THE LIE OF THE LAND: ASPECTS OF THE ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY OF THE DESIGNED LANDSCAPE IN THE SOUTH WEST OF ENGLAND

Edited by Robert Wilson-North

Publisher: The Mint Press & The Devon Gardens Trust (2003)
ISBN  1 9033 5622 9

 £13.99

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Originating in a conference in Exeter in 1998, this collection of essays will inspire readers to visit, or re-visit, the numerous places referred to in the text.  The contributors, mainly archaeologists, bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to illustrate the contribution that archaeological methods can make to the study of the designed landscape.

The scope covered in 128 pages is impressive: it ranges from general information on the Parks and Gardens Register, management by The National Trust within the archaeological landscape, to a fascinating account of Cornish mediaeval deer parks.  It also takes an intriguing new look at the development of Dartington Hall and gardens, covers the discovery of many pre-18th-century gardens in South Devon, the recent identification of earthworks at Cerne Abbas as formal gardens, and delightful extracts from late 18th-century letters relating to Mendip Lodge. The chapter on Mediaeval Gardens as far afield as Yorkshire indicates archaeological methods equally relevant in the South West.  Perhaps the only ‘cuckoo in the nest’ is the chapter on Roman Forts in a Designed Landscape.

The penultimate essay, by the late June Fenwick, is on ‘a walled secret garden containing a house’ – the Downes, Hayle.  Designed in 1867 by John and Edmund Sedding, it is suggested that, as an example of the influences (Gothic Revival and the growth of the Arts and Crafts Movement) on John Sedding, the house and garden are unique.  The second, and final study of a specific Cornish property, is by Alison Newton on the garden at Churchtown, Morval, undertaken on behalf of the Cornwall Gardens Trust, giving a meticulous and detailed description of the large and unusual walled garden, recently visited by Trust members.

The size and quality of reproduction of some of the photographs do not live up to the cover design but, this apart, The Lie of the Land is warmly recommended.

Michael Hitchings