Architecture Henrietta

Uncovering the lost landscape of Marble Hill

With the preparation of a Landscape Conservation Management Plan, the true significance of Marble Hill’s now mainly lost landscape began to be to understood.

Alexander Pope and Charles Bridgeman are both known to have been involved in the early formation of the garden. Letters record that they were both drawing up plans for the garden in 1724. It was at this date that the landscape at Marble Hill began to be laid out, focusing on the land to the south of the house towards the river due to complications in land ownership. The primary resource that has proved most useful to gaining a better understanding of the landscape is an undated plan, which is thought to have been drawn up to record a survey undertaken in 1752. This survey allows us to capture a glimpse of the garden created by Henrietta. The plan is incredibly detailed and shows many interesting lost features including an Ice House Seat, Ninepin Alley, Flower Garden, Green House, Mount and Kitchen Garden. It also shows avenues of trees and the terraces leading down to the river, as well as the Ice House and Grotto which, of course, survive today.

The design of the garden was based on the fashionable idea of the ‘ancient’ villa landscapes which had arrived in England through 16th century Italian writers such as Palladio but were popularised further in 1728 when Robert Castell published Villas of the Ancients Illustrated. This book included illustrations supposedly showing the garden layouts that surrounded villas in Ancient Rome. The landscape at Marble Hill incorporated a lot of these ‘ancient’ features, including a lawn in the shape of a hippodrome. Through further research and a landscape survey we hope to better understand these features so the importance of this lost landscape can be understood and shared.