Twentieth Century and Twenty-First Century Gardens
The 1890s saw a growing interest in garden design in general, and especially in more academically correct formal gardens. This taste for Revivalism in garden design persisted after the First World War.
Many garden designers travelled to Italy and elsewhere to study historic gardens which inspired their own designs. Examples of Italian revival gardens include Cliveden (Buckinghamshire; registered Grade I) Hever Castle (Kent; registered Grade I) and Iford Manor (Bath and North East Somerset / Wiltshire; registered Grade I).
Other styles, including Moorish, Dutch, and Oriental were also explored, as at Bitchet Wood (Kent; registered Grade II*), where in 1919-21 the architect Raymond Berrow laid out a Japanese garden based on a plan published in Joseph Condor’s book Landscape Gardening in Japan (1893).
From about 1900, influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement, many garden designers became interested in English vernacular gardens using local materials and native plants and flowers. The partnership of Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens was especially influential.
The early C20 landscape architect Thomas Mawson drew on both Revivalism and the Arts and Crafts movement but also embraced the use of modern materials including concrete and asphalt for his hard landscaping, thus paving the way to modern design. At this time, sports facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools were incorporated into garden design too, a trend that developed further in the 1930s.
The 1920s and 1930s saw strong modernist themes emerge in domestic architecture, but this rarely extended to include garden design.
Plant-centred gardening, influenced by Revivalism and the Arts and Crafts style, remained popular throughout the twentieth century. Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville- West’s garden at Sissinghurst Castle (Kent; registered Grade I) developed from 1930. Also influential was the garden and arboretum created between the 1950s and 1970s by Sir Harold Hillier (a plantsman of world renown) at Jermyns House, near Romsey (Hampshire; registered Grade II).
During the C20 gardening for pleasure (that is, other than for vegetables) increasingly spread beyond the privileged few. From the 1930s, many more people lived in suburban houses with gardens, and plant-focused gardening became increasingly popular.
The Isle of Wight has only a few complete examples of large C20 gardens on new sites exemplifying the styles described above but garden features of this period remain, often forming design ‘layers’ in gardens of older origin. C20 and gardens on the Island have generally favoured traditional styles including Arts and Crafts. No Art Deco or Modernist gardens have been recorded by the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust.
However, from the late C20, perhaps aided by climate change, some gardens have experimented with Mediterranean-style and sub-tropical planting, taking advantage of the Island’s relatively mild climate.
The garden at Woodlands Vale (NHL II) to the east of Ryde was developed from 1830, but the flight of steps with Japanese lanterns and wooden Shinto arch dates from 1903.
The Priory, between Seaview and St Helens has grounds dating from the late C18. However, there are surviving plans by Lutyens for proposed modifications to the house and gardens. These plans were not implemented by Lutyens but work carried out from 1929 appears to owe much to his designs and elements of the existing garden (LL) show a strong Arts and Crafts influence.
The salt-water swimming pool installed at ‘The Priory’ by Mrs Evelyn St George in about 1929 echoes the national trend for sports facilities within gardens.
Padmore at East Cowes had a small C19 landscape park. The property was sold in 1914 to Samuel Saunders, whose company (known as Saunders-Roe from 1929) had factories in East Cowes and West Cowes producing motor boats and early aircraft.
Between 1929 and 1933 Sam Saunders planted a large orchard at Padmore and constructed a rose garden within a brick-pillared pergola which still survives as part of a wider designed landscape.
See http://woottonbridgeiow.org.uk/padmore.php and Wheeler (1993, 48-49).
At Los Altos, Sandown, developed in the late C19 a sunken rose garden to the north of the house was constructed in the early C20. This garden in the Arts and Crafts style with semicircular steps, summer houses and pergolas is now within the grounds of the Broadway Park Hotel. An indoor tennis court (now demolished) was also built at Los Altos in the early C20.
West Hill, on the western outskirts of Shanklin, is first shown on the 1842 Shanklin tithe map but the grounds were remodelled in the early C20 with a formal axial layout having Arts and Craft influences, some evidence of which remains.
No surviving gardens designed by Thomas Mawson are known on the Island but it is believed that a Mawson design exists for a garden associated with a house in Baring Road, Cowes.
Water gardens were often created in the C20 and frequently employed modern technology.
At Steyne House, Bembridge, a water garden was designed by marine engineer Sir John Thornycroft in the1920s. Water was pumped through open stone channels, through tunnels and over a cascade. The design featured covered shelters, raised stonewalled planting beds, small winding stepped stone paths and a view point above a pond with views out to sea one way and to Bembridge Windmill in the other direction. This water garden forms part of a larger designed landscape of C19 origin (LL) which is described in Section 12.8 and survives to the present day.
The water garden at Brook House (close to Brook Village) is first shown on the 1898 25 inch Ordnance Survey map which marks informal ponds and a footbridge. This water garden remained a feature in the early C20 designed landscape at Brook and is shown on a coloured postcard of the time. Brook House is now in divided ownership but the ponds, a rustic bridge and a miniature waterfall still remain in the grounds (LL) of a property that formerly lay within the curtilage of Brook House. For further information on Brook House see section 12.6.
The Seely family had owned Brook House since c. 1860 but were also responsible for creating two C20 gardens at Brook Hill House and Mottistone Manor, located on and adjacent to the ‘West Wight Downland Edge & Sandstone Ridge’.
