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Our work at Claremont Landscape Garden

Wide view of Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey, from the top of the amphitheatre.
View of the garden from the top of the amphitheatre | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The team at Claremont Landscape Garden are working hard to restore some of the garden's historic views, lost when the estate was divided in the first half of the 20th century. Discover more about our work across the garden and how we plan to use historic gardening devices to trick the eye.

Restoring the North Terrace

The North Terrace was one of the first parts of Claremont Landscape Garden to be constructed in the early 18th century. It was originally a curving path, designed to provide a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was later employed to further develop the garden.

Claremont soon became a beloved retreat for royalty and its succession of owners only made minor alterations to the garden.

Changes in Claremont’s ownership

In 1922 much of the Claremont estate was sold for housing development, leaving just the house and surrounding 210 acres of garden.

Most buildings were demolished, but the house became Claremont Fan Court School in 1930. The surviving 49 acres of the garden were passed to the National Trust for maintenance and restoration.

Restoring the view

In more recent times, the laurels planted in informal rows and self-seeded plants along the boundary between the school and the garden became overgrown, allowing them to dominate the North Terrace and obstructing the view.

‘Capability’ Brown may have favoured an informal style for his landscapes but he did not intend for uncontrolled growth to spoil the garden, so the restoration project aimed to return the North Terrace to the ‘Brownian’ landscape of mid-to-late 18th century.

The work involved cutting back the overgrowth to remove the laurel and allow other plants to thrive where they were once crowded out of the sunlight. Several trees were also felled to allow the view to be opened up again.

The Belvedere at Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey
The Belvedere at Claremont Landscape Garden | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Creating the Belvedere Tower ‘window’

The Grade II-listed Belvedere Tower was built over 250 years ago by Sir John Vanbrugh for the Duke of Newcastle, who was then Prime Minister. Its castle-like design was a symbol of the Duke's wealth and power for all to see.

When the original 150-acre estate was divided in ownership, the Belvedere Tower passed into the possession of Claremont Fan Court School, but it can still be seen from within the Garden via a sweeping view up the Mount – a walkway lined by beech hedges.

Working in partnership

In the winter of 2020, the garden team started a project to reveal the long-lost view of the historic Belvedere Tower from the south side of the garden.

Initially a large amount of overgrown laurel was cut down to expose the tower’s side view. The next stage of the project was carried out in partnership with Claremont Fan Court School and saw trees pruned to lift the canopy. Brush was also removed on the school’s side of the fence. In late 2021 more laurel was removed, and the ground was levelled and seeded.

Visitors to Claremont Landscape Garden are now able to see the Belvedere Tower as they climb the hill towards the Camellia Terrace from the Ha-Ha, framed by the pruned laurel, which will be allowed to grow back to a height that covers the boundary fence.

Chasing the view

The Tower disappears as you approach the camellias but comes back into full view at the gates to the Mount. This is an old design device used mainly to provide an enticing view of large houses as the drive meanders around the parkland on its way to the front of the house.

Restoring ‘View Walk’

The English Landscape Garden has many elements but one of the most important are the extended views which sometimes use rolling landscape from adjoining land.

At Claremont Landscape Garden we hope to use this strategy to our benefit along the path known as ‘View Walk’, which leads from the natural play area at Nine Pin Alley, all the way to the other side of the garden, where originally a Tuscan temple stood, but was removed in 1929.

We plan to use the straight line of View Walk to our advantage by pruning back the growth from the trees and removing weed species to provide a glimpse of the land beyond.

A project of three parts

This project is being undertaken in three phases. In 2020, the gardens team cleared from the steps by Nine Pin Alley downhill to the next opening, which has allowed the grass to grow thicker and stronger. In late 2021, the team pruned along View Walk, revealing the full line of sight.

The last phase will be to create a small hole toward the natural play area up to the boundary with Claremont Fan Court School. This will mean that the ‘view’ will once again incorporate part of the old estate parkland. This more delicate task will require the removal of carefully chosen bushes, shrubs and trees, and is planned for late 2022.

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Bench overlooking the lake at Claremont Landscape Garden, Surrey


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