A history of the Park at Kedleston Hall

Visitors sitting on a bench with their dog in the parkland at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire

The parkland at Kedleston was designed around the same time that the hall was being built, following Sir Nathaniel Curzon’s inheritance from his father in 1758. Robert Adam, who was later instrumental in the building and interior design of the hall, was initially employed to complete the landscaping of the grounds to complement Nathaniel’s magnificent new house.

A changing landscape

Before 1758, when Robert Adam was employed to create an English Landscape garden, the grounds at Kedleston had been laid out in a formal geometric style by Royal gardener Charles Bridgeman, with terraces mounting the hill to the rear and a canalised stream and pond.

Out with the old

In addition, a public road passed just 160 yards north of the old red brick Queen Anne house, which the current house replaced.
The road was scattered with cottages and an Inn and formed the main bulk of the medieval village of Kedleston.
This was swept away along with the old formal gardens to create a ‘picturesque’ naturalistic landscaped park and pleasure ground, which was the fashion with well known landscape designers of the time, such as Capability Brown leading in this area.

A seamless landscape

The scheme was so successful that today, it is easy to forget that the entire park was man made, including the lake which was created by damming and excavating the Markeaton Brook, running through the grounds.
As part of his design, Robert Adam included the ingenious invention of the ‘ha-ha’, a sunken wall and ditch which made an invisible barrier to stop cows and sheep while allowing for uninterrupted views across the park and into the countryside.
As a result, the pleasure grounds, park and landscape seamlessly become one.

Temples and incidents

Robert Adams' design set out a long winding path with temples and follies as incidents and eye catchers along the way, including a rustic hermitage, Turkish tent, and theatre as well as many others which were never completed.
Known as the long, or ladies walk, which formed part of the Pleasure ground, the path follows much of the route of the current 3 mile long walk, which you can still enjoy today.

Sadly many of the incidents have now gone, with the exception of the hermitage, which is currently being restored. We will also be seeking to re-instate many of the forgotten incidents over the coming years.


An unfinished plan

While Robert Adams' designs for the fishing pavilion and bridge came to fruition, much of his plan for the pleasure grounds was never fully implemented and certainly many of the buildings were not completed.
It is only through recent archive work that the extent of the proposed scheme has been fully appreciated.