14 JUNE 2010
£12 MILLION RESTORATION OF CHISWICK HOUSE GARDENS UNVEILED/
Chiswick House Gardens is a site of international importance both as the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement, and as the setting for one of the most beautiful houses in London. The regeneration of the gardens is a result of many years of campaigning, four years of fund-raising and two years of work on the site.
English Heritage (manager of the House) and the London Borough of Hounslow (owner of the Gardens) established The Chiswick House and Gardens Trust as an independent charity to drive forward an ambitious rescue plan for the Gardens and secure its future for the 21st century.
The garden restoration, managed by English Heritage, and supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £7.9 million, recovers the original vistas and design from decades of disrepair and underfunding, and also repairs and restores the statuary and garden buildings. The result is an inspiring balance between a historic landscape and a public park.
Highlights include the planting of over 1,600 trees, including trees propagated from the original 18th century cedars of Lebanon; the opening up of historic views from the Classic Bridge, the complete restoration of the 19th century conservatory housing a rare and internationally important collection of camellias; the planting of native trees and shrubs in the Northern Wilderness, and the restoration of the Walled Gardens, which will be open to the public on special days.
To complement the restoration, award-winning architects Caruso St John have designed a new café within the grounds, on a carefully chosen site close to Chiswick House on the east side. The new café provides indoor seating for 80 people and external seating for over 100, and forms the social hub for the park, with a newly created children’s playground beside it.
The Importance of the Garden
Chiswick House Gardens, spread over
65 acres, are known
throughout the world as the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement and
have inspired countless designed landscapes from Blenheim Palace in Oxford, to
Central Park in New York. They were originally created by Lord Burlington and
William Kent who worked on them throughout the 1720’s and 1730’s as a setting
for Lord Burlington’s magnificent Chiswick House, the first and one of the
finest examples of neo-Palladian design in England.
Among the many famous features of the gardens are:
-Lord Burlington and William Kent's Western Lawn linking the House and lake, dating from the 18th century.
-The Inigo Jones Gateway, acquired by Lord Burlington in 1738 from his friend Sir Hans Sloane;
-The Cascade, an Italian renaissance-style waterfall designed by Burlington and Kent dating from around 1738;
- Exedra, a lawn lined by alternating cypresses and stone urns closed by a semicircular dark yew hedge, forming a backdrop to Lord Burlington's collection of ancient Roman and 18th century sculpture;
-The Lake, crossed by an elegant stone bridge, in a design attributed to James Wyatt;
-The Raised Terrace, planted with sweet shrubs including roses and honeysuckle which offers celebrated views of the Villa;
-The Conservatory, completed in 1813, with the oldest collection of camellias outside China and Japan.
The restoration of the gardens at Chiswick was made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the London Borough of Hounslow, The Wolfson Foundation, The Garfield Weston Foundation and The Monument Trust, with additional support from many other individuals and organisations.
Chiswick House and Gardens Trust was set up in April 2005 between English Heritage and the London Borough of Hounslow under the Chairmanship of Rupert Hambro. The creation of the Trust unites the management of the site and its key role is to drive forward the improvements to Chiswick House and Gardens
John Penrose, Tourism and Heritage Minister, said: "Chiswick House Gardens is an oasis of tranquility right in the heart of bustling London. This partnership project has secured the future of this beautiful landscape, which will bring hours of pleasure to tourists and local residents alike."
Sarah Finch Crisp, Director, Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, said: "This is a new beginning for Chiswick House and Gardens and we are grateful to so many people for their wonderful support in restoring the gardens as a national treasure and much loved local park, open for everyone to enjoy. Working with our partners, English Heritage and The London Borough of Hounslow, at last we can look forward to a secure future for the Gardens and a major step towards our next goal of re-presenting the House and rebuilding its collection."
Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "The Arcadian image of the Landscape Garden took Europe by storm in the 18th century and is one of England's greatest contributions to Western culture. Chiswick was the birthplace of this cultural revolution and we are incredibly proud that by lending our expertise, time and money, the restoration of this European masterpiece is complete.”
Cllr Jagdish Sharma, Leader of Hounslow Council: "The London Borough of Hounslow is proud to be celebrating the launch of Chiswick House Gardens which have been gloriously restored. We are delighted to have helped establish The Chiswick House and Gardens Trust as a way of ensuring the future wellbeing of this eminent public park and grateful to the many organisations and individuals who have supported this transformation."
Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "Chiswick House and Gardens is one of London's most picturesque locations combining an elegant house in a parkland setting that many people enjoy every day. The Heritage Lottery Fund is proud to have played a role in this important restoration project which has been undertaken with painstaking care and dedication by everyone involved. The result is a reinvigorated site with the welcome addition of a spacious new cafe."
£12m facelift for historic gardens of Chiswick House
Major English Heritage project restores Chiswick House gardens in west London to their 18th-century glory
The Guardian, Monday 14 June 2010 / http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/14/chiswick-house-gardens-restoration
Historic gardens on London's outskirts where 18th-century taste-makers strolled, stealing inspiration for gardens copied across Europe, are formally relaunched today after a £12m restoration of their trampled glories.
The vast cost of restoring the gardens around Chiswick House, including a £7.9m Heritage Lottery grant, is less in real terms than Lord Burlington and his successors spent from the 1720s onwards. In creating a suitable setting for his Palladian mansion with his gardener William Kent he dammed a river, moved a road, levelled hills and raised hillocks, and bought his neighbour's estate just to demolish the house and grab the garden.
A few generations later, an even more passionate gardening duke bought and flattened another neighbour's property and added magnificent features including the longest conservatory in England, filled with camellias imported from China and the Himalayas. The surviving plants constitute the rarest collection in the world and include unique species still to be identified.
hectares ( 65 acres), flanked by roaring traffic and close
to Heathrow, are regarded as the birthplace of the picturesque English
landscape garden, and have been copied across the world from Blenheim Palace in
Oxford to Central Park in New York.
In the 20th century, Chiswick House garden became a much loved and heavily used public park, but the original picturesque lines were gradually lost with features removed for easier care or allowed to become overgrown.
The restoration work has included planting 1,800 trees, including some propagated from surviving 18th-century specimens planted by Lord Burlington. A pair of sphinxes stare enigmatically down from the gateposts; the originals were sold 80 years ago in an auction that scattered most of the original contents of the house, and now mark the famous In and Out club on Piccadilly, just up the road from Lord Burlington's palatial London home which now houses the Royal Academy and the Learned Societies.
A copy of the original statue of Diana has been placed back on her tall column in the heart of the rose garden created for Georgiana, the politically minded Burlington bride whose life was told in the book and film The Duchess. Georgian and 19th-century flower beds have been dug out again and filled with the plants carefully recorded by generations of head gardeners, and the walled kitchen gardens now hold the largest collection of historic fruit and vegetable plants in London.
Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, which led the restoration, described Chiswick as the birthplace of a cultural revolution. "The Arcadian image of the landscape garden took Europe by storm in the 18th century, and is one of England's greatest contributions to western culture."
"We are incredibly proud that by [thanks to] our expertise, time and money, the restoration of this European masterpiece is complete."
The house and gardens have been under separate management for most of a century, but English Heritage and the local authorities have now handed over responsibility to a new trust which will care for both. The launch of the project in 2005 was greeted with intense local suspicion, but peace now appears to have broken out and a dog walkers' group is working on fundraising with the new trust.
Sarah Finch Crisp, director of the trust, stressed that they have no intention of charging for admission to the grounds: "These gardens are treasured by local people, and they are a very important part of our plans for the future, whether they come to walk their dogs, have a cup of tea in our new cafe, or just sit under a tree, read a book and have a moment of tranquility in a beautiful place."
The architectural historian Richard Hewlings has established that Chiswick House was an attempt by Lord Burlington to create a Roman villa, rather than Renaissance pastiche, situated in a symbolic Roman garden. Chiswick Villa is inspired in part by several buildings of the 16th-century Italian architects Andrea Palladio and his assistant Vincenzo Scamozzi. The house is often said to be directly inspired by Palladio's Villa Capra "La Rotonda" near Vicenza, due to the fact that architect Colen Campbell had offered Lord Burlington a design for a villa very closely based on the Villa Capra for his use at Chiswick. However, although still clearly influential, Lord Burlington had rejected this design and it was subsequently used at Mereworth Castle, Kent. Lord Burlington was not just restricted to the influence of Andrea Palladio as his library list at Chiswick indicates. He owned books by influential Italian Renaissance architects such as Sebastiano Serlio and Leon Battista Alberti and his library contained books by French architects,sculptors, illustrators and architectural theorists such as Jean Cotelle, Philibert de l'Orme, Abraham Bosse, Jean Bullant, Salomon de Caus, Roland Fréart de Chambray, Hugues Sambin, Antoine Desgodetz, and John James's translation of Claude Perrault's Treatise of the Five Orders. Whether Palladio's work inspired Chiswick or not, the Renaissance architect exerted an important influence on Lord Burlington through his plans and reconstructions of lost Roman buildings; many of these unpublished and little known, were purchased by Burlington on his second Grand Tour and housed in the Blue Velvet Room, which served as his study. These reconstructions were the source for many of the varied geometric shapes within Burlington's Villa, including the use of the octagon, circle and rectangle (with apses). Possibly the most influential building reconstructed by Palladio and used at Chiswick was the monumental Roman Baths of Diocletian: references to this building can be found in the Domed Hall, Gallery, Library and Link rooms.
