The Historic Development of the Gardens at Lanhydrock, Cornwall

by Jonathan Lovie

Part 2: The Gardens in the 19th and 20th Centuries from Antiquarianism to Modernism

The previous article traced the development of the gardens at Lanhydrock from medieval records of orchards attached to the monastic barton which stood on the site of Lanhydrock through to the improvements made by Anna Maria Hunt in the early 19th century, which were intended to heighten the picturesque and antiquarian appeal of Lanhydrock. The removal of the 17th-century kitchen garden from the north-west side of the house and the creation, in its place, of a fashionable Regency flower garden improved the amenity of the mansion; and at the same time the creation of shrubberies framing the house when seen from the park, and the ongoing improvement of the parkland planting begun by George Hunt in the latter part of the 18th century, heightened the picturesque appeal of the estate.

The 19th century was a period of considerable change and development at Lanhydrock, both in relation to the house, which was first modernised and then substantially rebuilt following a disastrous fire in 1882; and the landscape which evolved in tandem with these changes. Perhaps most important of all, Lanhydrock was, from 1829, once again a principal family home, after a break of some 120 years. [1]

Thomas Agar Robartes’ Modernisation of Lanhydrock

Anna Maria Hunt’s son, Thomas Agar, who assumed the additional name of Robartes on his succession to the Estate in 1822 (and who was created Baron Robartes in 1869), continued the improvements to the setting and amenity of Lanhydrock that had been begun by his mother. Three areas in particular benefitted from his attention: the productive gardens, the farmyard, and the area to the east of the house flanking the main approach. Each of these areas reflects, in its own way, a typical Victorian landowner’s interest in the improvement of his seat, either through the introduction of modern, more efficient horticultural and farming methods as part of what might be described as the ‘estate economy’, or the creation of an aesthetically suitable setting for his home, reflecting the taste, prestige and antiquity of the family.

Practical Improvements: the Kitchen Garden

Estate accounts show that in 1840-41 Thomas Robartes had a new kitchen garden constructed on a site to the south-east of the house, screened from view by Great Wood. William Henderson the mason was paid £149 1s 11d for the construction of new garden walls and a garden house in 1841, and this structure, corresponding to the southern compartment of the present kitchen garden, was sufficiently complete to be delineated on the Tithe map (1841).

A design for a kitchen garden dated 1840 survives in the archive at Lanhydrock. This attractive watercolour plan is signed by William Booth, who can be identified as William Beattie Booth (c.1804-74), Head Gardener to Sir Charles Lemon [2] at Carclew, Cornwall, from 1830 to 1858.

Booth had begun his career as a gardener under John Lindley (1799-1865) at the Horticultural Society’s garden at Chiswick, where he was an exact contemporary of Joseph Paxton (1803-65). In 1830-31 he contributed the text to Alfred Chandler’s Illustrations and Descriptions of the Camelliae and, while serving Sir Charles Lemon at Carclew, was a contributor to Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, the Botanical Register and The Gardener’s Magazine. [3]

Thanks to J C Loudon’s approbation [4] and Sir Charles’s national reputation as a connoisseur plant collector, the gardens at Carclew were considered to be among the most important in Cornwall. William Beattie Booth, Thomas Robartes’ choice as designer for his new kitchen garden at Lanhydrock, was consequently one of the most significant contemporary figures in Cornish horticulture. It is not surprising, therefore, that his design was up to the minute and scientific, but also aesthetically satisfying. Booth’s experience at Carclew fully fitted him for a similar role at Lanhydrock.

The proposed garden was square on plan with a cruciform path pattern converging on a central, circular dipping pool. Perimeter paths defined perimeter borders, and each quarter of the garden was sub-divided by rows of fruit trees or trained fruit running from north to south. [5]

William Beattie Booth, Design for Kitchen Garden at Lanhydrock, 1840
(The National Trust, Lanhydrock)

A gardener’s house and outbuildings is shown at the north-west corner of the garden, while slip gardens to the east, south and west were provided for ‘miscellaneous vegetables’. To the north of the garden, and outside its walls, specific areas were set aside for artichokes and asparagus, rhubarb and sea kale, a melon ground, manure and compost, and a slip for raspberries and small fruit trees. A proposed walk leading from the house to the north-east corner of the garden is a private route (separate from carts and garden staff using the present drive) when visiting the garden. It is clear, therefore, that Booth envisaged his garden as a ‘destination’ within the designed landscape, and as a feature which the family would wish to visit and show off to visitors as an example of their enlightened rule.

