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On a trip north last week, we managed to pack in three very interesting National Trust properties to and from our destination in the Lake District. The first was Kedleston Hall, the 18th century pile of the Curzons, an old Norman family who became prominent Tories in later times and built this magnificent home as a power statement to rival that developed by their Derbyshire Whig rivals, the Cavendish family, at Chatsworth.

WP_20150505_11_56_22_ProWe thought the front of the house reminiscent of Norfolk’s Holkham Hall, and indeed in the very helpful introductory talk we learned it had been designed by the same architects in Palladian style. However, the similarities started to dilute once we were inside, as the then Lord Curzon decided to follow the emerging design fashion of Neo Classical, so the house is an interesting- and successful – blend of the two styles.

The gardens- really more of a bold, sweeping landscape plus some slightly more human scale ‘pleasure grounds’- fit the classical style of the house and it was a lovely experience strolling around these before we had our lunch. Wikipedia describes the gardens and grounds:

‘The gardens and grounds, as they appear today, are largely the concept of Robert Adam. Adam was asked by Nathaniel Curzon in 1758 to “take in hand the deer park and pleasure grounds”. The landscape gardener William Emes had begun work at Kedleston in 1756, and he continued in Curzon’s employ until 1760; however, it was Adam who was the guiding influence. It was during this period that the former gardens designed by Charles Bridgeman were swept away in favour of a more natural-looking landscape. Bridgeman’s canals and geometric ponds were metamorphosed into serpentine lakes.

 Adam designed numerous temples and follies, many of which were never built. Those that were include the North lodge (which takes the form of a triumphal arch), the entrance lodges in the village, a bridge, cascade and the Fishing Room. The Fishing Room is one of the most noticeable of the park’s buildings. In the neoclassical style it is sited on the edge of the upper lake and contains a cold bath and boat house below. Some of Adam’s unexecuted design for follies in the park rivalled in grandeur the house itself. A “View Tower” designed in 1760 – 84 feet high and 50 feet wide on five floors, surmounted by a saucer dome flanked by the smaller domes of flanking towers — would have been a small neoclassical palace itself. Adam planned to transform even mundane utilitarian buildings into architectural wonders. A design for a pheasant house (a platform to provide a vantage point for the game shooting) became a domed temple, the roofs of its classical porticos providing the necessary platforms; this plan too was never completed. Amongst the statuary in the grounds is a Medici lion sculpture carved by Joseph Wilton on a pedestal designed by Samuel Wyatt, from around 1760-1770.

In the 1770s George Richardson designed the hexagonal summerhouse, and in 1800 the orangery. The Long Walk was laid out in 1760 and planted with flowering shrubs and ornamental trees. In 1763 it was reported that Lord Scarsdale had given his gardener a seed from rare and scarce Italian shrub, the “Rodo Dendrone” (sic).

The gardens and grounds today, over two hundred years later, remain mostly unaltered. Parts of the estate are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, primarily because of the “rich and diverse deadwood invertebrate fauna” inhabiting its ancient trees.’

 

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Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener