|Rodmarton Manor was designed and built as a country retreat for the Biddulph family|
Many English gardens are classified as "Arts and Crafts" style, but in reality, they're either poor copies, or capitalising on the popular style to attract visitors. But Rodmarton Manor, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire is the genuine article. Both house and garden were conceived and built at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement, using traditional methods, locally sourced materials and with skilled craftsmen working on site. Today the house remains in the ownership of family that built it and the gardens are open to the public throughout the summer months for all to enjoy.
|View of the manor and the Winter Garden from the Leisure Garden|
The house was designed and built for Claud and Margaret Biddulph at the turn of the 20th century. They originally wanted a small country retreat and although work started in 1909, the outbreak of war meant that it was not finished until nearly 20 years later, and it grew into a substantial family home. The Biddulphs commissioned local architect Ernest Barnsley to design the house for them and he also planned the garden, although credit for the planting must go to William Scrubey, who was head gardener there at the time. Much of the planting there today survives from 100 years ago, especially the hedging and topiary, although the borders (see below) were replanted in the 1990s.
|Topiary and herbaceous borders seen from the summer house|
The Biddulphs were firm believers in supporting the local community and wanted to support and revive rural crafts. They stuck firmly to their principles throughout the construction of their home - the workforce was local; the stone was quarried nearby; and the timber was felled and seasoned on the estate. If you take a tour of the house, you will see many fine examples of local craftsmanship in the furniture, the staircases, the fire surrounds and the panelling. The result is remarkable and although they had never intended to build such a large home, it just evolved.
|The Jekyll-style herbaceous borders (looking towards the summer house) were replanted in the 1990s|
Both the manor and its eight-acre garden are fine examples of Arts and Crafts style at its best. You approach the property along a drive of immaculately-clipped hedges, and the garden is a series of outdoor rooms, each with its own particular character, but punctuated with a pergola, small sunken garden, clipped box topiary and brightly-coloured borders. but all in harmony with the house. This was the main ideal of the Arts and Crafts movement in gardening terms - to provide an extension of the house, rather than a separate entity, so the garden blends into the overall feel of the property. Nowhere else in England has it been as skilfully achieved as Rodmarton.
|The Trough Garden is filled with immaculately-clipped box topiary and stone animal troughs|
On arrival at the manor you walk into the gardens at the side of the house and stroll through the Leisure and Winter gardens, which lead onto the Trough Garden (above), so called because of all the animal feeding and drinking troughs. The formal topiary is the strongest feature of this part of the garden and much of the box here is part of the original planting. At the front of the house you have a terrace, the sunken garden and a typical Arts and Crafts style stone pergola (below), covered with a rampant Vitis cognetti. Each of these garden areas is very different in style, but they provide a cohesive whole and various elements including the stone walls which divide the different areas are found throughout the garden.
|Pergola covered with Vitis cognetti - just beginning to don its autumn colours|
Elsewhere you will find the cherry orchard, planted in the late 1950s, a rockery and croquet lawn, a wild garden leading onto open farmland and a magnificent kitchen garden, filled with vegetables, fruit and flowers for cutting. But perhaps the most charming place to sit and reflect is the summer house (below) with its views over the long borders. The Biddulph family still live at Rodmarton Manor three generations after the house was built and are committed to keeping both house and garden alive. This garden is definitely worth making a special trip to see, as is the house.
|Rodmarton's charming summer house looks out over the Jekyll-style borders|
Rodmarton Manor gardens are undoubtedly the jewel in the Arts and Crafts crown and if you want to see the style for yourself head to Gloucestershire on a Wednesday or Saturday from the beginning of May to the end of September - the gardens are open from 14.00-17.00 and entry is just £5.00 for the gardens (£8.00 to include the house). Also open for snowdrops in the winter and on Bank Holiday Mondays throughout the season. Check website for details. Other gardens worth visiting nearby include Misarden Park and Painswick Rococo.
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