English Tudor Gardens

The Tudor garden was a homely enclosure, like the living room in a simple house containing few, but good-sized, apartments. Sometimes one large enclosure answered many purposes. First of all, it contained the medicinal herbs. Then it answered the purpose of the pleasure garden, providing alleys and arbors for people to walk on and sit under, besides ground for games. Finally, it supplied a mixture of vegetables and flowers for use and ornament. The orchard, if not actually a part of the garden, was placed near it and similarly ornamented.

A number of sun-dials were also scattered about, both for use and ornament. Henry VIII apparently ordered them by the dozen. Sun-dials had existed in England before the Roman invasion, but interest in them seems to have been especially keen during the sixteenth century. The first book in English devoted to dialing was published in 1533, and was largely a translation from Witkendus. At this period the actual dial was more fanciful than at a later date and often formed an armillary sphere.

A water supply was considered a very important adjunct to the garden. A central feature was often a well or fountain fed by a spring, or a cistern. Cisterns were made of lead and decorated in such a way as to make them very ornamental.

Various games were played in the garden or its vicinity. Bowling-alleys and greens for archery were common. All that was required was a stretch of good, firm turf or gravel. Tennis was another favorite game. Henry VIII was passionately fond of tennis. Sometimes he used to play in the walled court for “close tennis play ” at Hampton Court, which is the oldest one in England, and has since served as a model for many others.

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