Tag Archive: gothic


WP_20160525_12_17_11_ProOn a recent trip to Devon, we stopped off en route to visit this Neo Gothic ‘pile’ in Somerset, former home of the Gibbs family, who made a ‘pile’ of their own, trading in a rather large ‘pile’ of Guano, or South American bird excrement, favoured for its value as a fertiliser in 19th century Britain.

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Making our way from the impressively equipped visitor reception and restaurant we passed by a delightful formal parterre garden set some way away from the house, and then toured this amazing mansion, with its glorious colourful decor and richly carved woodwork. Much of the house is in need of renovation, but the National Trust has made great progress in restoring some of the most important rooms.

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‘… An ordinary man with an extraordinary fortune, a man of vast riches but simple pleasures. Antony was the second generation of the Gibbs family to live at Tyntesfield. He epitomised the Victorian age, fascinated by art, technology and travel….After buying Tyntes Place for his growing family in 1843, William Gibbs went about making it his own. He remodelled the exterior of the simple regency house into the Gothic extravaganza we see today….Four generations of family life, a love of beautiful things and the accumulation of useful bits and bobs made Tyntesfield a treasure trove of objects. Almost  60,000 objects have been catalogued including everything from priceless paintings and ornate furnishings to ice skates and picnic sets. It is the largest recorded collection owned by the National Trust and tells the story of a wealthy family’s life over four generations….’

From here we made our way through some lovely formal gardens near to the house and then to the Walled Garden, where some gardener must have been a little the worst for wear when he/she planted the lettuces…

WP_20160525_13_32_54_ProSeriously, this series of wobbly lines was done as a bit of light relief in what might otherwise be the normal regimented lines of fruit and veg; I loved it.

And the rest of the garden was interesting, too, though I thought it lacked some variations in height to give it structure.nearby was a rather nice play area with lots of carved and country-themed play features; I especially liked the large slug (which doubles as a nice seat).

There was also a stall selling fresh veg and bulbs so I spent a little on buying some orange Tulips for next year…now where have I put them?

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

 

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En route to West Devon recently we had time for a brief afternoon stop at this wonderful National Trust property just outside Tiverton.

The house was built by Sir John Heathcoat Amory, the grandson of John Heathcoat, creator of the mechanised bobbin lace making machine and owner of a lace factory in Tiverton.

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The foundation stone was laid in 1869, but it was not until 1873 that the elaborate interior designs were completed. William Burges, designer of Knightshayes, had a rocky relationship with the family and was fired half way through the project, leaving his imaginative vision incomplete.

Burges was replaced by another reputable designer, John Dibblee Crace, who turned out to be another ill-fated choice. Much of Crace’s work was covered up by the family, but later restored by the Trust.

We only had time to see the ‘Gothic Revival’ house and its colourful interiors (the Trust has imaginatively opened up some of the unrestored rooms too)  and quick tour of the formal gardens. These were originally designed by Edward Kemp (1817-1891), a reputable landscape gardener, but it fell into decline by the 1920s. Rescued by Sir John and Lady Heathcoat Amory, after the Second World War, the garden became one of the finest in England, winning the highest horticultural awards, with more than 1,200 species unique to Knightshayes. This garden has a very strong structure created by extensive Yew hedging and some amusing topiary animals scampering along the tops!

The restored Walled Garden was also an interesting spot, with its steeply sloping site being used to grow vines the ‘French Way’.

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Knightshayes is certainly worth another, longer visit, when we can also explore the woodland garden… on the way out we stopped at a new ‘natural play’ site which cleverly uses three huge toppled oak trees to create a series of walkways, swing points, tunnels and other features.

Further information: Knightshayes National Trust website

Old School Gardener

WP_20140928_17_26_24_ProThis last ‘garden’ from our recent trip to Portugal, is a bit of a cheat. The main attraction is the gothic splendour of the monastery and associated cathedral, but there are some wonderful outdoor spaces too, so I think its worth sharing.

