Plymouth Archaeology Society

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Todd Gray and Rob-Wilson North

November 2007

An excellent days training was provided by the PDAS at the Swarthmore centre in November under the leadership of Todd Gray a Garden Historian and Rob Wilson-North an Archaeologist.

The morning period looked at the development of the garden in high ....

status sites from the medieval period to the late nineteenth century, starting with their growth from small garden plots of castles to hunting parks and the gardens attached to bishop’s palaces and monastic sites. Bodiam and Raglan castles were held up as examples of sites that were more of a romantic style of property than they were of military significance and this was reflected in their garden design. The 16th and 17th century led to periods of change from the post dissolution and the introduction of parklands, through to the grand formal gardens of the Elizabethan period. A lull occurred after the civil war and there appears to be little evidence to financially support any investment in gardens until the restoration. This was the period of the water gardens and formality in design. Cascaded water works could be found with water parterres and raised walkways. Even fishponds could be used to blend in with the landscape. It is unfortunate that the majority of the great Elizabethan gardens only now exist, at best, as humps and bumps in the landscape.

At the start of the eighteenth century the formal gardens of the William and Mary period such as Hampton Court and Rousham House, with its glades, groves and streams gave way to the landscaped parks of Capability Brown, Humprey Repton and William Kent. This type of landscape is often referred to as a Contrived Informal Garden. The classic example of this type of landscape is Stourhead in Wiltshire, with its lakes, classical buildings, temples and grottos, with a backdrop of ornamental woodlands in which the wider landscape can be seen beyond the parkland. Another example where the formal garden was swept away in order to create a romantic pastoral landscape park was Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire. In the late eighteenth century, with the influence of romantic poets, gardens became more picturesque and this lead to an increasing interest in nature and the creation of gardens, which then lead into the Victorian Garden with formal layouts, exotic planting and abundance of colour. Small parks were often defined by sheltered parts. Overall it was felt that the history of the garden reflected personal taste and finance and it was often influenced by fashion be it old or new. The typology and setting could add further constraints on what could be achieved in a garden as could the topography of the area, or the existing landscape.

The afternoon period brought a discussion on garden archaeology and the evidence that we can look for in today’s landscape settings. The period starting by looking at the close relationship that exists between gardening in general, history, garden history, art history, landscape archaeology and garden archaeology. How in most cases they all relate back to garden history. We learnt that the contribution of garden archaeology as a fundamental tool in bringing abandoned gardens to life can be carried out by analysing earthworks, carrying out geophysical investigations, studying standing buildings as well as having an understanding of the history of the landscape. All of these are non-destructive methods of investigations. Finally after examining all of the humps and bumps there is always the option of excavation to find out what exist. It is generally thought that the investigations that have been outlined above are in many cases the only record that is likely to exist of a garden.

Examples of what can be achieved were highlighted by Stowe House in North Cornwall. The house itself is now long gone, but we learnt that it was modelled on Burlington House. Built in the 1680’s by John Grenville it was collapsing by the 1730’s, so the garden can be tightly dated to 1680-1700. It consisted of eight

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