Comparison of Booth’s plan with the delineation of the walled garden on the 1881 Ordnance Survey suggests that, with the exception of some minor amendments, it was implemented in its entirety. This model kitchen garden was clearly intended to provide the household at Lanhydrock with a steady supply of vegetables and fruit; however by the early 1880s, and particularly following the re-building of the house after the 1881 fire and the expansion of the domestic offices, the garden was no longer sufficient. Thus, the 1908 Ordnance Survey shows that an additional compartment had been constructed to the north of the original kitchen garden.

The construction of the kitchen garden in 1840-41 was of great significance for the overall development of the gardens at Lanhydrock because it finally freed the area now known as the Higher Garden from any element of productive horticulture. It is clear that this transition had begun by at least the early years of the 19th century, but it is not clear from documentary evidence when the present path pattern and layout was achieved. However it is fairly clear that the terraced walks on the north-facing slope to the south of the Higher Garden, affording striking views across the roof of the house, the park and the wider landscape beyond, were laid out in the mid-19th century. It is possible, but by no means certain, that William Beattie Booth may have been responsible for these developments of the ornamental garden and pleasure ground west of the house in the 1840s.

The Creation of the Formal Gardens East of the House

If the former kitchen garden west of the house was formed into a picturesque shrubbery and pleasure ground in the first half of the 19th century, Thomas Robartes’ also addressed the problem of what must have been the increasingly unsatisfactory arrangement to the east of the house. By the 1850s the enclosed lawn between the house and gatehouse and the shrubbery within the former courtyard as depicted by Charlotte Traherne in her watercolour view of 1833 would have seemed very old-fashioned and inappropriate as the setting for a building whose antiquity was increasingly prized.

In January 2001, the present writer, working on the English Heritage Register description for Lanhydrock and basing his view on the then available material, erroneously attributed the design of the formal gardens to the architect George Gilbert Scott (1811-78), who was commissioned by Thomas Robartes to make alterations and improvements to the house in the 1850s. The error was not entirely fanciful: Scott was an architect who felt sympathy for historic buildings on which he was engaged to work, and elsewhere, such as at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, he seems to have helped owners to create a historically appropriate setting for their building. However, in the case of Lanhydrock, research by Paul Holden in the archives at the house has revealed an altogether more interesting evolution for the design of the formal gardens. [6]

In 1854 George Truefitt (1824-1902) submitted plans for the formation of a formal terraced garden to the east, north-east and south-east of the house on a site corresponding to the areas recorded as the entrance court, Flower Garden and Bowling Green on the Lanhydrock Atlas plan of 1695; and it seems very likely that the 17th-century plan formed the inspiration for Truefitt’s proposals. However the desire to create a symmetrical relationship between the house, garden and gatehouse which is evident in Truefitt’s plan is a marked departure from its 17th-century progenitor, in which this interest is not evident.

Truefitt’s scheme proposed a grass panel and central fountain in the inner court, a broad gravel terrace east of the house, and three further terraces descending to the level of the gatehouse. The central terrace was to contain further panel gardens with central fountains. Two simple gardens were proposed to the north of the house, an arrangement which was to be echoed to the south of the house where a private family garden was proposed. It appears that the whole garden area was to be enclosed from the surrounding parkland by walls.

George Truefitt, Plan No 1, 1854 – showing the proposed layout of the formal gardens (note: south is to the top of the plan) (©NTPL/John Hammond)

The following year, 1855, a further plan for formal gardens was submitted by Richard Coad (1825-1900), Gilbert Scott’s locally based assistant. Coad’s scheme clearly takes Truefitt’s proposals as its basis, but modifies the spatial arrangement east of the house to create three terraces of equal width or depth, and alters the boundaries of the area to be enclosed to the north of the house to allow a more satisfactory space for the creation of two levels of terraced garden. The proposed private garden south of the house was variously retained and omitted in different versions of Coad’s scheme, but photographic evidence shows that a garden was laid out in this area, all be it of a smaller extent than originally proposed by Truefitt in 1854. This ‘private’ garden was removed when the new service wing was built following the fire in 1881.