Burlington's use of Roman sources can be viewed in the steep-pitched dome of the villa which is derived from the Pantheon in Rome. However, the source for the octagonal form of the dome, the Upper Tribunal, Lower Tribunal and cellar at Chiswick all possibly derive from Vincenzo Scamozzi's Rocca Pisana near Vicenza. Burlington may also have been influenced in his choice of octagon from the drawings of the Renaissance architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475–1554), or from Roman buildings of antiquity (for example, Lord Burlington owned Andrea Palladio's drawings of the octagonal mausoleum at Diocletian's Palace at Split in modern Croatia). Archaeological remains have shown the Roman willingness to experiment with different geometric forms in their buildings, such as the underground octagonal hall in Nero's Domus Aurea.
The brick-built Villa's facade is faced in Portland stone, with a small amount of stucco. The finely carved Corinthian capitals on the projecting six-column portico at Chiswick, carved by John Boson, are derived from Rome's Temple of Castor and Pollux. The inset door, projecting plinth and 'v'-necked rusticated vermiculation (resembling tufa) were all derived from the base of Trajan's Column. The short sections of crenellated wall with ball finials which extend out either side of the villa were symbolic of medieval (or Roman) fortified town walls and were inspired by their use by Palladio at his church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice and by Inigo Jones (1573–1652) (Palladio also produced woodcuts of the Villa Foscari with crenellated sections of walls in his I quattro libri dell'architettura in 1570, yet in reality they were never built). To reinforce this link two full-length statues of Palladio and Jones by the celebrated Flemish-born sculptor John Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770) are positioned in front of these sections of wall. Palladio's influence can also be found in the general cubic form of the villa with its central hall with other rooms leading off its axis. The villa is a half cube of
( 21 m) by
( 21 m) by
Inside are rooms of 10 feet
( 3.0 m)
square, 15 feet
( 4.6 m)
square and 15 feet
( 4.6 m)
by 20 feet
( 6.1 m)
by 25 feet.[citation
needed] The distance from the apex of the dome to the base of the cellar is 70 feet ( 21 m), making the whole pile
fit within a perfect, invisible cube. However, the decorative cornice at
Chiswick was derived from a contemporary source, that of James Gibbs's cornice
at the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.
On the portico leading to the Domed Hall is positioned a bust of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Augustus was regarded by many of the early 18th-century English aristocracy as the greatest of all the Roman Emperors (the early Georgian era was known as the Augustan Age). This link with the Emperor Augustus was reinforced in the garden at Chiswick through the presence of Egyptianizing objects such as sphinxes (who symbolically guard the 'Temple' front and rear), obelisks and stone lions. Lord Burlington and his contemporaries were conscious of the fact that it was Augustus who invaded Egypt and brought back Egyptian objects and erected them in Rome. The influence of Rome manifested itself at Chiswick through Burlington's strategic deployment of statues, including those of a Borghese gladiator, a Venus de' Medici, a wolf (used to inspire nostalgic memories of the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, a goat (symbolising the zodiac of Capricorn, the birth sign of the Emperor Augustus) and a boar located at the rear of the villa (symbolic of the great boar hunt). Inside the villa many references to the Roman goddess Venus abound, as Venus was the mother of Aeneas who fled Troy and co-founded Rome. On the forecourt to the villa are several 'term' statues that derive their forms from the Roman god Terminus, the god of distance and space. Such items therefore are used as boundary markers, positioned in the hedge at set distances apart.
At the rear of the villa were positioned 'herm' statues that derive from the Greek god Hermes, the patron of travellers and thus are welcoming figures for all who wish to visit Lord Burlington's gardens (Lord Burlington's gardens at Chiswick were the most visited of all London villas. A small entrance charge applied).
