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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wrest Park: the Lost Gardens in Britain

This place is completely unique, unquestionably one of the most spectacular gardens in Britain. This place is a walk through 250 years of the history of English gardening. The bedrooms concealed in the dome of the Georgian garden pavilion, a miniature party house with secret staircases hidden in the panelling.
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The garden was created by generations of the De Grey family, which owned the estate from the middle ages until 1917. They employed some of the greatest names in British landscape design, including Capability Brown, James Gibbs, William Kent, Batty Langley and Thomas Archer, but did much of the work themselves. When Thomas de Grey � who became the first president of the Royal Institute of British Architects � got fed up with the ramshackle medieval house he inherited, he designed a spectacular French-inspired mansion to replace it. He even took up a chisel and mallet to help build it: when some stone cherubs arrived sour faced and stern instead of jolly, he tried to improve their expressions himself.
Wrest is unique, because each era of gardening De Greys respected and built on the work of the previous generation, instead of sweeping it away with every change in fashion. When Thomas built his new house, he added formal gardens in the French and Italian style, but aligned them so they appeared to lead on naturally into the gardens of the old house. Even Capability Brown, capable of levelling hills, moving villages and flooding valleys for other clients, merely softened the edges of the old formal scheme � drastic alterations, he said, would �unravel the mysteries of the garden�.

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