Richard Coad, plan for the proposed formal gardens, c.1855 (The National Trust, Lanhydrock)

Finally, in 1857, a formal garden scheme was implemented to the east, north and south-east of the house. This broadly followed Coad’s plan of 1855, which in turn forms the foundation for the formal gardens that exist to the north and east of the house today.

The design of the formal gardens is particularly interesting, combining elements of the fashionable ‘Italian’ style popularised by the architect Charles Barry (1795-1860) in gardens such as Trentham (1830-40) and Shrublands Park (1850s), with an attempt to create a more historically sympathetic setting for the 17th-century house. This should perhaps not be surprising, as by the 1850s the term ‘Italian’ garden could be used to encompass attempts at revivals of historical styles, particularly ‘Elizabethan’ or English Renaissance, as well as a variety of other ‘national’ styles such as French or Dutch gardens. [7]

Planting the Formal Gardens, 1857-1930

Neither Truefitt nor Coad provides any detailed planting proposals for their respective garden schemes. The planting that is indicated appears to be shown in a notional, schematic manner, with groups of what appear to be shrubs arranged at the corners of the grass panels. Circular geometrical beds are indicated north of the house with further shrubby planting, and Coad’s plan shows geometrical flower beds on each of the east terraces and no fountains. The layout of flower beds does not seem to accord with the implemented plan, but some elements such as the alternating specimen plants and rectangular panel beds along the main path leading from the gatehouse to the house can be seen in later photographs.

It seems, therefore, that the purpose of the plans produced by both Truefitt and Coad was to establish the architectural and structural framework of the garden. The design of the flower beds and the planting scheme must either have been remitted to another external adviser, or, more likely, was the result of the head gardener working in collaboration with the family.

Photographic evidence gives a clear indication that the style of planting adopted for the formal gardens changed significantly during the course of the late 19th and early 20th century. The one constant factor, which remains to the present, is the group of Irish yews (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’) which are visible as young plants in photographs dating from the 1860s, and which were sufficiently mature in 1881 to be recorded on the 25-inch Ordnance Survey.

Images pre-dating the fire of April 1881 show beds containing what appears to be a mixture of herbaceous and bedding plants with specimen ‘dot’ plants such as young monkey puzzles; certainly a considerable variation in size of plant is evident. It is possible that the use of small shrubs in the borders was intended to provide an evergreen ‘backbone’ for winter bedding schemes; however, photographs taken immediately after the fire in April 1881 show empty flower beds and urns throughout the garden. The only visible plants are the Irish yews, an avenue of standard roses alternating with rectangular panel beds along the main path from the gatehouse to the house, one small Cordyline adjacent to the house, and a specimen shrub, perhaps a mature box, in the centre of the inner court which probably survived from the early 19th-century planting scheme. It is perhaps more likely that the planting scheme which was apparently adopted for the terrace borders in particular was attempting to make use of a foundation of ‘old fashioned’ herbaceous plants to create a garden in harmony with the period of the house. This style, which became known as ‘revivalist’, had its origins in an increased awareness of, and  interest in, herbaceous plants from the 1840s as instanced by Tennyson’s poem Amphion, published in 1842, which protested against the use of exotic plants and praised sunflowers, hollyhocks and tiger lilies, surrounding such ‘old fashioned’ flowers with what has been described as ‘an atmosphere of haunting suggestion’ [8]; perhaps the most famous and influential example of this style of planting was to be found at Blickling, Norfolk, where, c.1870, Lady Lothian rejected Nesfield’s proposed parterre in favour of an herbaceous bedding scheme.

Photograph of the east facade of the house and formal gardens taken immediately after the fire of April 1881.
Winter bedding is conspicuously absent in the beds of the formal gardens.
(The National Trust, Lanhydrock)

In the period following the fire, the planting of the formal garden appears to have undergone significant development. These changes are recorded in a photograph by Francis Frith of 1899, and a series of photographs taken by Country Life in 1903. The combined evidence of these photographs shows extensive use of herbaceous plants and dahlias in the terrace beds to the east of the house, along with foliage plants such as yuccas and pampas grass to provide height and visual contrast. The standard roses along the east-west path were removed, and the remaining panel beds planted with bedding plants (perhaps a mixture of Pelargonium and Alyssum) and taller growing, apparently herbaceous plants.

