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Press release

Historic engraving inspires Baroque parterre at Dyrham Park, one of the most notable stately homes of its age

An aerial view of the new parterre at Dyrham Park
An aerial view of the new parterre at Dyrham Park | © National Trust / Steve Haywood

An early 18th-century engraving has been used to create a striking new garden parterre at the National Trust’s Dyrham Park, one of the most notable stately homes of its age.

In its heyday, Dyrham Park, near Bath and Bristol, had a formal Baroque garden characterised by symmetry, clipped topiary and clever use of water features. It was strongly influenced by Dutch gardens such as Het Loo, which owner William Blathwayt had seen while clerk at the English Embassy in The Hague. But some of the elaborate gardens were difficult to maintain and reverted to parkland in the later 1700s.

Now, Garden & Outdoors Manager Piers Horry and his team have created a new parterre based on historic drawings of the site, including a 1712 engraving by Johannes Kip, which shows a parterre garden. Kip was a renowned Dutch draftsman and engraver who specialised in detailed ‘bird’s-eye’ views of English country houses.

The new 10x25m feature – once plain lawn – links the house and the garden and gives visitors a striking welcome as they enter the west side of the mansion.

Huge steel frames weighing just over four tonnes were craned in and welded together to make swirling shapes inspired by acanthus leaves, which represent immortality, rebirth and longevity.

The frame was filled with soil and hand-cut turf, followed by 850 evergreen Japanese spindle (Euonymus japonicus) hedging plants and 24 large yew plants shaped into topiary. Hundreds of bedding plants will give seasonal displays: tulips in spring, and marigolds (Tagetes ‘White Gold Max’) for the summer.

Seashells and ‘black calico’ ornamental stones were added, echoing the intricate and detailed decoration that was used in the 17th century to demonstrate wealth. Large plant-filled pots surround the perimeter.

The design for the parterre is based on the ‘parterre de broderie’ style found in English gardens from the early 17th century, which uses small hedges, colourful flowers and gravel to create elaborate, fluid patterns reminiscent of the embroidery of the period.

The parterre is part of a wider ongoing project to transform the garden into a vibrant 21st-century garden with echoes of the past. The project draws on the Kip engraving but also on modern day examples from sites such as the gardens at Versailles in France, Het Loo in the Netherlands and Hampton Court Palace in Surrey.

A generous gift in will from Bath garden enthusiasts Stella and Jack Satchell enabled the parterre to be built.

Garden and Outdoors Manager for Dyrham Park, Piers Horry, said: ‘The recently completed parterre is a real highlight of any trip to Dyrham Park. The garden team has loved working on this beautiful parterre and we simply could not have done it without such a generous gift in a will. We’d like to say a massive thank you to the family of the donors for allowing us to create something for thousands of future visitors to enjoy.’