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100 years of Hidcote Manor Garden


It is one hundred years ago since Lawrence Johnston and his mother, Mrs Gertrude Winthrop, came to Hidcote Manor. On 22 June 1907. The Times advertised the Hidcote Manor estate, described as a valuable freehold farm comprising some 287 acres and 34 perches to-be sold by auction at the Noel Arms in Chipping Campden on Tuesday 2nd July 1907, with possession on 29th September 1907 - Michaelmas day, when most agricultural leases began and ended. The advertisement said that the farm would be sold together with the: very substantial and picturesque farm house, stone built, with, entrance hall, fine oak staircase, three sitting rooms, eight bedrooms, two box rooms, and usual offices, with lawns and large kitchen garden.

It went on to note that: the farm is particularly healthy, being situate on a spur of the Cotswolds at an elevation of from 500 to 800 feet above sea level and from it extensive views of the counties of Warwick, Worcester and Gloucester can be obtained. Meets of the Warwickshire, North Cotswold and Haythrop [sic] Hounds are within easy distance, and the partridge shooting on the estate is good.

The sales particulars said the garden consisted of: lawns in front and on the south side of the House, with fine shrubs and a nice Summer House, and a large and productive Kitchen Garden. Adjoining is a Tennis Court and small nut orchard.

On 2nd July 1907, the bidding for the Hidcote Manor estate in the Noel Arms began at £5,000 and rose in steps of £250 until £6,500 was reached when the property was withdrawn. Interestingly, the auction of Hill Farm, Hidcote Bartrim (which included the farmhouse and two cottages at the end of the village road in Hidcote Bartrim) with 144 acres, took place immediately afterwards in the Noel Arms, being sold for £3,700.

Three weeks later, Mrs. Winthrop appointed Lawrence Johnston as her agent as he had on her behalf contracted with John Tucker of Hidcote Bartrim to purchase the estate for £7,200 for which he had paid a deposit of £10. He was appointed agent because Mrs. Winthrop sailed from Southampton arriving in New York on 7th August 1907 on the Kronprinz Wilhelm. It is clear from the New York Times of the period that Mrs. Winthrop was socially very active in both New York city in the winter months and in the summer in Bar Harbor, Maine. A month later, on 8th September 1907, the New York Times reported that she had given a luncheon at Bar Harbor, Maine listing the names of her guests. The conveyance of the Hidcote Manor Estate to Gertrude Winthrop was completed on 30 September 1907.

The Hidcote Manor estate had previously been farmed by John Tucker for 34 years - since 1873 - when the estate had been owned by Captain William Thomas Freeman. On the death of Captain Freeman in December 1882, the estate passed to his wife, Mary Webb Freeman, and then on her death in September 1885 it passed to Captain Freeman's mother, Mrs Priscilla Freeman, who was living in The Martins, Chipping Campden at the time of her death in August 1893. She then left the estate to her daughter, Mary Hannah Shekell Freeman, who was also living at The Martins, Chipping Campden. When her daughter died on 30th December 1906, in her will dated November 1893 she left the Hidcote Manor estate now in the occupation of Mr. John Tucker to the said John Tucker. Probate was granted on 30 March 1907. John Tucker clearly put the estate up for sale as soon as possession had passed to him. It is evident that the estate was subject to an outstanding mortgage debt of £4,900 for which the liability passed to John Tucker, as did a requirement to pay a yearly rent of £100 to a cousin of Mary Hannah Shekell Freeman. It is possible that John Tucker, then aged 63, felt that the financial liabilities were too great and so wished to sell the estate as soon as possible.

Recent research has shown that before coming to Hidcote, Lawrence Johnston had since 1904 been living in Little Shelford, near Cambridge. He had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1904 and the records of the Lindley Library show that he had been borrowing books on gardening and garden design during 1905 and in early 1907 which included Gertrude Jekyll's books 'Home & Garden' and 'Wood & Garden', as well as Thomas Mawson's book The Art and Craft of Garden Making'. Consequently, when Lawrence Johnston and his mother came to Hidcote it is probable that they were looking for somewhere to create a garden.

As already noted, the gardens consisted of lawns in front of and on the south side of the house. The Ordnance Survey map for 1885 shows the layout of the land around the Hidcote Manor as it was before Lawrence Johnston came to Hidcote. In the first published article on Hidcote, H. Avray Tipping in Country Life in 1930 described the situation prior to Lawrence Johnston's arrival as having on the south side a sloping lawn with a cedar tree and some flower beds which formed a small pleasure garden, enclosed from the utilitarian sections and the fields. The general slope was southward, while westward was a modest but immediate rise, eastward a slight dip before a sharp ascent, and north more or less level ground.

Mawson in his book describes the styles of laying out gardens identifying what is commendable in each. Successive chapters deal first with the selection of a site and then how lawns should be laid out, terrace and flower gardens created, hedges and fences, summer houses, water gardens and ponds as well as conservatories and kitchen gardens. There is little doubt that Johnston was aware of Mawson's advice as there are many echoes at Hidcote of what is in his book. Mawson notes that formality was recommended "near the house, merging into the natural by degrees, so as to attach the house by imperceptible gradations to the general landscape" which is exactly how Lawrence Johnston developed his garden. Mawson adds that: The arrangement should suggest a series of apartments rather than a panorama which can be grasped in one view: art is well directed in arousing curiosity, always inviting further exploration, to be rewarded with new but never a final discovery.