Photographs of the parterre to the north of the house taken in 1903 show gravelled walks dividing beds apparently edged in very low-growing box. Quatrefoil-shaped beds are planted with a tall-growing herbaceous plant, perhaps a perennial Lobelia; other beds have a mixture of lower-growing dahlias and bedding plants. Meanwhile, an early, pre-First World War aerial photograph of the house and gardens shows an elaborate planting scheme for the Church Border (the area below the high retaining wall of the churchyard north-west of the house), with a pair of ‘chain beds’ [9] flanking the walk leading north to the garden gates, and geometrical beds on the lawn below the church. This arrangement differs from that suggested by both Truefitt and Coad, and it is possible that it was instituted when the steps leading to the church were rebuilt by Coad after 1881.

The change in planting style evident between the 1870s and the early 20th century reflects a change in taste away from the complex parterres of bedding plants favoured by William Nesfield (1793-1881), towards ‘old fashioned’ herbaceous plants and an emphasis on the use of foliage within bedding displays. The former taste was very much driven by the writings of William Robinson (1838-1935), who published his influential book The English Flower Garden in 1883; the latter fashion had developed from the work of gardeners such as John Gibson (1815-75), who had pioneered the use of ‘sub tropical’ foliage plants in bedding at Battersea Park from 1858 and in the Royal Parks from 1871. This use of foliage plants also found a champion in Robinson, who published The Subtropical Garden; or, Beauty of Form in the Flower Garden in 1871.

In addition to a general change in taste and garden fashion, it seems likely that the development in the style of planting in the formal garden was also due to oversight of the gardens passing in 1881 from Lady Julia Robartes, who probably oversaw the original planting in the 1850s, to Lady Mary Robartes; the appointment of a new, younger Head Gardener, James Hawken in 1891 would also have hastened changes in planting style reflecting the succeeding generations’ taste.

By the early 20th century, if not earlier, the colour scheme for the formal gardens is said to have reflected the then Liberal Party colours, in turn reflecting the family’s political allegiance. [10] The origins of this tradition are unknown, but may relate to visits made to Lanhydrock by prominent political figures such as W.E. Gladstone (1889) or, more probably, Lord Rosebery in 1905.

The Gardens under Thomas, second Lord Robartes

The second Lord Robartes (1844-1930, succeeded as 6th Viscount Clifden, 1899) was responsible for rebuilding Lanhydrock following the disastrous fire of April 1881.While this work was accompanied by some modest alterations to the layout of the formal gardens east and north of the house and the removal of the small private garden to the south, few significant changes were made to the layout of the gardens and pleasure grounds in the period 1882-1930. However, in 1914 the semi-circular garden adjacent to the glasshouse on the northern side of the Higher Garden was developed as a herbaceous garden enclosed by a yew hedge; it is likely that the glasshouse was refurbished at the same time. Plans for the further development of this area were provided in 1915 by the leading landscape gardener, William Goldring (1854-1919). Goldring had trained as a gardener at Kew, and subsequently developed an extensive practice designing private and public gardens in Britain and in other parts of the Empire including India. [11]

An examination of Goldring’s known commissions does not provide any obvious link to Lanhydrock and the Robartes family; however, by 1915 he was a figure of considerable stature in the horticultural world, and may have been known to the family or Head Gardener by repute; Lord Clifden’s second son, Gerald, in particular was a keen gardener, [12] and may have provided this link.

Following the death of the Clifdens’ eldest son as the result of wounds sustained at the battle of Loos in 1915, little seems to have been done to the gardens, and by the time their second son, Gerald, succeeded as 7th Viscount Clifden in 1930, the Higher Garden is said to have become ‘nothing but a mass of Portugal laurel’. [13]

The Development of the Gardens under the 7th Viscount Clifden, 1930-66

Although Gerald Robartes had not been destined by birth to inherit the Estate, when he did succeed to the property in 1930 he was already an experienced landowner. In 1893 his father had purchased Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, which had come to the Robartes family by the marriage of the second Earl of

Radnor (d.1723) in 1693, and which had been sold by the same Earl for financial reasons in 1710. Lord Robartes settled Wimpole on his second son, Gerald, in 1906 in order to provide him with a country seat appropriate to his position as a member of the Diplomatic Service. The experience gained during his 30-year ownership of Wimpole must have stood him in good stead when he returned permanently to Lanhydrock in 1936.

