The Bathing Pool Garden

Kathryn Allen-Kinross , Assistant Curator  Kathryn Allen-Kinross Assistant Curator
The bathing pool at Hidcote

As you move between the low box hedges in Fuchsia Garden you can hear the gentle burbling of a fountain coming from the next garden room. Tall box hedges with sculpted topiary yew birds frame the steps down to the Bathing Pool.

Inspiration


As you move down the steps the pool fills the space and the impressive topiary portico stands tall ahead of you with the quiet roundel beyond. It is a far cry from the small sunken pool which Johnston originally created. By the 1920’s he had redesigned the space and created the raised pool. Johnston’s inspiration for many of his designs is frustratingly difficult to pin down given the absence of any plans and very limited contemporary documentation. 
 

The Bathing Pool in summer
The Bathing Pool in summer
The Bathing Pool in summer


One thing that is known is that he borrowed a book on garden design by Thomas Mawson, The Art and Craft of Garden Making. Mawson recommends that for a fountain ‘where more elaboration is called for, a group of statuary, such as the boy and dolphin… may be introduced.’ It would appear that Johnston followed this advice, as sat in the middle of the vast pool, is such a statue. 
 

Tranquillity and play


The pool was not just for ornamentation, it was to be used as a bathing pool and photographs in the archive show that it was used! Although I am sure when it was used as a bathing pool there would have been much laughter and playfulness, now I find this space one of the most tranquil areas of the garden. 
In the small courtyard to the side is the thatched loggia which proves to be the perfect space to sit and relax on a hot summer's day. The tiles on the floor here were most likely reused from the house or garden somewhere. One thing I love about the garden rooms at Hidcote is the difficult decision of which way to explore next. I will happily admit that walking through the garden rooms makes me feel like the little girl in the secret garden! I feel so incredibly lucky to come and work here. 

The Italian shelter at Hidcote
The Italian shelter at Hidcote
The Italian shelter at Hidcote