance to one of the tea-gardens at Rotterdam was inscribed, 'het vleesch potten van Egypte.' Some of the larger gardens abound with friuts and vegetables, and beds and borders of flowering shrubs and plants are laid out in all the grotesque shapes that can be imagined. It must be confessed, however, that an air of comfort presides over these villas. Most of the dwelling-houses are gaily painted in lively colours; all the offices and outhouses are kept in neat order; while the verdant meadows are covered with the finest cattle, mostly speckled brown and white.� (Tour through South Holland, 12mo, 1831, p. 68.)