The 'Pond Garden' at Hampton Court Palace: 'One of the Best-Known Examples of a Sunk Garden'

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    The 'Pond Garden' at Hampton Court Palace: 'One of the Best-Known Examples of a SunkGarden'Author(s): David JacquesSource: Garden History, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Summer, 2005), pp. 87-105Published by: The Garden History SocietyStable URL: .Accessed: 02/08/2013 11:43

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    The sunk garden, a favourite motif of the Arts & Crafts garden architect, became popular in Edwardian times. One of the chief examples was the Tond Garden9, otherwise known as the 'Dutch Garden', at Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex. Originally an ornamental

    pond constructed for Henry VIII in the IS30s, and then an orangery quarter for William III in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, this area delighted the historicists as a specimen of genuinely ancient gardening. At the same time, as a flower garden, it delighted the gardener and garden author. When restoration was mooted, rival

    conceptions of the garden's value and future gave rise to well-aired disputes. Meanwhile, the garden featured regularly in books on garden design and inspired a number of close imitations.

    The sunk garden became a favourite motif of the Arts & Crafts garden architect, with its low terracing surrounding canals, pools, rose gardens and, later on, swimming pools.

    Robert Weir Schultz's sunk garden (1901) at The Barn, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, Harold Peto's water garden (1902) at Easton Lodge, Essex, and Edwin Lutyens's 'sunken pool' gardens at Marsh Court, Hampshire, were very nearly contemporary. C. E.

    Mallows's north garden (1910) at Canons Park, Middlesex, and Lutyens's sunken pool garden (?.1912) at Folly Farm, Surrey, are also well-known examples from slightly later. By the 1930s, books on garden design were illustrating numerous further examples.

    It has been suggested that the Marsh Court sunken pool was prompted by Gertrude Jekyll's Wall and Water Gardens (London, 1901J.1 This described and illustrated a sunken 'Lily Tank in a Formal Garden' inspired by her memories of Italy. She built a little one for

    herself at Munstead Wood, Surrey. There were historic examples too. In William Ill's time in the late seventeenth century, English parterres had often been surrounded by terraces

    on three sides, and some examples remained, such as at Ven House, near Milborne Port, Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, and Holme Lacy, Herefordshire.2 Historic sunk gardens with terraces on all four sides were rarely found; but there were three examples together in the 'Pond Yard' at Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex, which were survivals of ancient gardening from the times of Henry VIII and William III.3 It is with this garden area, and in particular the central one, that this paper is primarily concerned. The three 'ponds' were promoted by Hampton Court's historian, Ernest Law, from the 1890s; and

    his revelations inspired garden designers and writers to an historicist appreciation of the Pond Yard, and also architects to a purer vision of a return to previous historical forms. Architectural Association, 34-36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES, UK

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  • 88 GARDEN HISTORY 33 : 1

    The present state of the central 'pond' derives largely from Law's time, when its three

    levels, formerly colonized by grass, were turned into a flower garden by being given paths and beds, and, later, crazy paving, topiary and statuary. Various minor changes have taken place since, including the blaze of summer colour that draws gasps from visitors, and this area is without question one of the most photographed at Hampton Court.

    A note on the complex history of the nomenclature of the 'ponds' in the Pond Yard is warranted (Figure 1). They were named in Queen Anne's time in the early eighteenth century as the 'Auricula Quarter' (on the west), the Orange Quarter and the 'Flower Garden' (on the east). The central 'pond' acquired the epithet 'Pond Garden' from the late nineteenth century via Law, though the Office of Works preferred the term 'Dutch

    Garden'. At the same time, the western 'pond' became referred to as the 'Tudor Garden'.

    Confusingly, postcards of the Pond Garden sometimes also referred to that area as the 'Tudor Garden'. Today, the use of 'Pond Garden' for the central 'pond' and 'Tudor

    Garden' for the western helps to check confusion.


