The development of Wightwick's garden

Corner of the east wing from the garden at Wightwick Manor

In 1904 the famous Arts and Crafts garden designer Thomas Mawson created a flower-filled, Edwardian backdrop to Wightwick Manor.

The first designs

In 1904 Flora Mander commissioned Thomas Mawson to re-design the garden at Wightwick Manor. Mawson was a well-known, influential garden designer based in Windermere. His design ideas were explained in his 1901 book ‘The Art and Craft of Garden Making’, which featured Wightwick in a later edition.

Mawson planned a strong structure for Wightwick which included terraces and bold planting. His idea was to bring a greater cohesion to the garden and to provide a more attractive and appropriate setting for the house. For an unknown reason, Flora did not implement all of his ideas.

Mawson did not create the garden from scratch. His design had to incorporate existing features.  Theodore and Flora had gradually developed a garden around the house after 1887. Opposite the front door a formal garden with yew hedges and flower beds had been laid out. Beyond this was a walk leading to a kitchen garden with glasshouses. The walk continued onto a rookery, woodland, rock garden and the pools. In front of the house lawns and flower beds led to a croquet and tennis lawn. A low wall kept out the grazing cows. Across the wooden bridge was a rose garden.

Mawsons fingerprints

The most impressive part of Mawson’s design was his creation of the lower terrace or ‘new lawn’ as he called it. This involved the excavation and levelling of the sloping land to the south of the house. A long, curved sandstone wall supports this terrace and can be seen walking up from the visitor reception. The terrace was enclosed with yew hedges, planted with flower beds and a double line of free-standing yews was planted through the middle.

Between rectangular flower beds, Mawson’s new steps lead to the re-modelled upper terrace in front of the house.  Here there are more flower beds alongside an attractive balustrade-topped wall over-looking the lower terrace. True to his ‘Arts and Crafts’ principles, Mawson carefully designed this to reflect the materials from which the house was built. The sandstone piers include layers of red tiles and the balustrade is made of untreated oak.

To the west of the terraced garden Mawson created a yew-enclosed walk with eight flower beds. In the existing formal garden he planted more free-standing yews and created a double herbaceous border.            

Looking down upon the well manicured rose garden
Arial View of the formal garden at Wightwick Manor
Looking down upon the well manicured rose garden

Structured drama

Mawson created strong lines in his gardens. At Wightwick he planted yew hedges to create long views from entrances to the Formal Garden. One takes the eye along the full length of the south terraced garden, while the Yew and Holly Walk he created leads in another direction to his oak and heather Grigg House (summer house).

Mawson created more drama with the Long Walk of yew hedges that he created leading from the drive deep into the garden. It connects the formally planted gardens around the house with the more informal areas further away. It makes full use of the sloping land to create a dramatic effect. At the end of the Long Walk, with its carefully mown grass and formal seating area, you emerge into an unexpected informally planted area of longer grass and shrubs leading to the pools and woodland. 

Changes in 1910

In 1910 Geoffrey Mander asked Mawson to design further changes to Wightwick’s garden which included a more elaborate circular garden at the end of the lower terrace. Only a few of Mawson’s  ideas were developed. These were the flagstone terrace in front of the house, the circular steps leading to the bridge path and the steps from the drive into the Formal Garden.