Landscape & Garden Research at Compton Verney

Many people love the landscape and garden at Compton Verney, but how much do we really know about it? Its creation must have touched, impacted and influenced many people, but how was it developed and who exactly brought about such dramatic change? Who paid the bills, dug the pools, planted the trees, and what was the motivation?

We do know lots already from various sources, which are summarised handily in the property guide book and other publications, so good evidence is already out there. We use these sources, plus physically ‘reading’ the landscape to regularly interpret the landscape during talks and monthly grounds walks at Compton Verney. (Tours are free to visitors on the first Thursday of each month, at 1:30pm if you’re interested!)

Pictorial evidence dates back as far as 1656, where a drawing by Wenceslaus Hollar, published in William Dugdale’s Antiquities of Warwickshire gives an early idea of how the estate was developing; a delightful image of the manor house, mill pool and managed landscape. Much has happened since of course, not least due to the efforts of notable designers Robert Adam and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who were brought to Compton Verney by John Peyto-Verney, 14th Baron Willoughby de Broke between 1760 and 1774.

Wenceslaus Hollar, Compton Verney, 1656 - ©Compton Verney 2015

Wenceslaus Hollar, Compton Verney, 1656 – © Compton Verney 2015

With history however, there is always something more to know, to understand and investigate. Have we seen all the plans, studied all the written evidence and evaluated facts? Are we, as custodians of a heritage jewel in possession of all the available knowledge? Well, we’re about to find out!

Last Friday saw the first gathering of a group of Heritage Volunteers from STRADFAS (Stratford-Upon-Avon Decorative and Fine Art Society,) part of the NADFAS family (The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies). I’m glad to report that the team, assisted where possible by on-site staff and volunteers, have volunteered to help us research the development of the landscape and garden.

The initial meeting was very lively with plenty of fragmentary evidence on the table to demonstrate the depth and type of knowledge already assembled. With this new phase of research however, we hope to both confirm and draw together what has gone before, whilst hopefully discovering some new threads of information.

garden+history+research

Image courtesy of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – Local History Archive Collection. Copyright protected.

Whilst the research isn’t wholly focused on Brown, this project is perfectly timed to coincide with Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s 2016 tercentenary celebrations next year, where many things both here and away will be turning Brownian as we search to understand the character more than ever before. We’ll be sure to publish our findings both here and through many other outlets at Compton Verney, so be sure to keep an eye on the Compton Verney Grounds Blog for information, and of course look to the STRADFAS link for more information –  http://stradfas.org.uk/heritage/ 

And finally, if you have information that could be relevant to our landscape and garden research, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to make initial contact via the email address below, or via the ‘Memories of Compton Verney’ page of the main website.

Regards

Gary Webb, Head of Landscape & Gardens at Compton Verney.

gary.webb@comptonverney.org.uk

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