Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Ashdown Parterre

The letter P, in the A - Z of Ashdown, stands for the parterre. The current Ashdown House parterre of box and gravel, laid out in S scrolls in the 17th century style, was created in the 1950s when the house came into the care of the NT. The previous elaborate Victorian parterre had been destroyed during the war and the rationale for choosing a 17th century parterre design was that since the 19th century additions to the house had been demolished and it had been taken back to its original 17th century style, it made sense to match this with a 17th century garden.

When the house was built it had gardens on the north and south side rather than to the west, as can be seen in the engraving by Kip from the early 18th century. Whilst it's not possible to see the detail of these they were very plain. The hunting lodge was considered in the 17th century to be a masculine style of building and a plain box and gravel parterre was a masculine style of garden to match. So the parterre we have today, whilst not identical to the original, is in keeping with the 17th century style of the house and contemporary garden design.

In the mid-Victorian period the Cravens did much work to their
houses at Ashdown and Coombe Abbey, including a major garden restyling at both properties. At Coombe this work was carried out in 1860 by the architect and garden designer William Eden Nesfield. It's likely that he also worked on the Ashdown alterations. His father William Andrews Nesfield was an eminent garden designer who specialised in parterres so it is tempting to speculate that he had an input into the new garden at Ashdown. The Italianate style parterre was very fashionable in this era with intricate flowerbeds, colourful herbaceous borders featuring exotic species, fountains and paths of coloured glass. We have detailed photographs of this parterre garden so know exactly what it looked like.


Mrs Black the shoppe keeping cat said...

I think that garden transformations and renovations can very much make or break the spirit of a house. And I love what has been done at Ashdown - it is magical. x

Nicola Cornick said...

What a beautiful way of expressing it, Minerva. I do think that the garden, as the setting for a house, has so much influence over the atmosphere of a place. I am so glad you like Ashdown's "style"!