Hidcote reflects these concepts. Work started on the creation of the garden soon after Lawrence Johnston arrived at Hidcote. Deductions on who worked on the garden can be drawn from the 1901 census record and from the annual electoral registers. Living at Hidcote Bartrim were Alfred Hughes, Thomas Newman, and William Pearce as were Ernest Daniels and Tom Handy. Edward Pearce and his brother, presumably Jim Pearce, the sons of William Pearce, both worked on the garden as did members of the Hughes family. Ernest Daniels was the chauffeur.

In 1907 the east front of the house had steps up from the village road to a lawn, flanked by specimens of variegated holly and cypress, separated from the road by an ornate iron fence above a stone retaining wall, with 'flared' stone steps leading to a short path to the front door. Johnston changed the main entrance to the north side of the house from the courtyard, and on the east side created a cobbled parterre garden, raising the wall on the village road and decorating it with urns.

To the south was a large cedar of Lebanon which along with the walls to the Old Garden are all that remain of what was at Hidcote before Lawrence Johnston arrived. In developing the Old Garden with its two partments or garden rooms - the Maple Garden and Vhite Garden at a level below that of the Cedar Lawn Lawrence Johnston was taking note of Mawson that: Working outwards from the house, dispose the irraces as the falls of the land allow, and the height of he house demands, according as the original disposition fthe land suggests.
In designing a garden, Mawson says that: attention would first be directed to discovering and framing those features visible from it which have in them the elements of the picturesque, or which in any way give character and individuality to the site.
He went on to note that nothing is prettier than a vista through the smooth-shaven green alley or an archway framing a view of the countryside beyond:
it is for the creation of such effects that the designer lust aim in the arrangements of his terraces and articularly their steps and the placing of seats, arbours and bastions so as to emphasise them when created, at the same time taking care that the balance and symmetry of the scheme as a whole are not endangered in the treatment of individual features.

Furthermore, Gates may advantageously mark the end of a vista - which Lawrence Johnston used to good effect at Hidcote at the end of both of the long axes of the garden: from the Cedar Lawn to the Gates of Heaven and from the Gazebos to the gates at the end of the Long folk.
In about 1910 the Cedar Lawn had no hedging and no steps down to the lawn between the herbaceous beds in the Old Garden. Johnston put a semicircular seat by the cedar tree to provide emphasis at the eastern end of the vista as recommended by Mawson. Slightly later, he planted a hedge around the cedar with topiary birds with, to the west, a gateway to the trees beyond. Although there are no topiary birds there now, the vista is unchanged today.
Further west, outside the Old Garden, a start was made at the same time on the Bathing Pool Garden with small ground level pool. This is approached from the circle by a few steps down into the Fuchsia Garden some two feet lower and then by some further steps to the Bathing Pool Garden three feet below. Topiary birds were at the top of the steps from the fuchsia garden and dialing beds from the pool. The farm buildings and cottages were visible through the trellis work in the background as were the fields to the south west. In about 1920, Lawrence Johnston enlarged the pool and surrounded it by a low wall. Mawson noted that a plain circle is best for a pool and suggested that a raised all should be about eighteen inches above the surrounding ground and that the pond itself should be two feet three inches deep below the water line. At Hidcote the pool has a wall some eighteen inches above the surrounding ground and the depth of the pool is two feet one inch below the water line - within inches of Mawson's recommendations!

The Hidcote pool with its boy and dolphin fountain echoes Mawson's recommendation that: where a fountain is well placed, it will form part of either a formal terrace scheme, or the central ornament in an old English formal garden such as a rose garden... The best place for a fountain is an enclosed court of some kind... In such cases the light feathery streams may rise from the surface of the water, or where more elaboration is called for, a group of statuary, such as the boy and dolphin... may be introduced.

The next phase of the garden - the Gazebos and the Stilt Garden -- were created during World War I when Lawrence Johnston was back at Hidcote in 1915 recovering from a wound received at Ypres in October 1914. When he returned in 1919, his mother bought part of Hill Farm for £3,000 including the farmhouse at the end of the Hidcote Bartrim village road and two cottages as well as orchards which were adjacent to the earlier southern boundary of the Hidcote garden. This enabled the Long Walk to be extended out to the gates at the present boundary of the garden and also the Wilderness to be planted. The creation of the garden was thus completed by the late 1920s and Hidcote was in its heyday in the 1930,s with the garden open to the public on two or three days a year - for example, in 1930 it was open with an admission charge of Is on 5 June from 11am to 7pm for the Queen's Institute of District Nursing and later the same year on 23rd and 30th August for the Children's London Garden Fund. The opening of gardens to the public in aid of the Queen's Institute of District Nursing was the forerunner of today's National Gardens Scheme and was in the 1920s and 1930s supported by the King, who opened Sandringham, and by many of the landed gentry.

The subsequent developments at Hidcote through to the ongoing programme to raise matched funding for the reinstatement and restoration of Hidcote back to how it was in its heyday will be told in a subsequent Bulletin.

Graham Pearson is the volunteer archivist at Hidcote and the author of
Hidcote: The Garden and Lawrence Johnston
to be published June 2007 by Anova Books/National Trust Books, hardback, illustrated throughout.

(Article from the Chipping Campden Bulletin. Included with kind permission of Jeremy Green)

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[...] the June Bulletin, the

[...] the June Bulletin, the events of 100 years ago when Lawrence Johnston and his mother, Mrs Gertrude Winthrop, came to [...]

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