Phillip Lindley: Formal Gardens (Talk)

Martin Hall, Room 1.17a/b, 12.30-1.30pm

Magnificent formal gardens were constructed for some great English country houses in the half century after 1660. However, they seem anomalous in conventional narratives of garden history, too ‘French’ or ‘Dutch’ in style to fit the teleological model of the development of the ‘English garden’.  Victims of rapid changes in taste, they were too expensive, too ‘high maintenance’ to last.

At Boughton House, Northamptonshire, almost the entire programme of formal gardens commissioned by Ralph, first Duke of Montagu (d. 1709) can still be traced on site.  It was gigantic, covering more than 110 acres.  Although much altered by John, the second duke (d. 1749), whose own additions – the ‘Broad Water’ and the ‘Mount’ for example – are themselves of national importance, many original features survive:  the ‘Grand Etang’, the great reservoir which supplied the fountains, has just been restored by the present duke (Richard Scott, 10th Duke of Buccleuch) and much of the early canal system also survives.  The entire layout of the original formal gardens also remains – though submerged under lawns or water – because the gardens at Boughton were effectively fossilised after Duke John’s death.  They were never remodelled.  As a consequence of inheritance through the female line, Boughton was rarely inhabited for two centuries and the gardens entered a long period of decay until the late twentieth century.  Then, under the present duke’s father, the Broad Water was re-established;  two decades later the ‘star pond’ was redug and more recently the canals have been dredged and re-edged.  The first major feature for more than 150 years, Kim Wilkie’s ‘Orpheus’, was completed in 2009 and restoration of the gardens has just embraced the ‘Grand Etang’.

This lecture aims to reconstruct the lost formal gardens and to trace their history.

Refreshments will be provided.

About Phillip Lindley:

Phillip Lindley is Excellence 100 Professor of Art History and came to Loughborough in February 2018. He read Art History at Downing College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a scholarship and went on to read his PhD, supervised by Professor Jean Michel Massing.

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