"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth Castle

I've been planning to go back to Kenilworth Castle to see the Elizabethan garden in the summer so with B and E away on the Isle of Man for a few days (I declined to go as I didn't fancy flying!) I had a few days out on my own this week as D was working and Kenilworth was one of the places I visited.

This post is mainly about the garden rather than the whole castle so if you want to see my blog post earlier this year on the castle itself please see here

Dudley's Gatehouse

Gardens by the gatehouse

Approaching the Elizabethan Garden

The garden that Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, created for the visit of Elizabeth I to Kenilworth Castle in 1575 was recreated by English Heritage in 2009. Her 1575 visit was her fourth to the castle and she stayed for 19 days between 9th and 27th July when a lavish set of entertainments was prepared for her by Robert Dudley including firework displays, hunting and hawking. Detailed information on what the garden contained and what it looked like are available from the eye witness accounts of a Robert Langham. The garden was meant as a privy garden for the queen and her companions only but Langham, helped by a gardener, was able to sneak in on one occasion when she was out hunting and he has described all the main features which has helped immensely in the recreation. The garden was inspired by French and Italian Renaissance gardens. The aviary and obelisks were among the first recorded of these continental features in an English garden. The garden designer is unknown but it may have been Robert Dudley's gardener, Adrian, who is believed to have come from France.

The garden is divided into quarters and in the centre of each quarter is a 4.6 metre high obelisk- an ancient symbol of power and immortality. Each quarter is hedged with laburnum/privet and eglantine roses. Fruits were also grown in the Elizabethan garden and today there are English varieties of fruit trees planted such as "Black Worcester" a variety of pear. Langham describes the sweet scent from "the fragrant herbs and flowers" which may mean the garden was a "gillyflower garden" containing scented flowers such as carnations, pinks, scented stocks and wall flowers. Flowers planted in today's garden were all available in Elizabethan times and are picked to peak each year in July the month of Queen Elizabeth I's visit.

The fountain is the centre piece of the garden. The original and today's version is made of white Carrara marble from Tuscany. The central column has two "Atlants" (Atlas figures who are holding up the sky) discharging continuous jets of water. In 1575 there would have been fish in the basin.

Overlooking the garden is a terrace and at each end there is an arbour planted with vines, honeysuckle and musk roses.

The aviary was built of timber as is today's version. The top cornices were painted to look as though they contained diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. Birds in the aviary today are domesticated species such as lizard canary but in Queen Elizabeth's times the aviary would have contained some African Guinea Fowl which were introduced to Europe in Elizabethan times.

The rest of the photos have a rather weird special effect I am afraid as I had accidentally turned on a filter with a "retro effect" and I had no idea how to get rid of it!

Panels at the base of the fountain have carved scenes from "Metamorphoses" by the Roman poet Ovid. This poem in the form of a narrative tells of the lives and loves of gods and mortals and their transformation into animals and plants.

The panels today include
Neptune with his trident
Triton (son of Neptune) drawn by fishes
Proteus (another son of Neptune) herding "sea-bulls"
Doris and her daughters who were Nereids (sea nymphs)
Thetis in a chariot drawn by dolphins
(These particular scenes on the Elizabethan fountain had been described by Langham ).

Timothy and I had carrot cake and tea in the tearoom while I still tried to work out, without success, how to get rid of the filter effect!

Finally, when I got back to the car I found a further menu in the filters section and there was an option to pick no filters which I clicked on and finally got rid of the retro effects which was just as well as I was off to visit a nearby church and the photos there would have looked most peculiar.

All photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera

Retro effects courtesy of the camera!! :)

Reference: English Heritage Guidebook to Kenilworth Castle