Garden at Basildon Park
From their creation as a pleasure ground in the 1800s, to being ignored and falling into ruin in the early 1900s, and then being lovingly restored by the Iliffe’s in the 1950s, the gardens at Basildon Park have experienced a lot. Find out their history, and what you can enjoy in the gardens today.
History of the pleasure ground
The gardens at Basildon Park were designed by JB Papworth around 1839, for the then owner James Morrison. He took what was parkland right up to the house, and then laid out a pleasure ground to the north, which included stunning views out into the park and countryside framed by a variety of trees and evergreen shrubbery beds.
Between 1900 and 1952 Basildon Park fell into a period of decline, with its occupancy passing between various owners, tenants and the military. One example of this is the residency of the 101st Airborne Division of the American Army being stationed at Basildon Park during the Second World War.
By the time Lord and Lady Iliffe rescued Basildon Park in 1952 the original pleasure ground was derelict and un-kept. They set about clearing and reviving the gardens to a presentable state.
When, in 1979, they generously gifted the house and 400-acre parkland to the National Trust, the team at Basildon Park continued their work in restoring the pleasure grounds.
Lady Iliffe’s Rose garden
One of the Iliffe’s additions to the pleasure grounds was the Rose Garden.
In the 1960s Lady Iliffe created the Rose Garden with advice from Lanning Roper, a well-known American garden consultant. It contained a mix of old roses, peonies and spring bulbs when it was originally created.
Sadly by 2011 perennial weeds had begun to take their toll on the mature rose garden. It was decided to clear the garden, rest and refresh the soil, and replant the garden with old roses replicating Lady Iliffe’s original design.
Visit the Rose garden during the spring and summer months to see the flowers starting to bloom and look their best.
The thatched umbrello you see today within the pleasure grounds was created around 1995 and was based on an original design by JB Papworth.
Originally the umbrello would have been the centre of a round, formal Victorian Rose garden with large, dense evergreen trees forming a backdrop to the wonderful blooms.
It would have been a quiet place for people to sit and relax in, perhaps enjoying some tea there as well.
Nowadays two of the evergreen plants remain from the original garden, the maritime pine and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana.
As part of the pleasure ground creations, during the Morrison ownership of Basildon Park, the east terrace was built in 1850 to compliment the central block of the mansion.
The formal Italianate terrace, built of large stone blocks, enclosed a formal lower lawn and boasted views over the Thames Valley hills.
By the late 20th century, unfortunately, much of the terrace had been allowed to deteriorate. Lord and Lady Iliffe’s restoration of Basildon Park included starting to make repairs to the terrace, by reinstating much of the structure as open lawn enclosed by the terrace and a gravel path.
Since 2015 the National Trust team, working with local stonemasonry specialists, have been carrying out phased repair work to the remaining stone walls. This work helps keep this original feature for future generations to enjoy.
Wander around the paths of the terrace today to enjoy those impressive views out over the Thames Valley hills.