The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 52 Hampton Court

Hampton Court Gardens

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The Gardens are laid out in a formal style resembling Versailles, with a Broad Walk skirting the east front of the palace, ornamental basins, straight paths, old yew-trees, and brilliant flower-beds. The east and south fronts of the palace, which face the gardens and were built by Wren in 1689-1718, are the finest example of the Louis XIV. style in England. In the pediment in the centre of the east front is a sculptured group (Triumph of Hercules over Envy) by Gabriel Cibber. Running at right angles to the east front is the Long Canal. + mile in length, constructed by Charles II. On either side of it sretches the Home Park or Hampton Court Park (600 acres), open to the public and containing fine old trees. The Privy Garden extends on the south side of the palace. At its south end, near the river, are twelve fine wrought-iron screens, from the designs of Jean Tijou. On the west side is 'Queen Mary's Bower' a pleached walk, 100 yards long, planted by Charles I. Just beyond the adjacent gateway, and close under the windows of the palace, is a small Elizabethan Knot Garden of aromatic plants, the elaborate geometric pattern of which is clearly shown on the plan hanging on the neighbouring wall. Farther on is the Pond Garden, a Tudor sunk-garden laid out by Henry VIII., south of which, by the river, rises the Banqueting House. Beyond the Pond Garden is the Great Vine (admission 1d.), the most famous, though neither the oldest nor the largest vine in England. It was planted in 1768 by 'Capability' Brown as a slip from the vine at Valentines, near Ilford. Its girth at the ground is 6 feet, and the main branch is 114 feet long; an annual crop of about 500 bunches of the finest Black Hamburgh grapes is produced. To the right from the vine-house is the Orangery (admission 2d.), which now contains the famous series of paintings by Andrea Mantegna, representing the Triumph of Julius C�sar. These nine paintings in tempera on twilled linen, each 9 feet square, though partly defaced and retouched, are Mantegna's chef-d'�uvre and the finest work in the whole gallery. They were executed in 1485-92 for Duke Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua, as a frieze in the palace of St. Sebastian, and were bought by Charles I. in 1628, with a collection of marbles, for �10, 500. There is no evidence for the common statement that, after the death of Charles I., they were rescued by Cromwell from the sale of the king's pictures. This magnificent procession deserves a worthier setting and better lighting.