The Landscape Guide

English gardens in the time of Charles I

Moor Park in Hertfordshire

Charles I. as well as his queen patronised gardening. It was during his reign that the Botanic Garden at Oxford (Fig. 354) was founded by Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby. 

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see


The year (incorrectly given by most authorities) was 1621, the first stone having been laid on 25 July of that year. The whole ground of five acres is bounded on both sides by a canal. Inside this there is a wall with three monumental entrance gates, attributed to Inigo Jones, and on the inner face of this wall espalier fruit is grown. The whole square is laid out on a very simple plan : every four beds are united by an encircling trellis so as to form one “ quarter “ of the garden. For this quarter in the year 1648 no fewer than 1600 different plants were brought. In winter the pot plants were kept in a simple orangery. At that date the practice of having conservatories had hardly begun, but they had become especially necessary since the introduction of the orange. In the first half of the century hothouses were very rare, and only to be found in a few princely gardens.

Sir William Temple expressly says that in the garden of Moor Park in Hertfordshire, which he saw for the last time about the year 1655, the galleries round the principal parterre would have been very suitable for oranges, myrtles, etc., “ if this part had been as well kept up as it is to-day.” This he wrote in 1685, but the “ lovely perfect garden,” which he had seen for the last time thirty years previously, still seems to him the best possible model ; and indeed his description is of a thoroughly characteristic middle-sized garden of the first half of the century.

It lies on the slope of a not very high hill, on which stands the house : the wide front where the best rooms are, and those that are most in use, looks out on the garden, and the large living-room opens immediately on a gravelled terrace, about a hundred feet long and correspondingly broad. On the edge of the terrace stand laurel-trees, at wide distances from each other ; these he thinks have “ the beauty of oranges, without their fruit or flower.” Three stone steps lead down to a large parterre, divided into squares by gravel walks, and ornamented with two fountains and eight statues. At the end of the terrace by the house there are two summer-houses, and at the sides of the parterre broad galleries with stone arches, which also end in summer-houses, and serve as shady paths for the parterre. Over these arched corridors there are two terraces with balustrades and lead roofs. The approach to these airy walks is by way of the two summer-houses at the end of the first terrace.

From the middle of the parterre a high stair on both sides of a grotto leads into the lower garden, which is well planted with fruit-trees, in squares round a “wilderness” (this was the name for interwoven paths in clipped shrubberies). Sir William added that if the hill had not come to an end at this point, and the wall abutted on a country road, there might have been a third garden added with all sorts of things in it ; but this want was compensated for by a garden on the other side of the house, wild and shady, and adorned with water-work and rough rock.


Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see
Conjectural plan of the garden at Moor Park in Hertfordshire