Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Flight of the Ostriches!

by Kathryn Hadley

Two 285-year-old life size sculptures of ostriches have been taken for restoration from Myddelton House in the Lee Valley Regional Park as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project. The ostriches were originally commissioned by Captain Gough MP and director of the East India Company for his home at Gough Park, Enfield in 1724. They arrived at Myddelton House in 1899 after the Bowles family bought Gough Park. They have been displayed in many locations during their time at Myddelton House and Brigadier Andrew Parker-Bowles has recalled fond memories of playing with them in the garden of his great uncle. In the 1960s, however, they were pushed into a river by vandals and suffered considerable damage when they were subsequently retrieved. The Victorian Kitchen Gardens created by E. A. Bowles are also being restored as part of the project and a visitor centre is being created in the stable block, where the ostriches and other artefacts will be displayed upon their return.

In the words of Paul Roper, the Special Projects Officer for the Lee Valley Regional Park, who is overseeing the two year project:

‘you have to see these fantastic statues to believe them, they have tremendous
character and are a much loved part of Myddelton House and we are all looking
forward to their return’.

Myddelton House was home to one of the twentieth century’s greatest gardeners, E. A. Bowles, who devoted much of his life to the creation of the garden. Bowles was born at Myddelton House in 1865. He studied for the priesthood at Cambridge, where he joined the Cambridge Entomological Society. Following the death of his sister and brother of consumption in 1887, however, he returned to his parents at Myddelton House and abandoned professional priesthood. He devoted himself to charitable work, helping the local church and to the creation of a garden at Myddelton House. In 1897, he joined the Royal Horticultural Society, of which he was vice-president from 1926 to 1954, and in 1916 he was awarded the highest honour the RHS can bestow, the Victoria Medal of Honour. Bowles published numerous articles and papers about various plants as well as three books about his garden. He died in 1954, just week before his eighty-ninth birthday.

The E. A. Bowles of Myddelton House Society was founded to further interest in the life and work of E. A. Bowles and the conservation of his garden at Myddelton House. Further information about the society and Bowles himself is available on

For more information on Myddelton House Gardens, visit

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