Lord Clifden’s principal areas of interest in the gardens centred on the remodelling of the formal gardens to the east and north of the house, and the development of a collection of woody plants in the Higher Garden.

The Higher Garden

In 1934, two years before settling permanently at Lanhydrock, Lord Clifden purchased five species Magnolias from the Veitch Nursery, Exeter. [14] These were planted in the Higher Garden where, presumably, they benefitted from the shelter afforded by the existing shrubbery. The first to flower, in 1935, was a specimen of Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ which appears to have been planted against the wall of the house.

The collection of woodland plants extended rapidly, with more than 12 species Magnolias having been planted by 1936, together with some 130 Rhododendrons including a high percentage of species, and a somewhat smaller number of Camellias. The principal sources for these plants were the Veitch nursery at Exeter, the Gill nursery at Penryn, Cornwall (noted for raising hybrid Rhododendrons, many of which were planted at Lanhydrock including Lord Clifden’s favourite R. ‘Beauty of Tremough’ [15]), Treseder of Truro, Hilliers and Waterer at Woking. [16] Lord Clifden’s planting books indicate that after 1942 his interest moved to the acquisition of evergreen and deciduous azaleas, many of which were purchased from the St Bridget Nursery at Exeter, with sums of up to 35s being paid for the large, well-budded specimens favoured by Lord Clifden. [17]

In addition to the spring-flowering woody plants, Lord Clifden also acquired a range of other ornamental trees and shrubs, apparently with the intention of extending the season of interest in the informal gardens. Purchases included Telopea, Erythrina, Hebe hulkeana and Dendromecon rigida, none of which survived the climate at Lanhydrock; other purchases such as Eucryphia glutinosa, Ceanothus ‘Gloire de Versailles’, Hibiscus syriacus, Daphne mezereum, Crinodendron hookerianum, Styrax wilsonii, Cornus nutalli and Desfontaina spinosa proved to be more amenable. [18]

The origin of Lord Clifden’s interest in these woody plants is unknown, but it may be relevant that he served as a member of the Council for the Duchy of Cornwall from 1939, and between 1940 and 1945 as Lord in Waiting to King George VI, himself a knowledgeable and enthusiastic grower of Rhododendrons. The formation of the gardens in Windsor Great Park under Eric Savill (1895-1980) from 1932 may have helped to influence Lord Clifden, but it is surprising that his name does not appear among those, especially in Cornwall, who were enthusiastically swapping such plants in the first half of the 20th century.  However Lord Clifden and his sister, the Hon. Violet Agar-Robartes were friends with George Johnstone of Trewithen, Cornwall, who gave them some plants, including Camellias. [19]

On balance, it appears that Lord Clifden was a keen and knowledgeable amateur gardener, who, assisted by able Head Gardeners, indulged his interest in developing the plant collection at Lanhydrock and acquiring representative specimens of some of the more fashionable genera of the period. This was an essentially private hobby, and neither the garden nor the plant collection appears to have been described in the horticultural press during Lord Clifden’s lifetime.

The Formal Garden

Lord Clifden’s changes to the formal gardens are of considerable interest, and seem to have been motivated by a desire on the one hand to reduce maintenance costs, and on the other to create a garden more acceptable to contemporary taste while at the same time respecting the setting of the house. In essence, Lord Clifden’s scheme was to remove much of the complexity and ‘fussiness’ of the 19th-century formal gardens: gravel paths on the terraces and in the parterre were removed and grassed over, and the parterre border plan was simplified; the mixed herbaceous and seasonal bedding schemes in the terrace beds were replaced by newly fashionable hybrid tea and floribunda roses, and planting in the parterre was similarly simplified. At the same time the somewhat unappealing assortment of mass-produced 19th-century urns and vases which can be seen decorating the formal gardens in early photographs was removed and replaced by the fine set of 19th-century bronze urns which Lord Clifden purchased c.1930.