Brook Hill House (LB II), designed by the architect Sir Aston Webb, was built from c.1901 for Sir Charles Seely but was not finished until 1916. The house is described by Lloyd and Pevsner (2006, 100) as ‘an irregular eclectic composition in coursed rubble with fine stone dressings’. It is set on the brow of a hilltop above Brook Village with superb views towards the coast on the south and west. The site was formerly heathland and plantation woodland and many of the plantation trees were apparently retained within the new grounds, creating a woodland garden under-planted with rhododendrons which were suited to the acidic greensand soil. Both the house (now in divided ownership) and the grounds (*) form a prominent feature in the surrounding landscape.
Mottistone Manor (LB II*), is an example of a historic property with a garden of relatively large scale (LL) that is entirely C20 in date.
The C16 manor house is set within a sheltered south-facing valley surrounded by the higher ground of the sandstone ridge. In the early C20 it was used as a farmhouse.
General Jack Seely (later Lord Mottistone) was persuaded by his friend Sir Edwin Lutyens to renovate the manor house and make it his home. Major restoration was carried out by John Seely (the architect son of Sir Jack) from 1927. A pleasure garden existed in the 1930s, including the sunken walled garden area to the south of the house.
Mottistone Manor came into National Trust ownership in 1963, being tenanted by Sir John and Lady Nicholson.
Lady Nicholson created the present garden at Mottistone Manor in the 1960s and 1970s. Her experience of Sicilian gardens inspired the hard landscaping and terracing but the double herbaceous border is typical of C20 designs inspired by English vernacular gardens.
Set within a sheltered, south-facing valley, the six acre garden is open to the public and has sea views from its upper slopes. Some redesign of the garden took place in 2004 and 2005. The National Trust is now experimenting with Mediterranean-style planting in certain areas.
Various other Island gardens of C20 or early C21 date, or with C20 design layers, deserve mention.
Morton Manor (LB II) is an example of a historic property with historic and modern garden features. The property, known as Morton Villa in the C19, had pleasure gardens which were recorded in 1828. However, the five acre gardens (LL) were developed as a visitor attraction in the late C20 when 50 varieties of Japanese maple were planted and a large pond was dug.
Pitt House, close to the sea cliff at Bembridge, lies within the grounds of a C19 property but was rebuilt in the early C20. Garden features include pergolas, a Victorian greenhouse and a dell with ponds and water plants.
Other gardens laid out or remodelled in the late C20, some within the grounds of historic listed properties, include those at Ningwood Manor (LB II* with C18 summer house LB II)) in Shalfleet Parish, Pidford Manor near Rookley (LB II), the Watch House at Bembridge, Yaffles at Bonchurch and the cottage-style garden at Owl Cottage, Mottistone.
The historic garden at Northcourt, Shorwell (NHL II) has C17, C18 and C19 layers but also features modern planting.
Examples of private gardens laid out since 2000 include Haddon Lake House (incorporating the lake and one of the walled garden compartments within the historic and locally listed landscape of Old Park) and Kingston Rectory (also within a walled garden).
At Robin Hill Adventure Park, near Arreton, a woodland garden has been created featuring planted clearings, specimen trees, streams, ponds and sculptures. Over 100 years ago, this woodland appears to have been used as a private woodland garden by the Willis-Fleming family based at nearby Combley farm. Tree species dating from that era include Giant Redwood and Eucalyptus.
Since 2005 work has been taking place at Robin Hill to reclaim the glades, ponds and paths that once existed.
Two gardens within English Heritage properties on the Isle of Wight have been remodelled since the millennium under the English Heritage ‘Contemporary Heritage Gardens’ initiative.
The walled fruit and flower garden at Osborne, part of the nationally designated designed landscape around Osborne House, was restored to a design by Rupert Golby in 2000.
The Princess Beatrice Garden at Carisbrooke Castle lies within the former ‘privy garden’ used by the Princess when she was in residence at Carisbrooke Castle from 1913.
The remodeled garden on this site was designed by Chris Beardshaw and opened in 2009. It represents a modern interpretation of an Edwardian garden with cross-axial paths, a structural backbone of clipped hedges, a central fountain, plants in themed borders and an ‘orchard’ of standard fruit trees in large planters. Its design, like that of a C17 parterre, can best be appreciated from above, viewed from the castle battlements.
Many urban botanic gardens date from the C19 but the botanic garden at Ventnor (NHL II) is of late C20 date, having been created in 1972 by the Isle of Wight County Council on the site of the Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest within the Undercliff.
Ventnor Botanic Garden, opened by Earl Mountbatten, was supplied with tender plants by Sir Harold Hillier in its early years and became internationally recognised.
The garden benefits from the remarkable microclimate within the Undercliff, being protected from cold northerly winds by the chalk downs. This allows subtropical plants to be grown out of doors as well as plants from the Mediterranean and the temperate southern hemisphere.
Many of the plants at Ventnor Botanic Garden are arranged in collections representative of geographical regions (http://www.botanic.co.uk/pages/gardenhistory.htm).
Ventnor Botanic Garden is designated on the National Heritage List because of its significance as the grounds of an early chest hospital. However, it is also of great (and growing) significance as a botanic garden.
Furthermore, the setting of the garden setting within the Undercliff provides great scenic value with highly attractive views from the southern boundary over the sea and northward to the dramatic inland cliff forming the northern boundary of the Undercliff.
Ventnor Botanic Garden is now managed by a Community Interest Company and is open to the public.