The Gardens At Hampton Court

There was no abrupt transition from the style of the Middle Ages to that of the Renaissance in English gardens. Many Gothic features were long retained, of which remnants are still in evidence: the carved stonework, the conduits, the walks, and arbors. Trelliswork, as used to surround the beds, remained in fashion with slight variations throughout the reigns of the Tudors. Among the royal gardens of this time were those already existing and kept up at the Tower of London, Baynardes Castle, Wanstead, and Westminster, those renovated at York Place and Whitehall, and a new one at Nonesuch.

But the finest of the Tudor gardens were at Hampton Court, where Cardinal Wolsey’s work was almost entirely swept away to make room for the improvements designed by Henry VIII. These changes covered part of the space between the palace and the river, and the only portion now remaining is the small enclosure known as the Pond Garden. Of oblong shape, surrounded by an outer wall of brick, the ground is laid out on three different levels, with low retaining walls and copings of stone; in this stone one can see the holes whereby were fastened the thirty or more heraldic beasts which formerly served to strengthen the wooden railings striped with white and green, the royal colors. Above one corner of the wall appears a battlemented banqueting house built by Henry VII. In the center of the enclosure is a round fountain, on a line with the entrance at one end and a vine-covered arbor opposite. From the royal accounts we know that among the flowers originally ordered for the garden in Henry VIII’s time were “violettes and Primroses, Gilliver-slips, mints, and other sweet flowers. Sweet Williams by the bushel” It was weeded and watered by women for two cents a day. In this garden young Henry VIII carried on his first flirtations with Anne Boleyn, and here, when overtaken by infirmities, he used to hobble about in his premature old age.

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