Friday, 1 May 2009

Elizabethan Garden Flowers Again

by Kathryn Hadley

A reconstruction of the pleasure garden created by Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, to impress Queen Elizabeth I will open to the public at Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, tomorrow, on Saturday May 2nd. The garden includes an aviary with pheasants and canaries, carved arbours and obelisks, wild strawberries, perfumed plants and pear trees. The centrepiece of the garden is a carved marble fountain which stands over 18ft (5m) high.

The reconstructed garden was inspired from a detailed 16th-century description of the garden by Robert Langham, an official in Leicester’s household. Although the garden was designed as a ‘privy’, a private garden, closed to all but the queen’s closest companions, one day the gardener allegedly allowed Langham to enter the garden. He subsequently described what he saw in a letter chronicling the 1575 Kenilworth festivities, providing one of the longest and most detailed eyewitness accounts of an Elizabethan garden.

In Langham’s words, the garden was an ‘entire delight unto all senses’ and he went on to describe these sensations:
‘the pleasant whisking wind above, or delectable coolness of the fountain-spring beneath, to taste of delicious strawberries, cherries, and other fruits… to smell such fragrancy of sweet odours, breathing from the plants, herbs, and flowers, to hear such natural melodious music and tunes of birds…’.

In 2004 and 2006, archaeological excavations also uncovered the foundation and white marble fragments of the original fountain, confirming Langham’s description and enabling the garden’s lay-out to be accurately mapped.

Kenilworth Castle

Telephone: 01926 852078

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