Arts and Crafts gardens began popping up all over England at the end of the nineteenth century. Gardeners started moving away from the fashion for brightly coloured bedding plants to choosing flowers with more muted colours and clipped hedges surrounding geometric enclosures, more reminiscent of the gardens of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries than those of the eighteenth and nineteenth. William Morris was a leading proponent of the Movement and wrote extensively on the importance of the house and garden being seen as one unit: ‘[the garden] should look both orderly and rich. It should be well fenced from the outside world. It shall by no means imitate either the wilfulness or wildness of Nature but shall look like a thing never to be seen except near a house. It should in fact look like a part of the house.’
GODDARDS in Yorkshire
Overlooking York Racecourse, Goddards was built in the Arts and Crafts style in 1927 for Noel and Kathleen Terry of Terry’s confectionary. The house and garden were built as one unit with the four-acre garden divided into different areas.
From the house, there are steps down from the terrace to the lily pond with paths leading to various features including the rock garden, greenhouse and herbaceous borders.
The house was designed by Walter Brierley who died before the building was completed while the garden was created by George Dillistone who had worked with Edwin Lutyens at Castle Drogo.
HIDCOTE in Gloucestershire
Hidcote is a very popular Arts and Crafts style garden and was created by Lawrence Waterbury Johnston at the beginning of the twentieth century. Designed as a series of rooms, the narrow paved paths link the gardens together and you’ll find secret gardens,
Mrs Winthrop’s Garden, the Old Garden and many other areas including the Red Border which sadly was closed on my visit.
Many of the plants were brought back to Hidcote by Johnston from his many hunting trips abroad although according to one of his companions, he spent more time socialising than finding plants. After the Second World War, the gardens had become ‘a jungle of beauty’ but were rescued by the National Trust; this was the first time the Trust had bought a property specifically for the garden.
LYTES CARY in Somerset
Lytes Cary was the home of Henry le Lyte who published the Niewe Herball, or, Historie of Plantes in 1578 but by the time the property was bought in 1907, the original garden had long been neglected. The new owners, Sir Walter and Lady Jenner, redesigned the garden to complement the fifteen century manor house.
Described by Christopher Husssey as being like ‘a necklace of garden rooms strung on green corridors’, there are a succession of typical Arts and Crafts-style garden rooms including the Long Walk, the Pond and Lavender Garden, the Croquet Lawn and the Sunken Garden. The orchard is planted with fruit trees known to have been at Lytes Cary during the sixteenth century and is divided by diagonal paths with a sundial at the centre.
Sir Walter Jenner died in 1948 and with no living children, he left the property to the National Trust with the early twentieth century wings of the house let out to tenants.
RED HOUSE near Bromley in Kent
As both the Red House and Kelmscott were owned by William Morris, I have listed them together.
Red House is the only house that William Morris built and gives us a wonderful insight of how he and his wife lived. Morris commissioned Philip Webb, a leading Arts and Crafts architect, to design a house ‘very medieval in spirit’ and it became the meeting place of many involved with the Arts and Crafts and pre-Raphaelite movements. Edward Burne-Jones described it as ‘the beautifullest place on earth’ but sadly, Morris found the property too expensive to run and sold it in 1865. Red House changed hands several times until it was rescued by the National Trust in 2003.
Little remains of the original garden but the National Trust is recreating some of Morris’s garden rooms using plans from the 1860s. Taking their inspiration from medieval gardens, the ‘space will feature turf seats, re-introducing the traditional art of wattle weaving and planting some of William Morris’s favourite flowers.’
KELMSCOTT in Gloucestershire
It seems appropriate that after building the Red House in the Arts and Crafts style, William Morris’s next property was built in the medieval period – the time with which he identified.
Kelmscott was finished in the late 1500s and typical of a house of that period, includes a dovecote and brewhouse. The series of small walled garden enclosures are fitted around the buildings and include a vegetable garden, a rose arbour, an orchard and a stream meandering through the meadow.
Kelmscott is now owned by the Society Of Antiquaries.
RODMARTON in Gloucestershire
To me, Rodmarton embodies the spirit of Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement better than any other garden in England. The house and garden breathe together as you wander through a series of garden rooms filled with flowers, topiary and stone. Features include the Leisure Garden, the Winter Garden, the Troughery, the Topiary Garden, the Sunken Garden, the Orchard and a large Kitchen Garden.
In 1909 Claud and Margaret Biddulph chose Ernest Barnsley to build a house which was to be an experiment in communitarian living, with people from the village coming to the house every day to improve their skills and pass their learning on to others. Ernest Barnsely also laid out the bones of the garden while Margaret Biddulph and her old tutor from Studley Horticultural College for Women, William Scrubey provided its clothes.
The Biddulph family still live at Rodmarton and the feeling of continuity and authenticity is alive.
SNOWSHILL in Gloucestershire
Although Snowshill is now owned by the National Trust, they have succeeded in resurrecting the spirit of the man who created this ‘children’s fairyland’ – Charles Paget Wade. It’s a garden full of steps, of light and shade, of crooks and crannies – and it flows seemlessly from the house to the garden and back again.
Wade decided to buy the house in 1919 as it had not been ‘spoilt with modern additions’. He employed twenty-eight craftsmen on the house which he filled with his eclectic collection of spinning wheels, clocks, kitchen utensils, pipes, mousetraps and tapestries while he slept in the adjoining Priest’s House.
Wade wrote: ‘a delightful garden can be made in which flowers play a very small part, by using effects of light and shade, vistas, steps to changing levels, terraces, walls, fountains, running water, an old well head or a statue in the right place, the gleam of heraldry or a dome garden temple.’