The monastery was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and has maintained a close association with the Kings and Queens of Portugal throughout its history, housing several royal tombs and the national pantheon.

The church and monastery were the first gothic buildings in Portugal, and, due to its artistic and historical importance, was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1989. The Cathedral is the largest church building in Portugal and has a relatively simple undecorated interior- I was fully expecting golden baroque splendour on entering, but was pleasantly surprised.

The Cathedral is perhaps most famous for housing the tombs of King Pedro I and his mistress, Ines de Castro, assassinated, in 1355, under the orders of Peter’s father, King Afonso IV. After becoming King, Pedro ordered the remains of his beloved to be transferred to her tomb in Alcobaça and, according to a popular legend, had her crowned as Queen of Portugal and ordered court members to pay her homage by kissing her decomposing hand.

This pair of Royal tombs, of unknown authorship, are among the best works of gothic sculpture in Portugal. The tombs are supported by lions, in the case of the King, and half-men half-beasts, in the case of Ines, and both carry the recumbent figures of the deceased assisted by a group of angels. The sides of Pedro’s tomb are magnificently decorated with reliefs showing scenes from Saint Batholomew’s life, as well as scenes from Pedro and Ines’ life. Her tomb is decorated with scenes from the life of Christ.

The monastery complex provides an interesting, and, as expected, relatively simple series of rooms and spaces where the monks went about their everyday business.

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Outside, the cloister is a most inspiring space, simply furnished (and with some sympathetic conservation) with a few trees and close-cut box bushes- I was fortunate to capture it in the afternoon sun. The monastic gardens- not open to the public- are a fine example of box-edged parterres enclosing a series of beds that once were used for growing food and herbs. This important site lies about an hour’s drive north of Lisbon and is an area I hope to visit again as there are other landscapes and historical sites nearby, that we didn’t have time to visit.

Source and further information: Wikipedia

 Old School Gardener

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So, this is it, the final stop on our final day in Portugal (well, at least this visit). The Quinta da Regaleira is one a group of grand palaces with grand gardens and estates in the mountain top resort of Sintra, a few miles from Lisbon, and famous as the retreat of the royals and the rich.

It consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park featuring lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions. The palace is also known as “Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, from the nickname of its first owner, Antonio Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. The estate has had many owners through time, but in 1892 it was purchased by Carvalho Monteiro who then set about creating a place where he could gather symbols that would reflect his interests and ideologies. With the assistance of the Italian architect Luigi Manini, he installed in the 4-hectare estate a range of enigmatic buildings, believed to hide symbols related to Alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians. The architecture is an eclectic mix of styles, constructed in the first few years of the 1900’s and completed in 1910.

After a number of other owners, and a period in which it fell into disrepair, the estate was bought by Sintra Council in 1997. Extensive restoration was undertaken, and the palace and surroundings were opened to the public one year later.

Most of the estate consists of a dense woodland park crossed by many roads and footpaths. The woods are neatly arranged in the lower parts of the estate, but left wild and disorganized in the upper parts, reflecting Carvalho Monteiro’s belief in primitivism. Decorative, symbolic and leisure structures are dotted aorund the park and there is also a mysterious system of tunnels, which have multiple accesses including via grottoes, Chapel, Waterfall Lake, and “Leda’s Cave” beneath the Regaleira Tower. Their symbolism has been interpreted as a trip between darkness and light, death and resurrection.

The “Initiation Well” or “Initiatic Well” (sometimes referred to as the “Inverted Tower”) is a 27 metre staircase that leads straight down underground and connects with other tunnels via underground walkways.Water is a frequent element with two artificial lakes and several fountains and the Aquarium, built as if it were naturally embedded in a rock.

I loved the playfulness of the park and children of course love its quirky touches, secret passages and tall towers. Quite a place and a fitting end to our latest Portuguese trip.

Source: Wikipedia

Old School Gardener

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