New Book | Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens

Posted in books by Editor on March 8, 2023

From Oxbow Books:

Stephen Wass, Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens and the Birth of Modern Scientific Thought in Oxford: The Case of Hanwell Castle (Oxford: Windgather Press, 2022), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1914427169, £40.

book coverBased on a decade of archaeological investigation and historical research, this book tells the story of the Copes of Hanwell Castle in north Oxfordshire and the creation of a garden with links to the development of scientific thinking in Oxford in the late seventeenth century. New research using Robert Plot’s Natural History of Oxfordshire as a starting point has uncovered details of a remarkable family and their rise and tragic downfall, their social circle, that included some great names in the development of early scientific thinking, and their garden that in effect became a place dedicated to the wonders of technology. The complex tale weaves together the activities of a royalist agent, Richard Allestree, a prodigious musician, Thomas Baltzar, John Claridge, a Hanwell Shepherd with a penchant for weather forecasting, and Sir Anthony Cope who in an atmosphere of secrecy and distrust began to gather together a community that eventually was named by Plot as The New Atlantis, a reference to a book published earlier in the century by Sir Francis Bacon in which he suggests a model for a Utopian science-focused society.

The book also chronicles the programme of archaeological excavation that has uncovered several unusual garden features and, most significantly of all, describes in detail the unique collection of seventeenth-century terracotta garden urns, an assemblage that is unparalleled in post-medieval archaeology. This collection was destroyed in a single episode of vandalism around 1675 and has been preserved in deeply buried deposits of mud and silt. Their analysis and reconstruction is opening new insights into the decorative schemes of seventeenth-century gardens. There is coverage of other gardens of the period and their surviving features as well as an examination of early science and how gardens impacted on its development in many ways.

Stephen Wass completed his MA in historical archaeology at the University of Leicester and then established himself as a freelance consultant specialising in historic gardens. Much of his work has been for the National Trust including major sites such as Chastleton House, Packwood House, Croft Castle, and Stowe Landscape Gardens. The current volume arises from a programme of doctoral research at the University of Oxford.


Preface: Robert Plot and Sir Anthony Cope

1  Introduction
• The Study of Gardens in Theory and Practice
• Hanwell: Geology, Geography, Archaeology, and History

2  The Sixteenth Century
• William Cope and the Building of Hanwell House
• The Origins of Early Modern Water Gardens
• Water Gardens in the Sixteenth Century

3  The Seventeenth Century
• Continental Engineers and Their Influence
• The Copes in Ascendancy
• Walter Cope’s Water Maze
• Francis Bacon, Gardening, and The New Atlantis
• Thomas Bushell and the Enstone Marvels
• Other Early Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens

4  At Hanwell House
• The Archaeology of the Gardens, 1600–1660
• Sir Anthony Cope, the Fourth Baronet
• Sir Anthony Cope in His Social Setting
• Hanwell, Cope, and Plot
• Sir Anthony’s Companions
• The Archaeology of the Gardens, 1660–1675
• Reconstructing the House of Diversion
• The Hanwell Pots and Other Finds

5  The End of it All
• The Aftermath, the Family and Estate after 1675
• The Archaeology of the Gardens from 1675 to the Present Day

6  Oxford, Science, and Gardening
• Oxford, Hanwell, and Early Scientific Thinking
• Gardens and Science
• The Tangley Mystery and Hanwell as the New Atlantis


New Book | Thomas White (c. 1736–1811)

Posted in books by Editor on March 8, 2023

From Oxbow Books:

Deborah Turnbull and Louise Wickham, Thomas White (c. 1736–1811): Redesigning the Northern British Landscape (Oxford: Windgather Press, 2021), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-1914427008, £40 / $55.

Book coverThis volume aims to restore the reputation of Thomas White, who in his time was as well respected as his fellow landscape designers Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. By the end of his career, White had produced designs for at least 32 sites across northern England and over 60 in Scotland. These include nationally important designed landscapes in Yorkshire such as Harewood House, Sledmere Hall, Burton Constable Hall, Newby Hall, and Mulgrave Castle, as well as Raby Castle in Durham, Belle Isle in Cumbria, and Brocklesby Hall in Lincolnshire. He had a vital role in the story of how northern English designed landscapes evolved in the 18th century. The book focuses on White’s known commissions in England and sheds further light on the work of other designers such as Brown and Repton, who worked on many of the same sites. White set up as an independent designer in 1765, having worked for Brown from 1759, and his style developed over the next thirty years. Never merely a ‘follower of Brown’, as he is often erroneously described, White was admired for his designs, which influenced the later, more informal styles of the picturesque movement. The improvement plans he produced for his clients demonstrate his surveying and artistic skills. These plans were working documents but at the same time works of art in their own right. Over 60 of his beautifully-executed coloured plans survive as a testament to the value his clients placed on them. This book makes available for the first time over 90% of the known plans and surveys by White for England. Also included are plans by White’s contemporaries, together with later maps, estate surveys, and contemporary illustrations to understand which parts of improvement plans were implemented.


List of Figures

1  Thomas White in Context
2  Early Career and Working with Brown
3  First Commissions, 1765–68
4  Established Landscape Designer, 1769–80
5  Later Career, 1781–1803
6  Getting the Commission
7  His Landscape Designs
8  Working Methods
9  Arboricultural Activities
10  Thomas White in Scotland by Christopher Dingwall
11  White’s Sites in England



New Book | Humphry Repton: Designing the Landscape Garden

Posted in books by Editor on March 8, 2023

From Rizzoli:

John Phibbs, with photographs by Joe Cornish, Humphry Repton: Designing the Landscape Garden (New York: Rizzoli, 2021), 288 pages, ISBN: ‎ 978-0847863549, $75.

book coverWidely acknowledged as the last great landscape designer of the eighteenth century, Humphry Repton created work that survives as a bridge between the picturesque theory of Capability Brown and the pastoral philosophy of Frederick Law Olmsted. By turns inspired by and in opposition to the grandeur of Brown’s estates, Repton’s contribution to the British landscape encompassed a tremendous range, from subtle adjustments that emphasized the natural features of the countryside to deliberate interventions that challenged the notion of the picturesque. This remarkable book explores 15 of Repton’s most celebrated landscapes—from the early maturity of his gardens at Courteenhall and Mulgrave Castle to more adventurous landscapes at Stanage, Brightling, and Endsleigh that would point the way toward how we envision parkland today. With photography by Joe Cornish commissioned specially for the book, and including reproductions of key illustrations and plans for garden design from the famous red books that shed light on Repton’s vision and process, this book illuminates some of Britain’s most beautiful gardens and parks—and the masterful mind behind their creation.

John Phibbs is a renowned garden historian with more than 30 years’ experience in the management and restoration of historic landscapes. He is the author of Capability Brown: Designing the English Landscape. Joe Cornish is an award-winning landscape photographer and an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, with a studio and gallery in Yorkshire.

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