    The origins of the 'ponds' at Hampton Court lie in the construction of the Pond Yard at the behest of Henry VIII within his Great Wall parallel to the River Thames. Massive

    Figure 1. Changes in nomenclature in the 'sunk

    gardens' at Hampton Court Palace. The names of areas in the eighteenth-century

    Greenhouse Garden are

    given (along with the names of the same areas in the

    twentieth-century Pond

    Yard): 1, greenhouse (Lower Orangery); 2, Greenhouse Quarter (orangery garden); 3, glass case (vinehouse); 4, Auricula Quarter (Tudor Garden); 5, Orange Quarter

    (Pond, or Dutch, Garden); 6, Flower garden (orchard); 7, Privy Garden; 8, Great

    Wall along the River Thames; 9, Banqueting House.

    Drawing: author

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    brick walls were erected in 1534 from the palace to the Towing Place (now the Barge Walk) by the river.4 This left a triangular space between the Base Court of the palace, the west wall of the Privy Garden and the Towing Place; and Henry started to enclose the area and form ponds there. The idea for the ponds, and thus the Pond Yard, appears to derive from stew ponds where fish would be kept awaiting the cook's attention. Whether those at Hampton Court were ever fully functional in this way, or simply ornamental versions of features found at many manor houses across England, is unclear. Work on 'dyggyng the fondacyons of the ponds' was taking place between March and July of 1535.5 It seems that, at first, the ponds were banked around; and in January and February 1536, the banks were planted with 'queke setts of wood bynd thorne and hasyll'. The inclusion of

    woodbine (honeysuckle) is interesting, as it implies that this hedge was ornamental with the woodbine adding scent and colour.

    The supply and retention of water were being worked on from April. Installation of pumps and lead pipes was commenced that month to fill the ponds from the river.6 The natural ground is extremely pervious sandy gravel and, so, in May the bottoms of the ponds were clayed. There were also sluices made of elmwood to enable the ponds to be drained.7 Various trials were made of filling and emptying the ponds from May to

    July. The arrangements seem to have worked, because in July a lead pipe was laid from the

    'fountayne in the inner courtt to the pondds' to supplement the pumps; in September the construction of a well was being undertaken; and in December two further pumps

    were supplied to draw water from it.8 These measures seem to have been adequate; and in 1537 the ponds were being embellished by 'stoon beests that standyth a bought the

    ponds' on vanes. At the same time 'irne raks' were supplied 'to levell the ailes a bought the ponds'. For some reason it must have been decided to abandon the hedges around the ponds in favour of low walls, for in April 1538, a 'brykk wall a bought the pondds' was

    underway.9 It was coped with carved Reigate stone. Meanwhile, work continued on the King's Beasts. A William Russell was paid for 'prymyng vi stoon bests standing a bowght the ponds'.10 In May there was a payment for 'pynnys of irne servyng for stayes to the basys of freestone baryng the beests in the ponde garden'.11

    Antonius van den Wyngaerde, a Netherlandish artist in the service of Philip IV of Spain, depicted Hampton Court from the south in Queen Mary Fs reign (Figure 2). He showed three rectangular spaces within the Pond Yard enclosed by low walls, adjacent to which were columns, speculatively those topped by some of the King's Beasts.12 The south facade of the Base Court lay behind, to the north. The arrangement of the Pond

    Yard during Mary IFs time in the early 1690s is shown on a map by John Taiman (Figure 3).13 The Pond Yard appears to have retained the three 'ponds' with a rectangular 'canal' constructed down the centre of the central

    'pond'; this would have been both ornamental and useful for watering. Around all three 'ponds' were alleys. Various other areas, mostly triangular, existed as left-over spaces between the alleys and the bank under the Great

    Wall. The most evident new work was the construction of three 'glass cases' to be seen

    by the south range of the Base Court. These were for housing exotic plants and required Dutch specialists to be brought over for their construction. The Taiman map also shows a rectangular area in front of the glass cases. This was enclosed with a low wall.

