Wells Voice Article July 2024

In the latter half of the nineteenth century Mrs Loftie was something of a doyenne of the social media stage, an arbiter and advisor on good taste and order in and out of the house. Indeed, in today's terms whether she liked it or not, she would have been called an influencer. In 1879 writing in her latest book Social Twitters, she declared war upon the wealthy new owners of large properties. Rather sniffily she wrote 'Rich people know nothing about flowers, and can only judge of the merits of their pleasure ground by the length of their bills and the number of men they keep employed.'  At the other end of the social scale Dickens had described the typical urban garden in London in Nicholas Nickelby (1838) consisting of 'pieces of unreclaimed land, with the withered vegetation of the original brickfield' complete with 'a few hampers, half a dozen broken bottles and such-like rubbish, broken flowerpots and stunted everbrowns.'  Some of these ingredients are quite familiar with any of us who have moved into a new building plot. In the later Victorian period, there was a shift in the residential new houses built for the upwardly mobile artisans and lower middle classes. Terraced houses were complete with small back gardens and smaller front areas. Gardens and gardeners became better known and though they could not compete with the Rothschilds, Devonshires and Howards there was a surge of interest in new plants and plantings. The former had to be robust and tough. Plants such as laurustinus, buddleia and forsythia which could withstand the onslaught of smoke and fog were favourites when we ourselves first put fork to soil. Evergreens newly arrived from America were popular in gardens large and small houses and grounds of historical interest were re-discovered and often restored.

The English Landscape school had razed many of these gardens to the ground, an act in some eyes, of barbaric vandalism. Our gardens are hardly suitable for this degree of landscaping which leaves the option of visiting, admiring and taking away a small slice of inspiration. There are no Tudor Gardens in existence as such but at Montacute and Athelhampton, for example, formal plantings reminiscent of Elizabethan times can be found. The house and gardens of Mapperton near Beaminster in Dorset is another example where there are a few bits in the fine old building which date back to Tudor times. Now the home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, the house is full of history and the gardens have been recently re-worked and extended. In fact, some regard it as the finest Manor House and Gardens in the county.

Sue Campbell had organised a visit to Mapperton for Wells Gardening Club open to everyone.


    Thursday 18th July

     Mapperton House and Gardens Beaminster Dorset

     Depart 10 am Wells Coach Station

     Return to Wells 4pm

     Cost £32 HHA members £20

For more details, check out this website "Outings and Events". Pip.