Creating a fashionable garden at Sudbury Hall

The south front of Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire, with topiary trees in the foreground.
Relax in the gardens National Trust Images / Robert Morris

The gardens you see today are the result of changing fashions in landscaping over the last 300 years. Since 1660 successive generations of the Vernon family altered the gardens in relation to the fashion of the time and their own ideas and taste.

The first garden

In 1660, when the Hall was built, George Vernon created a walled garden centred on the south front of the Hall typical of the Restoration period.
The garden was divided into grass parted by gravel paths, beautifully ornamented by statues. Beyond the walls were avenues of orchards and a flight of broad steps that led down to rectangular ponds. 

Inspired by Capability Brown

The 1st Lord Vernon naturalised the landscape in the mid 1700s in the manor of Capability Brown. This was highly fashionable at the time, following the trend created by Brown at many stately homes, including Chatsworth House.
Lord Vernon swept away the walled garden, formed a serpentine lake out of the fish ponds and reduced the avenues to clumps of trees.  

Changing the lake

The 4th Lord Vernon took the process of naturalisation the furthest by draining the lake to grow maize on it. In the late 1830s the 5th Lord Vernon followed the plans of another landscape gardener, W.S. Gilpin.
These changes included refilling the lake and creating the island opposite the Hall. 

Our work in the garden

In the 1970s we made further alterations and created two star shaped parterres on the top terraces and planted topiary on the lower area.
The lime Quincunx was also planted to grow in front of the 19th-century wing to recreate the symmetrical appearance of the house.
The garden remains the same today, with only small alterations for maintenance.