The house when built was described by John, Lord Hervey as "Too small to live in, and too big to hang to a watch". John Clerk of Penicuik described it as "Rather curious than convenient", while Horace Walpole called it "the beautiful model". It is possible that one purpose of the villa was as an art gallery, as inventories show more than 167 paintings hanging at Chiswick House in Lord Burlington's lifetime, many purchased on his two grand tours of Europe.
The gardens at Chiswick were an attempt to symbolically recreate a garden of ancient Rome which were believed to have followed the form of the gardens of Greece. The gardens, like the villa, were inspired by the architecture of ancient Rome combined with the influence of contemporary poetry and theatre design. Lord Burlington's gardens were inspired by such gardens as those of the Emperor Hadrian's Villa Adriana at Tivoli, from which the three statues at the end of the exedra were alleged to have come.
The gardens at Chiswick were originally of a standard Jacobean design, but from the 1720s they were in a constant state of transition. Burlington and Kent experimented with new designs, incorporating such diverse elements as mock fortifications, a Ha-ha, classical fabriques, statues, groves, faux Egyptian objects, bowling greens, winding walks, cascades and water features.
Authors of antiquity, such as Horace and Pliny, were major influences on 18th century thinkers through their descriptions of their own gardens, with alleys shaded by trees, parterres, topiary, and fountains. The first architect of the gardens at Chiswick appears to have been the king's gardener, Charles Bridgeman, who was believed to have worked on the gardens with Lord Burlington around 1720, and subsequently with William Kent, whom Lord Burlington had brought back with him on his return from his second Grand Tour in 1719. William Kent was inspired by the landscape paintings of the French artists Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. The poet Alexander Pope (who had his own villa with gardens in nearby Twickenham), was involved, and was responsible for confirming Lord Burlington's belief that Roman and Greek gardens were largely "informal" affairs, with nature ruled by God.
Evidence for this belief was provided through his translation into English of Homer's cornerstones of European literature The Iliad and The Odyssey which provided brief glimpses of Greek gardens which gave validation to Burlington's belief in the naturalistic appearance of Roman gardens. Theatrical aspects were added to the gardens by William Kent, who studied the theatre and masque designs of Inigo Jones for the Stuart Court which were owned by Lord Burlington and housed within his villa. Burlington, Kent and Pope were informed by the writings of Anthony Ashley Cooper who advocated "variety" in a garden, but not complete deformalisation.
The Deer House with its Egyptianesque Vitruvian door surrounds
The gardens at Chiswick were filled with fabriques (garden buildings) which illustrated Lord Burlington's knowledge of Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Renaissance architecture, and statues and architecture which expressed his Whig (and very possibly Jacobite) ideals.
Lord Burlington's garden at Chiswick was one of the first to include garden buildings and ancient statues which were to symbolically evoke the mood and appearance of ancient Rome. Soon after other English gardens such as Stourhead, Stowe, West Wycombe, Holkham, and Rousham were to follow suit, creating a type of garden which eventually would become known internationally as the English Landscape Garden. Lord Burlington's gardens at Chiswick had a number of these fabriques including the Ionic Temple, Bagnio, Pagan Temple, Rustic House, and two Deer Houses.
Beyond the exedra in the gardens lies an area known as the 'Orange Tree Garden' in which was situated a small garden building known as the Ionic Temple. The Ionic Temple is circular in form and is derived from either the Pantheon in Rome or possibly from the Temple of Romulus. The portico of this temple is derived from the Temple of Portunus which William Kent illustrates in the ceiling of the Red Velvet Room within the Villa. Immediately in front of the Temple lies a circular pool of water with a small obelisk positioned in its centre. Around the base of the pool of water are three concentric rings of raised grass conforming originally to a 3:4:5 ratio echoing the dimensions of the Red and Green Velvet Room within the Villa. A second obelisk was erected at the centre of another patte d'oie or 'Goose Foot' beyond the cascade to west of the Villa.
A theatre of hedges known as an exedra was designed by William Kent and originally displayed ancient statues of three unknown Roman gentlemen. These three statues were later speculatively 'identified' by the writer Daniel Defoe (1659–1731) as Caesar (100–44 BC) and Pompey (106–48 BC) responsible for the decline of the Roman republic, facing a statue of Cicero (106–43 BC), the defender of the Republic. In 1733 Lord Burlington resigned his positions within the government and went into active opposition against Robert Walpole, Britain's first Prime Minister who Burlington regarded as corrupting British politics and Whig values. However, it was the figures of the poets Horace, Homer and Virgil, the philosopher Socrates, and the leaders Lucius Verus and Lycurgus which once graced the exedra whose political message was one of democracy and anti-tyranny. (William Kent made a similar statement against Walpole for Lord Cobham. The original design by William Kent for the end of the exedra was a stone 'Temple of Worthies' which was rejected by Lord Burlington, but subsequently used by Lord Cobham at Stowe).
