The Picturesque landscapes of the Midlands

Trees in summer in the Dingle at Dudmaston, Herefordhsire

The Picturesque movement led to the creation of some spectacular garden and landscape designs. But did you know it had it's origins in Herefordshire?

Nature and wellbeing

We increasingly understand the benefits to our health and wellbeing from being outside and close to nature. But it is not just nature that can claim such beneficial effects, our designed parks and gardens have an equal benefit. In fact, our landscapes have always been designed to manipulate our senses, they are often  in disguise, posing as natural, wild Britain.

Controlling the landscape

The Midlands is home to ten million people who live within cities, towns and villages set within a countryside which includes five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Across the Midlands gardens, estates and farmland beauty isn’t always as natural as you might think. Many landscapes are shaped by farming but also by designers and our whole history of such design relates to how we thought about nature at the time – something to keep out, something to control or something to enhance.

Visit Lyveden to enjoy a truly rare experience of wandering through an Elizabethan garden
Sheep alongside the Water Garden at Lyveden New Bield, Northamptonshire
Visit Lyveden to enjoy a truly rare experience of wandering through an Elizabethan garden

Political landscapes

Before the 18th century our landscapes were very much about how productive they could be, and occasionally reflected religious and political connotations such as at Lyveden, which Sir Thomas Tresham designed and built as a testament to his Catholic faith. Lyveden's buildings and landscape symbolically conveyed Tresham’s own spiritual journey as he struggled to reconcile his faith with the changing Elizabethan world. 

The birth of the Picturesque

The 18th century saw the start of our English love affair with our landscapes, and the Midlands is no exception.  Here we can stroll through time where gardens and parklands present examples of our changing attitudes to nature across the century, from the controlled, formal gardens and planting at the 1710 garden recreation at Hanbury Hall to the wide expanse and rolling hills of 'Capability' Brown’s landscape at Croome. 

A Picturesque landscape painting in the collection at Croft Castle
A painting of the landscape at Hafod, Wales
A Picturesque landscape painting in the collection at Croft Castle

Perhaps lesser known is the Picturesque style of design, and it can be claimed to have been born along the Wye through Herefordshire. The Picturesque is an 18th century design style which is described best by William Gilpin:

" that peculiar kind of beauty which is agreeable in a picture"
- William Gilpin (1724 – 1804)

The Picturesque and the Grand Tour

Picturesque landscapes were contrived settings of ruins, rocky cliffs and hillsides and compositions which reflected the paintings seen on Grand Tours. Nature was rugged with cascading rivers, veteran trees and fallen branches; and it was a little scary.  It certainly wasn’t ‘as pretty as a picture’ which could be used to describe 'Capability' Brown’s rolling fields, clumps of trees and long views.

The new rich and middle classes, who could not afford the Grand Tour, were inspired by places in the UK such as the Highlands, Wales and the Lake District. The merchant classes owning smaller, often suburban houses and estates with no parks had paddocks with a handful of cows rather than vast grazing land.

Restoration

Dudmaston and Croft Castle in Herefordshire are home to Picturesque landscapes and were significant in the spread of the movement in the 18th century. At both places our teams are working to restore these landscapes and reflect the vision of their original designers.

Picturesque places in Herefordshire

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