Kedleston's lost garden

When taking in the sweeping views from the south front at Kedleston Hall, it is perhaps hard to imagine that underneath the ground there are the remains of an older garden.

Kedleston’s pleasure grounds were created in the 1760s and 1770s, but that doesn’t mean there were no gardens before that time. We know very little about how they looked, because they were completely swept away: there is an estate plan and Mary Assheton, mother of Nathaniel Curzon 1st Baron Scarsdale, wrote a descriptive poem about Kedleston sometime between 1727 and 1758.

" And from its windows view the rural scene / On the south side the gardens are adjoined / The taste is good in which they are designed / A theatre with slopes that terminate in the skies / Set with tall trees that gradually doe rise / When the flocks lye and lambs are frisking there / The moving scene delightful does appear"
- Mary Assheton (1695-1776), wife of Sir Nathaniel Curzon 4th Baronet

Like today, garden fashions changed very quickly. In the 1720s, Charles Bridgeman - the garden designer of the day – laid out an elaborate semi-formal landscape garden within the boundaries of Kedleston Park with a formal set of terraces and walled gardens south of the old house. Sir John Curzon, 3rd Baronet, had grand plans to transform park, but sadly he died in 1727 from a fall of his horse. For a long time, we weren’t even sure how much of Bridgeman’s garden had actually been finished when Sir John died!

Plan of Kedleston Hall and Park as it was before 1758 (detail showing the house and formal garden)
Detail of a plan showing Kedleston Hall and Park before 1758
Plan of Kedleston Hall and Park as it was before 1758 (detail showing the house and formal garden)

When Nathaniel Curzon inherited Kedleston in 1758, Bridgeman’s design was already getting out of date. While in other places his designs were included in new garden schemes, at Kedleston Bridgeman’s garden was completely removed from the landscape.

However, thanks to modern archaeological techniques we have been able to unearth (quite literally) some of the features of the formal garden that was here before Nathaniel Curzon and Lady Caroline created the pleasure grounds.

Looking out from the south front, just imagine how different the grounds must have looked when Nathaniel Curzon started planning his ambitious building and landscaping project!