The ten bronze urns, modelled after the late 17th-century urns made by Louis Ballin, goldsmith to Louis XIV, for the gardens at Versailles, were acquired by Lord Clifden from a Colonel Birch, who had himself bought them from the sale of Nether Swell Manor, Gloucestershire where they had belonged to Sir John Murray Scott. Scott had inherited them, along with companion pieces, [20] from Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son and heir of the 4th Marquis of Hertford. Hertford had had the urns cast, [21]by permission of Napoleon III, from the surviving originals at Versailles, and displayed them in his garden at the Chateau de Bagatelle, Paris, where he lived in social exile.

Lord Clifden was not alone in simplifying a complex 19th-century garden at this period. In 1932-9 the 11th Marquis of Lothian, who had been with Lord Clifden in the Diplomatic Service, commissioned Mrs Norah Lindsay (1873-1948) to simplify the parterre at Blickling. It is possible that Lord Clifden was aware of Mrs Lindsay’s work at Blickling, or her work for the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII at Fort Belvedere. However there is no documentary evidence to suggest that Lord Clifden was among Mrs Lindsay’s clients, [22] and there are marked differences in the style of planting adopted at Blickling and Lanhydrock, which hint at different authorship for each scheme. A manuscript plan for the terraces beds, apparently in Lord Clifden’s hand and dated October 1927 suggests very strongly that the concept and design were Lord Clifden’s own. [23]

Lord Clifden’s sketch plan for the terrace beds indicates that the borders were to be planted with hybrid tea and floribunda roses: ‘Kirsten Poulsen’ (dark red) on the outsides of the beds and ‘Elsie Poulsen’ (pink) on the inside; both of these varieties were introduced in 1924. Other varieties named in Lord Clifden’s planting books [24] include ‘Karen Poulsen’ (1924), ‘Mrs Sam McGredy’ (copper-orange flushed scarlet, 1937), ‘Etoile de Hollande’ (dark red, 1919) and ‘Betty Uprichard’ (salmon pink, carmine reverse, 1922). It thus appears that Lord Clifden aimed for a scheme in which pink was the predominant colour, with stronger accents of colour provided by the red roses and the red element in otherwise pink roses such as ‘Mrs Sam McGredy’ and ‘Betty Uprichard’. The overall effect of this scheme would have been warm and harmonious, without strong contrasts in colour. It appears that scented roses were favoured where possible. The first roses for the terrace beds were ordered from Wood & Ingram of Huntingdon on 2 November 1933. Initially the terrace scheme was completed by planting hydrangeas in the Bagatelle urns; but this seems not to have been a success and they were quickly removed.

In the parterre to the north of the house Lord Clifden replaced the earlier mixed bedding with a spring scheme depending on tulips, including the varieties ‘Clara Butt’ and ‘William Pitt’, with a ground planting of Myosotis ‘Royal Blue’. Tulips, along with narcissi for the Higher Garden and Back Walk were supplied by Walter Blom & Son of Watford. In the summer months the tulips gave way to a variety of bedding subjects including Antirrhinum and tuberous Begonia. Certain varieties, such as Antirrhinum ‘Pale Amber’ and A. ‘Malmaison’, and Begonia ‘Loveliness’, were particularly favoured and were planted in many successive seasons. As with the roses to the east of the house, Lord Clifden seems to have favoured a pink colour scheme for the parterre with accents of apricot-orange. Seed for raising the annual bedding in the parterre was supplied by Sutton & Son from the early 1930s. [25] The courtyard borders were planted by Lord Clifden with Phlox paniculata in various colours including dark crimson, violet blue and white. [26]

Lord Clifden’s garden legacy

Contrary to the impression gained from the relatively sparse evidence available from previously published sources, Lord Clifden played a very significant role in the developing the gardens at Lanhydrock and in establishing the framework within which the garden has continued to develop up to the present.

In particular, Lord Clifden expanded a small existing woody plant collection in the Higher Garden, considerably increasing the number of Magnolias, Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias grown at Lanhydrock. At the same time other trees and shrubs were planted to increase the seasonal interest of the gardens; and there is evidence that Lord Clifden was prepared to experiment with new and borderline-hardy species. Lord Clifden took a direct and personal interest both in the acquisition of plants for the garden, and their disposition within the garden.