    The principal changes under William III ruling alone (1694-1702), after Mary II had died, included the replacement of the range of three glass cases by the present greenhouse (now referred to as the 'Lower Orangery') in 1701. William must have decided to house the citrus plants and exotics in a more conventional structure, even at the risk of losing

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  • 90 GARDEN HISTORY 33 : 1

    Figure 2. Antonius van den Wyngaerde, a drawing of Hampton Court Palace from the south

    (c.1555) (detail). Courtesy: Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, L.IV, p. 9b

    Figure 3. William Taiman, map of

    Hampton Court Palace and its adjacent parks (c.1698) (detail). Courtesy: RIBA Drawings Collection, London, B4/1

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    a few of the latter. Preparations to form an enlarged 'Greenhouse Quarter' in front of the greenhouse for plant display started with cutting a section off the north of the

    Orange Quarter, new low walls and a new paved alley aligned with the gate into the Privy Garden.14 Labourers were

    'raising and levelling the ground before the new green house', probably filling in the severed end of the Orange Quarter. During the eighteenth century the Pond Yard was generally referred to as the 'Greenhouse Garden'.

    Detailed representations of the Pond Yard commence with three bird's-eye views of Hampton Court, being, or deriving from, drawings by Leonard Knyff, which he

    mentioned in a letter of 1702. A drawing from the south survives (Figure 4);15 a view from the west was engraved by Johannes Kip;16 and a third, a view from the east, was turned into an oil painting and later engraved.17 These items show the situation after the

    completion of works by William III between 1699 and 1702, and during the reign of

    Queen Anne. They indicate what the Taiman map could not ? that each 'pond' was on two levels ? the lower was perhaps formerly the flooded area

    ? and were encircled with

    their low walls of about 3 feet height. The former ponds had been converted by Queen Mary to the cultivation and display of rare plants in the open; and the uses are more

    precisely suggested by the names they were given.18 These were indicated on an annotated

    plan of sometime 1710-14. The westernmost was shown as the 'Auricula Quarter', the middle one as the

    'Orange Quarter' and the eastern one as the 'Flower Garden'. Its companion copy showed the detailed design of selected areas (Figure 5).19

    The term 'Auricula Quarter' suggested the cultivation of the highly specialist and prized 'florist' flowers, of which there were six: auriculas were one, and tulips, Anemone

    Figure 4. Leonard Knyff, a drawing of Hampton Court Palace from the South (c.1702) (detail); British Museum, London, 1961-4-8-1

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  • 92 GARDEN HISTORY 33 : 1

    Figure 5. Plan of Hampton Court Palace (c.1710-14) (detail). Courtesy: Sir John

    Soane's Museum, London, Folio II, No. 40

    and Ranunculus were some of the others. The Taiman map showed a basin for a fountain, as do the Knyff views. This was revealed in 1951 when the area was stripped to remake the 'Tudor Garden' (see below).20 It was 9 feet in diameter and a l^-foot drain ran towards the great sewer along the south front of the palace. The planting design showed on the Knyff views was of this Auricula Quarter being filled by curvilinear beds, centred around the fountain. This garden may have been a flower garden in the French manner, similar to the King's and Queen's gardens either side of the palace at Het Loo, or to that at Chatsworth, Derbyshire. Alternatively, the views may have indicated broderie installed between 1699 and 1702, but this is made less likely by the absence of mention in the accounts.

    The Orange Quarter was an 'orangery' ?

    a term that usually referred to the garden rather than to the building. The Knyff and Kip view shows that it had been arranged as three gravelled 'steps' descending to a pond, with the benefit that the fragrance of the flowers would be concentrated in one place. Apart from being a rectangular adaptation of an earlier garden, this made the Hampton Court orangery similar to Dutch examples at the time, which were often circular. Mary and her gardeners would have been familiar

    with several, including, possibly, those at Zorgvliet, Heemstede and Zeist.21 The collection of oranges, lemons and citrons, plus perhaps other exotic greens (i.e. evergreens) at

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    Hampton Court, was evidently large as ninety-five tubs of various sizes were delivered there in 1700.22 Knyff shows how it was arranged on the steps. As frosts approached, the collection would have been moved inside and over-wintered in a

    'greenhouse'. The



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