Sanderson Miller's vision for Farnborough's parkland

18th century portrait of a man in blue coat and wig

Sanderson Miller’s designs combined with the Ferme Ornée concept created the unique landscape we see today at Farnborough Parkland. His idea for Farnborough’s parkland design shows a move towards a natural style of landscaping and away from formal design. His designs were on a smaller scale than those of his contemporary Capability Brown’s grander landscapes.

Sanderson Miller’s designs combined with the Ferme Ornée concept created the unique landscape we see today at Farnborough. His idea for Farnborough’s parkland design shows a move towards a natural style of landscaping and away from formal design. His designs were on a smaller scale than those of his contemporary Capability Brown’s grander landscapes.

Ferme Ornée or ornamental farmland design

Miller used the ornamental farm design concept within Farnborough’s parkland. The style was devised by Stephen Switzer in 1742, who describes a country estate ‘laid out partly according to aesthetic principles and partly for farming’, where ‘profit and pleasure may be agreeably mixed together.’

Miller’s trademark water features

At Farnborough, Miller constructed a canal purposely designed in an S shape to give the perception, when viewed from the Hall, of a flowing waterway. But in fact it abruptly ends around the corner. Informal lakes can be seen around three sides of the Hall.

The River Sor was built up by 5m to form a pool that could be seen from the Hall. A considerable feat of engineering involving the construction of weirs and dams. Miller’s study of classics may have inspired him to also include a cascade to create the calming sound of falling water.

The importance of views

The centre piece of the parkland at Farnborough is a Terrace Walk which is built on an existing slope with a backdrop of trees and shrubbery. It is supported by 26 viewing points. Two of these are of stone to give the impression of a medieval fortification when viewed from below.

Miller even included distant horizons in his landscapes and the planting of distinctive trees.  Scots Pines are used to great effect on surrounding hills of the estate at Farnborough.

The buildings along the terraced walk

The 18m high Obelisk is of pleasing tapering proportions built out of a local limestone. Of the three follies passed on the way to the Obelisk, two were built by Miller. The Game Larder provides a tranquil view to St Botolph’s church. The Oval Pavilion has a lovely aspect room providing views over the Parkland. The oval design and construction required complex geometry; it is not surprising that Miller’s obituary notice included the phrase 'his skilful application of mathematics to architecture.'