Lord Clifden’s simplification and re-planting of the formal gardens to the east and north of the house is of equal significance to his work in the Higher Garden. His acquisition of the Bagatelle Urns provided the impetus to forge from the mid-19th century formal gardens a new scheme which made use of innovative planting to create a scheme which was at once sympathetic to the setting of the house, and appealing to the modern eye. The limited documentary evidence available suggests that the scheme was devised by Lord Clifden himself, and that he took a direct hand in its planting.

From time to time suggestions have surfaced that the Victorian terraces and parterre should be ‘restored’. In 1977, in response to proposals to reinstate gravel paths in the formal gardens, Michael Trinick commented with remarkable insight:

We inherited from Lord Clifden something which, as I think we all agree, is very nice in itself ie a major simplification of an elaborate Parterre which he made on his purchase of the splendid Bagatelle urns which now form the focal point of the design.

Quite apart from any question of respect for his design in sentimental terms, I think it would be wrong to replace grass with gravel, whatever the colour of the gravel, and to do so would upset the harmony and composure of the whole. I don’t know whether Lord Clifden had help or not but the design is remarkably harmonious and to put back a small part of the original design would not be good. [27]

Trinick recognised what many at such a relatively early date had not: that Lord Clifden’s re-working of the mid 19th-century formal gardens is a major and accomplished example of 1930s garden design which fully merits conservation in its own right.

Lord Clifden’s final legacy was, of course, his gift of Lanhydrock to the National Trust. Following the Second World War, Lord Clifden and his two sisters, Miss Eva and Miss Violet, concerned for the future of Lanhydrock, determined to give the property to the National Trust. This gift was effected in 1953, with provision for Lord Clifden and his sisters to remain in residence. Lord Clifden himself lived for a further 13 years, while the last survivor of his family, Miss Eva, died in 1969, 16 years after the gift to Trust.

This, together with a remarkable continuity in garden staff, ensured an almost seamless transition: Ernest Hawken, Lord Clifden’s Head Gardener from 1939 to 1960 was the son of James Hawken, who had filled the same role for the 6th Viscount from c.1891 to 1935; and Ernest Hawken was succeeded as Head Gardener in 1960 by George Potter, who had begun work in the gardens in 1933 and finally retired in 1966.

The conservation and development of the gardens under the National Trust, although of enormous significance in the overall historic development of Lanhydrock, must, of necessity, fall beyond the scope of this paper. The development of the gardens as one of the Trust’s major horticultural collections was overseen by Peter Borlase, BEM, who was appointed Head Gardener in succession to George Potter in 1966 and retired in 1993; during his custody of the gardens major challenges such as the devastation caused in the shelter belts by the major storms of December 1979 and January 1990 had to be addressed with swift remedial action. Mr Borlase’s successor, Nigel Teagle had also worked for some years as Assistant Gardener at Lanhydrock, thus once again ensuring a degree of continuity and a clear understanding of the garden as it faces new challenges such as the emergence of Phytophthora in the early 21st century.

The gardens at Lanhydrock are remarkable, not only for their horticultural collections and the strong contrast they offer to the more sheltered coastal gardens usually associated by visitors with Cornwall; but also as an historical survival in which the underlying plan and land division first recorded on the Lanhydrock Atlas plan of 1695 remains the framework within which all subsequent developments by the Robartes family and the National Trust, have taken place.

Jonathan Lovie is a garden and landscape historian who practices as a consultant advising private owners and public bodies such as the National Trust on the evolution and significance of the landscapes in their care, and the way in which this affects future management. He is also the part-time Principal Conservation Officer at The Garden History Society, and was formerly a consultant Register Inspector at English Heritage, responsible for the revision of the Register of Parks and Gardens in the South West.

Jonathan lived in Devon for many years, but has recently moved to south-east Cornwall. He is looking forward to exploring many more gardens in Cornwall – not least to gain inspiration for his own new garden.

[1] From the succession of the second Earl of Radnor to the Estate in 1685, Lanhydrock was not occupied as a regular family residence again until Thomas Agar Robartes married in 1829. George Hunt (1720-98) indeed made Lanhydrock his principal residence, but he was unmarried; and Anna Maria Hunt used the house as a summer residence only. These bachelor and infrequent households would not have required the full complement of staff and facilities that were to become essential to any well set-up establishment in the 19th century.

