Victorian Cliveden

Painting of the Duchess of Sutherland

In the nineteenth century, the house at Cliveden was rebuilt on two occasions and the gardens were at the forefront of design, becoming nationally renowned.

Sir George Warrender

When Sir George Warrender purchased Cliveden in 1824, the main part of the house had been little more than a ruin for 30 years. He immediately commissioned William Burn to replace the burnt out central block and very soon Cliveden regained the splendour of its earlier days. No alterations were made to the grounds by Sir George, although he did give some thought to it - commissioning a new design for the Parterre that he never executed.

The Duke and Duchess of Sutherland

In 1849 Cliveden was purchased for £30,000 in the name of Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland as a retreat from London, close to her friend Queen Victoria at Windsor. In November 1849 Cliveden caught fire again. Despite efforts by staff, neighbours and even the Queen’s fire engines; the central block was lost once more.

Charles Barry’s masterpiece

The Duke and Duchess immediately brought in architect Charles Barry to rebuild the mansion and by April 1852 the house was complete and hosted a ball for 200 people. Barry created the three story Italianate villa you see today.  He provided extra rooms in the single story wings which are linked to the main house via curved corridors; an adaptation of the open colonnades in Lord Orkney’s design.

Cliveden House
Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire
Cliveden House

Horticultural fame

Under the supervision of Head Gardener, John Fleming, the gardens at Cliveden became famous for the innovative use of bedding. The Sutherlands adopted Fleming’s design for the Parterre in 1853. Eight interlocking wedge shaped beds were cut along both sides of the Parterre. Each bed was edged with clipped privet and spruce and strong coloured flowers were planted in concentric geometric shapes. Uniquely, Fleming created spring displays as well as beds of summer flowers. Fleming published his designs and the concept of ‘carpet bedding’ became fashionable across the world.

Planting plan for the Parterre, Cliveden
John Fleming's planting plan for the Parterre at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
Planting plan for the Parterre, Cliveden

Today the Parterre is planted with spring and summer bedding displays in the style created by John Fleming.