Georgian gardens: 1714-1830

Formality gave way to a naturalistic style inspired in part by paintings of classical views collected on the European Grand Tour.

The park and garden merged into one, this was successfully achieved by the innovation of the ha-ha, a stock-proof boundary invisible from the house. Circuit walks around the landscape park were designed to evoke a variety of emotions with dark enclosed tunnels of evergreens opening into bright sunny glades. Walled kitchen gardens were sited out of view or screened by the latest craze, the shrubbery. The concept of the landscape park was ultimately a British style which would influence gardens throughout Europe.

Style at a glance

  1. Informal layout designed as a classical Arcadia
  2. Lakes created to reflect the landscape as well as for recreation
  3. Cascades add drama and animation to the scene
  4. Temples, grottos and follies doubled up as tea rooms, and viewing towers
  5. Clumps and shelterbelts to provide shelter and privacy to the park
  6. Shrubberies  planted with the newly introduced exotics from abroad
  7. The Ha-ha, an invisible boundary to keep livestock away from the house
  8. Circuit walks taking you on a tour around the park

Where to see 18th-century gardens:

    Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey

    At Claremont, a garden of great national importance, it's possible to see several features by the greatest names in 18th-century garden history. Sir John Vanbrugh’s military style Belvedere, Charles Bridgeman’s rare surviving grass amphitheatre and William Kent’s Grotto all make up one of the finest gardens of the early English Landscape style which in 1726 was described as 'the noblest of any in Europe'.

    Croome, Worcestershire

    By walking the 18th-century circuit of the park you can enjoy statues, follies and temples by some of the greatest architects of the day such as Robert Adam, James Wyatt and Capability Brown, who also designed the park with its mile-long serpentine lake and unbeatable views. This was Brown’s first complete private commission and is now being restored to reflect not only architectural garden features but also the variety of planting styles from the Georgian era.

    Farnborough Hall, Oxfordshire

    The 18th-century gardens at Farnborough have survived intact and are now a rare representation of the work of the gentleman architect Sanderson Miller. As well as maximising the views along an ascending serpentine walk, punctuated by temples and pavilions, Miller also designed the hexagonal game larder which overlooks the remodelled medieval fishponds.

    Florence Court, County Fermanagh

    Created in 1789 by William King for the 1st Earl of Enniskillen, the splendid rolling landscape offers fine views and contains many original features including a summer-house, an ice-house, a rare eel-house and a bridge. The original Irish, or Florence Court yew (Taxas baccata ‘Fastigiata’), still grows on the estate.

    Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire

    A sleeping beauty, the park and pleasure grounds at Kedleston are being restored to reflect its 18th-century origins using plants that were available during that period. The sequence of planting dark evergreen tunnels next to deciduous groves to create different moods can still be made out along the short walk. The jewel in the park is Robert Adam’s delightful fishing pavilion which was also a tea room, boat house and cold bath.

    Osterley Park and House, London

    Once the country retreat of the Child Family with a house designed by the celebrated architect Robert Adam, Osterley has since been swallowed up by the expansion of London. It's now a tranquil oasis for local residents and visitors from further afield who come to enjoy the ornamental lakes and fine specimen trees of oak and hickory, together with Adam’s temple and semi-circular summer-house.

    Petworth House and Park, Sussex

    At Capability Brown’s landscaped deer park, immortalised in J.M.W. Turners paintings,  you can still see the two lakes, tree-crowned hills, temples and rotunda all enclosed by a ha-ha. Brown also enriched the planting with the newly introduced trees and shrubs of the day.

    Prior Park Landscape Garden, Somerset

    An intimate 18th-century landscape garden created in a valley on the edge of Bath with sweeping panoramic views of the city. The park is famous for having one of only 3 surviving Palladian bridges in the country (and one of only four in the world), complete with 18th and 19th century graffiti. However, there is more, including a wilderness, grotto and cascade which we're in the process of restoring.

    Sheringham Park, Norfolk

    Sheringham Park was designed by the famous landscape designer Humphrey Repton in the late 18th century. The park contains a woodland garden and there are miles of stunning coastal views. It has the distinction of being Repton’s personal favourite and you can still see his designs for the park in his famous 'Red Book'.

    Stourhead, Wiltshire

    The world famous gardens at Stourhead were created by the banker Sir Henry Hoare II as a reaction against the formal gardens of the 17th century. Here, the natural style of the landscape was inspired by the paintings of classical view collected on the Grand Tour of Europe. Centred around a large lake, the park is punctuated with classical temples and a subterranean grotto inhabited by a nymph and a river god.

    Stowe, Buckinghamshire

    The birthplace of the 18t- century landscape garden in Britain, Stowe was the result of the leading architects and gardeners of the day, including Vanbrugh, Bridgeman, Kent and Brown.

    Their contribution has resulted in one of the best examples of an idealised classical landscape. Statues, temples and a grotto furnish the various parts of the garden which were given names to conjure up a classical Arcadia such as the Elysian Fields and the Grecian Valley.

    Studley Royal Water Garden, Yorkshire

    At Studley Royal you can experience one of the least-altered Georgian gardens in England.  Begun in the early 18th century, these water gardens show the transition between the formal and the naturalistic park by retaining an element of geometry in the shape of the Half Moon Pond, the canal and the avenues. Such is its importance it has been granted World Heritage Site status.

    West Wycombe Park, Buckinghamshire

    The Music Temple at West Wycombe Park

    A fanciful landscape park created by the infamous Sir Francis Dashwood and inspired by his Grand Tour of Europe. The garden is composed of lakes and cascades together with a series of temples and follies, including a cottage designed as a church, which formed the backdrop to the wild parties of Dashwood’s notorious ‘Hell-Fire Club’.