The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 4: British Gardens (1100-1830)

Duddingston House Garden Design

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610. The grounds of Duddingston House may be referred to as a contrast to the style of Blair Drummond; and as a proof of what we have asserted in regard to the kind of modern landscape-gardening introduced to Scotland. This seat was laid out about the year 1770. The architect of the house was Sir William Chambers; the name of the rural artist, whose original plans we have examined, was Robinson, nephew to the king's gardener of that name, sent down from London. We know of no example in any country of so perfect a specimen of Brown's manner, nor of one in which the effect of the whole, and the details of every particular part, are so consistent, and co-operate so well together in producing a sort of tame, spiritless beauty, of which we cannot give a distinct idea. It does not resemble avowed art, nor yet natural scenery; it seems, indeed, as if nature had commenced the work, and changed her plan, determining no longer to add to her productions those luxuriant and seemingly superfluous appendages which produce variety and grace. The trees here, all planted at the same time, and of the same age, seem to grow by rule. The clumps remind us of regularly tufted perukes. The waters of the same river neither dare to sink within nor to overflow its banks; the clumps kept at a respectful distance; and the serpentine turns of the roads and walks seem to hint that every movement to be made here must correspond. The extent of Duddingston, we suppose, may exceed 200 acres. The house is placed on an eminence in the centre, from which the grounds descend on three sides, and on the remaining side continue on a level till they reach the boundary belt. This belt completely encircles the whole; it is from 50 to 200 feet wide, with a turf drive in the middle. One part near the house is richly varied by shrubs and flowers, and kept as garden scenery; in the rest the turf is mown, but the ground untouched. A string of wavy canals, on different levels, joined by cascades, enter at one side of the grounds, and taking a circuitous sweep through the park, pass off at the other. This water creates occasion for Chinese bridges, islands, and cascades. The kitchen-garden and offices are placed behind the house, and concealed by a mass of plantation. Over the rest of the grounds are distributed numerous oval unconnected clumps, and some single trees. In the drive are several temples and covered seats, placed in situations where are caught views of the house, sometimes seen between two clumps, and at other times between so many as to form a perspective or avenue. There is also a temple on the top of a hill, partly artificial, which forms the object from several of these seats, and from other open glades or vistas left in the inside of the bolt. The outer margin of this plantation is every where kept perfectly entire, so that there is not a single view but what is wholly the property of the owner; unless in one instance, where the summit of Arthur's Seat, an adjoining hill, is caught by the eye from one part of the belt, over the tops of the trees in its opposite periphery. That this place has, or had in 1790, great beauties, we do not deny; but they are beauties of a peculiar kind, not of general nature; not the beauties of Blair Drummond, or such as a liberal and enlightened mind would now desire to render general; but in great part such as Sir William Chambers holds up to ridicule in his Dissertation on Oriental Gardening (see his Introduction, p. 6-11), and Price laughs at in his Essays on the Picturesque. Yet Duddingston may be reckoned the model of all future improvements in Scotland, till within the last twenty years. The same artist laid out Livingston, effected some improvements at Hopetoun House, Dalkeith, Dalhousie, Niddry, the Whim, Moredun, various other places near Edinburgh, and some in Ayrshire.