LOST GARDENS OF ENGLAND

(From the Archives of Country Life)
by Kathryn Bradley-Hole

Publisher: Aurum Press (2004)
ISBN  1 85410 991X

Hardback,  £35

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This book can hardly be flawed.  The collection of ‘lost’ gardens across England is taken from the archives of Country Life and shows in detail the gardens set to complement the great houses of the wealthy.  It continues with their histories explaining how a place became un-lived in and the garden neglected, and the various causes for this change.

The forty-six gardens in this book, illustrated by 160 duotone period photographs, are organised by region and cover a wide range of period and style from Victorian and Edwardian times. Some of these gardens have not completely disappeared; parts of the infrastructure may survive, but the original intention and spirit have long gone.  The only garden here described that I have known (there are none in Cornwall:  Lindridge in Devon is the nearest) is the one at Milton Abbas and of course the village beyond rebuilt to suit the then owners!  As I dipped here and there, I could remember like yesterday (being old) the horse and mower on our lawns, no noise like today’s machinery, but the smell of horse and harness and the drying grass.  And on other days the hand-clippers were busy all day long amongst the hedges.

To a student of our garden history this encyclopaedic book will be a valuable asset.  The casual reader can enjoy and study the life span of the gardens set out.  Less enjoyable was so much wealth all spread about and so much ‘copy-cutting’ from the original articles, I thought.  The interesting part is how history seems so much duller and less personal today.

There was occupation for many workers in the countryside at large as well as on the great estates in those days.  A large garden with orchards and a walled garden, sometimes away from the house, and the nearby flower beds supplied plentiful produce not only fruit and vegetables but beautiful and unusual flowers for decorating the mansion and specials for the dining tables.  All was a hive of industry and this fascinating book amply supplies details, various and inventive, of these many once-thriving establishments.

Claire Leith