[2] Sir Charles Lemon, c.1784-1868. Founder member and chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society of Cornwall, Sir Charles employed as his gamekeeper Joseph Lobb, father of Thomas and William who went on to become perhaps Veitch’s most significant plant collectors.

[3] See D. E. Pett, The Parks and Gardens of Cornwall (1998), p.89

[4] J. C. Loudon, The Encyclopaedia of Gardening (1822), p.1084; The Gardener’s Magazine 13 (1837), p.87: ‘New kitchen gardens with flower gardens and shrubberies attached, are now forming at Carclew, the seat of Sir Charles Lemon, Bart, MP, under the direction of Mr Beattie Booth. Mr Rutger [a horticultural journalist who supplied material to Loudon], who has lately returned from that part of the country, and has visited these gardens, speaks of them as among the most interesting which he has ever seen.’

[5] Booth’s plan does not indicate any glasshouses within the walled garden or slips; however, the perimeter borders would have allowed for the construction of lean-to fruit houses, as indicated on the 1881 Ordnance Survey.

[6] P. Holden, ‘Geometrical & Gothic at Lanhydrock A Garden Design by George Truefitt’, Apollo (National Trust Historic Houses & Collections Annual) (2007), pp.62-6

[7] B. Elliott, Victorian Gardens (1986), p 77

[8] B. Elliott, Victorian Gardens (1986), pp.159-60

[9] Chain beds are a complex geometrical scheme comprising a relatively narrow border, usually adjoining a path, laid out in a scrolling pattern of plants of different colours and heights which recall the links of a chain. Such arrangements became fashionable from the 1860s.

[10] Pers. comm. Jeremy Pearson (2009), based on the recollections of the late Mrs Joy Burdon (nee Dickinson, niece of Lady Mary Robartes and frequent childhood visitor to Lanhydrock).

[11] Goldring’s most important commissions included work at Beaudesert, Staffordshire; Coleorton Hall, Leicestershire; Hackwood, Hampshire; Impney Hall, Worcestershire; Knowsley Hall, Lancashire; Phoenix Park, Dublin.

[12] Guidebook (2007), p 41; in 1907 Gerald Robartes had commissioned a new range of glasshouses for the garden at Wimpole, Cambridgeshire from the Norwich company Boulton and Paul see D.Adshead, Wimpole Architectural drawings and topographical views (2007), p.133.

[13] 7th Viscount Clifden, quoted in Guidebook (1995), p.33.

[14] Although Lord Clifden’s first Magnolias are usually said to have been planted in 1933, Gwyn Howell’s research in Lord Clifden’s planting books indicates that they were in fact planted in 1934. See G Howell, ‘Lord Gerald Agar Robartes’ Gardens’ (July 2006).

[15] R ‘Beauty of Tremough’ is one of the famous hybrids raised by Richard Gill (1849-1927), Head Gardener at Tremough, Penrhyn, Cornwall and proprietor of the Penrhyn Nursery which specialised in Rhododendrons. This hybrid won a First Class Certificate in 1922.

[16] G. Howell (2006), p 7

[17] G. Howell (2006), p 7

[18] G. Howell (2006), p 8

[19] G. Howell (2006), p 7

[20] Other urns from this set are now at Sissinghurst, Kent and in the Wallace Collection, London, and formerly (?) at Thorpe Hall, Essex. Others, possibly from this set but possibly independently cast are at Kingston Lacy, Dorset and Anglesea Abbey, Cambridgeshire. A set at Powerscourt was independently cast c.1872 pers comm. Alastair Lang, NT Curator of Pictures and Sculpture, December 2006.

[21] Cast by the maître de forge A. Durenne.

[22] See A. Hayward, Norah Lindsay The Life and Art of a Garden Designer (2007)

[23] Plan reproduced in G. Howell, ‘Lord Gerald Agar Robartes’ Gardens’ (July 2006), p.2

[24] Summarised in Howell (2006)

[25] Howell (2006), pp.5-7

[26] Howell (2006), p.8

[27] Michael Trinick, memo to Graham Stuart Thomas, 25 April 1977