Lyveden's Labyrinth

All of Lyveden

Sir Thomas Tresham designed the gardens at Lyveden as a journey of discovery.

Starting in the valley bottom at Lyveden Manor House (the Old Bield), guests would have made the half-mile walk up through the gardens, culminating on the ridge at the garden lodge (the New Bield).   Each element of the garden through which his guests would have passed was meticulously planned and designed and imbued with religious significance.

The journey would have begun in the formal gardens of the Manor House before progressing up the hillside through the Orchard area.  Beyond the Orchard lies a Terrace and two prospect mounds, which mask the view of what lies beyond.  Upon ascending the terrace or mounds, guests would be surprised by the Moated Orchard revealed before them.  We know that Tresham planned for raspberries to be interspersed with highly scented red and damask roses in the Moated Orchard.  These may have been surrounded by plantings of cherry, plum and perhaps juniper trees.

The Moated Orchard and the Labyrinth
Aerial view of the Labyrinth

The Labyrinth

An aerial photograph from 1944 (re-discovered in 2003) shows clear traces of the original planting.   Within the square created by the moats were ten large concentric rings or borders – also described in a letter of Tresham of 1604, as ten circular beds.  These may have formed a labyrinth – a single path winding to the centre.

Using the aerial photo as our guide we now cut a labyrinth into the long grass that lies between the moats.  This is best viewed in the spring and early summer, before the late summer cutting of the meadow.  Our labyrinth path is over a mile long.

Spiritual Significance

A labyrinth would have had spiritual significance to Tresham - labyrinths began to appear in medieval times on church walls and floors - the most famous being found in Chartres Cathedral.  It would have symbolised the pilgrimage through life and walking it would have provided opportunities for prayer and reflection.  The planting of raspberries and roses would also have had symbolic associations with the Passion of Christ, both in their colours and their thorns.

At the far corners of the Moated Orchard area are two further prospect mounds, in this case snail or spiral mounds.  From the top of the easternmost mound can be viewed Tresham’s garden lodge – itself containing much symbolism alluding to the Passion of Christ.