Tudor gardens: Henry VII 1485-Elizabeth I 1603

Influences from Renaissance Italy began to infiltrate Tudor gardens.

This can be seen in the greater regularity of design and the relationship between the garden and the façade of the house, along with architectural features such as banqueting houses, loggias and fountains.

Snail mounts were popular, ascended by a spiral path and often topped with a pavilion offering views both of the garden within and out to the deer park, the greatest status symbol of the day. The most recognised feature from this period is the knot garden: beds of interlacing patterns designed to be seen from above and filled with herbs and favourite flowers such as gilly-flowers and carnations.

Style at a glance

  1. Knot gardens, geometric beds edged with a low hedge of box or other shrubs
  2. Flowers, cultivated not only for their beauty but for flavouring sweets and desserts. Favourites were violets, marigolds, and most importantly the rose
  3. 3. Mounts, an artificial hill for viewing often situated at the corners of the garden to provide views both of the garden and the landscape beyond
  4. 4. Banqueting Houses to provide an intimate room for enjoying desserts and for entertainment
  5. 5. Fountains and automated water features to animate the garden, reflecting an interest in hydraulics
  6. 6. Deer parks, not only living larders providing meat for the household but also a symbol of wealth and status
  7. 7. Use of symbolic devices and ornaments such as poles topped with colourful heraldic animals and labyrinths associated with religious or mythological significance

Where to see gardens with Tudor features:

    Godolphin, Cornwall

    Centuries of neglect have ensured that the 16th-century garden of this romantic old house has remained virtually unchanged. As such, it's considered one of the most important of its kind in Europe and today major conservation work is underway to ensure its preservation.

    Horton Court, Gloucestershire

    This modest 16th-century manor house displays some of the earliest Renaissance decorative motifs used in England. The garden is composed of a series of terraces, which gives a clue to its Tudor layout, along with at least one of its original fishponds. The most remarkable feature is the loggia, or ambulatory, with four stone medallions of roman emperors and pagan characters set into its walls, a souvenir no doubt of the owner William Knight’s time in Italy.

    Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

    This great Tudor house was built by the formidable Bess of Hardwick in the late 1500s. The arrangements of courts and orchards have hardly changed since then, and the little banqueting house is typical of the period, although the gardens we see today are from a later date. The impressive herb garden was created by us in the 1960s and contains plants that would have been familiar to an Elizabethan household. A rare surviving series of fishponds can be found in the western side of the park.

    Lyveden New Bield, Northhamptonshire

    Lyveden is a remarkable survival of the Elizabethan era. Created by Sir Thomas Tresham as a symbol of Catholicism, the house was never completed and has remained unaltered to cast a ghostly presence over the garden. Composed of orchards, terraces, moats and viewing mounts the garden has been meticulously restored and now you can enjoy a truly rare experience of wandering through an Elizabethan garden.

    Montacute House, Somerset

    The garden of this magnificent mansion, built in the late 16th century for Sir Edward Phelips, still retains much of its original layout, in particular the north garden, the east court and the kitchen garden. Of special interest is the pair of banqueting houses and the wall topped with balustrades and pyramids.

    Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire

    Though no record of the original garden exists, the layout of the garden has been recreated to complement the moated timber-framed house with a knot garden and an historic vegetable garden planted with some of the earliest known varieties in England such as Colewort, salsify, beet, borecole, winter raddish, haricot beans and marrow fat peas.

    Moseley Old Hall, Staffordshire

    The one acre garden of this house, built around 1600, is a modern recreation of what might have been here in the early 17th century. The layout is based on what's known about similar gardens of the period creating an enclosed garden together with a geometric knot garden.

    The Vyne, Hampshire

    This 16th-century Tudor power house was visited by King Henry VIII on several occasions. Today the early 17th-century summer-house has survived as one of the oldest garden buildings in the country. Along with an orchard there's also a good collection of ancient trees, including the ‘Hundred Guinea Oak’, believed to be about 650 years old.