William Kent added a cascade (a symbolic grotto), inspired by the upper cascade of the gardens of the Villa Aldobrandini. Kent's garden also featured a flower garden, an orchard, an aviary (which included an owl) and a symmetrical planned arrangement of trees known as the "Grove". To the side of the Grove was a patte d'oie, or 'Goosefoot', three avenues which terminated by buildings including the 'Bagnio' (or Casino, designed by Lord Burlington and Colen Campbell) in 1716, the 'Pagan Temple' (designed by the Catholic Baroque architect James Gibbs) and the Rustic House (designed by Lord Burlington).
Terminating one end of the Ha-ha stands a Deer House designed by Lord Burlington. A second Deer House once stood at the opposite end of the Ha-ha until replaced by Inigo Jones' gateway in 1738 (see below). Both Deer Houses featured pyramidal roofs and characteristic 'Virtuvian' doors; a feature that comes directly from Palladio's woodcuts from his I quattro libri dell'architettura of 1570. Immediately behind the ha-ha and positioned between the two Deer Houses was a building known as the Orangery, which, as its name suggests, originally housed Lords Burlington's orange trees over the cold winter period (some of these trees were once positioned around the perimeter of the Ionic Temple). Part of the floor of this building was laid out in imitation of a Roman mosaic which English Heritage archaeologists in 2009 dated to the mid 18th century. Next to the remaining Deer Houses stands the Doric column on which was placed a statue of the Venus di' Medici.
Venus was the most common garden statue in the 18th-century English garden.
In the 18th century statues of Venus were the most common statue in a garden as it was known that the goddess Venus was the protector of gardens and gardeners. The statue that can be seen on the Doric column today is a copy in Portland stone and was commissioned by the Chiswick House Friends in 2009. Other statues that Lord Burlington had made for the gardens included a wolf, a boar, a goat, a lion and lioness, a statue of the Roman god Mercury, a gladiator, Hercules, and Cain and Abel.
The lawn at the rear of the house was created by 1745 and planted with young Cedar of Lebanon trees which alternate with stone funerary urns designed by William Kent. Placed between the urns and the Cedar of Lebanon are three more sphinxes orientated to face the rising sun.
A lake was created around 1727 by widening the Bollo Brook. The excess soil was then heaped up behind William Kent's cascade to produce an elevated walkway for people to admire the gardens and a view of the nearby River Thames. A gateway designed by Inigo Jones in 1621 at Beaufort House in Chelsea (home of Sir Hans Sloane) was bought and removed by Lord Burlington and rebuilt in the gardens at Chiswick in 1738.
The Inigo Jones gateway, bought by Lord Burlington from Sir Hans Sloane
Lord Burlington is sometimes said to have been influenced by largely informal Chinese gardens, but the flavour of the Orient was not evoked in Burlington's classically inspired gardens, which were universally Roman in outlook. Unlike Stowe, with its Temple of Worthies and busts such as the Black Prince, Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, Burlington's gardens at Chiswick did not romance or mythologise England's illustrious past. This was possibly due to Burlington's intense dislike of the Gothic style which he regarded as barbaric and backward.
Lord Burlington's gardens at Chiswick were one of the most painted of English gardens in the 18th century. The painter Peter Andreas Rysbrack was commissioned to paint a series of eight paintings to record the transformation of the garden from formal Jacobean to informal picturesque at the end of the 1750s. Together with copies of a second set these paintings today hang in the Green Velvet Room. Other artists who were commissioned to record the appearance of the gardens were England's first landscape painter George Lambert (1700–1765), the French painter Jacques Rigaud (1681–1754) and the cartographer John Rocque (1709–1762) who produced an engraved survey of Chiswick in 1736 showing the Villa and many of its garden buildings.
The walled gardens were originally part of a house owned by Sir Stephen Fox in the 17th century. In the early 19th century the house and gardens became part of the Chiswick House estate. Fox's house was demolished, though the gardens were kept.
1736 engraving by John Rocque of the garden layout with sketches of the house
Plan of Chiswick House