Saturday, 12 January 2013

Belvoir Castle's hidden secrets!

As well as maintaining the gardens, part of our responsibility is restoration and last month Martin and I were invited to join the Castle’s archivist to look at some garden plans that had recently been unearthed from Belvoir’s casket of treasures.

In a dark room, laid across a large desk were three beautiful hand drawn designs.  One of these was done by probably the most famous garden designer known to us all.  But you will have to wait for more information about him! 

Today I am going to tell you about the lesser known but equally inspirational designer, Harold Peto.  Originally trained as an architect, Peto turned to garden design in later life and was most prolific at the turn of the twentieth century.   The reason for his obscurity is the fact that little documentation is left about his gardens and designs’, so finding the plans at Belvoir is a wonderful discovery.  Peto made many trips abroad including America but was particularly influenced by the beautiful ornate Italian gardens and was possibly drawn to Belvoir because of its grandeur and terracing possibilities.

From the date on the plan we were able to trace two visits by Harold from the castle’s Visitors book.  It was so exciting to marry up the drawn plans with his documented visits.  Some of his drawings have pencil corrections over them, probably from gardeners working to his plans.  A lot of the design is in place but there is still some work to do to create the final picture.

If you have been following our progress you will know that we deliberated for some time over the shape of the yew hedges round the rose garden.  Now we have definitive plans of how they looked originally.  Thankfully Yew is one of the most versatile hedges and can be reshaped at anytime of its life.

Luckily for The Castle and for us all, the Duke and Duchess are very keen to reinstate the history of Belvoir gardens and programs are now afoot to bring together design’s from her Grace alongside Peto’s designs.

A great example of Peto’s work today is at Iford Manor which was his home in Essex. 

I long for some snow so I can sneak home and do more research on Peto!

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