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The Park, 2006

In 1983 Prof. Denis Bellamy of the University of Wales initiated a project with the Al Ghazi family (then the owners of Heveningham Hall), the National Trust, the Suffolk Schools Environmental Education Unit and the East Anglian Daily Times, to create an educational resource centred on a visitor exhibition that had been created by the National Trust for open days at Heveningham Hall. These pages are a development of the material used for this project to place the hall and its surroundings in the context of the European landscape movement.

The landscape of the Heveningham Hall estate is a good starting point for a study of the history of English gardens and the two windows, academic and socio-economic, through which research probes motivation of design.

The academic questions are many and complex:

  • What is involved in creating a garden?
  • How are gardens described and annotated?
  • What sorts of meanings can gardens possess?
  • What sorts of messages can they convey?
  • Can gardens express deep-felt feelings and emotions?
  • Can they have a moral force?
  • What artistic tasks can they perform?
  • What distinctive pleasures can they yield?
  • What patterns of influence link gardening and her sister arts?

John Sales has linked these questions with the shift in their social settings: -

“…we now realise that garden styles mirror the aesthetic, social, technological, economic and political attitudes of the time at least as accurately as any other art form. Even more importantly, gardens intimately reflect the personalities and ideals of individuals. The changing fortunes and ambitions of successive generations are there to see in gardens if you know how and where to look”.

The latter points were very much in the mind of Charles Quest-Rison when he wrote:

“Gardening is social history. It has little to do with history of art or the development of aesthetic theories- and nothing to do whatsoever with moral force, artistic tasks and the psychology of perception. It is all about social aspirations, lifestyles, money and class”.

Quest-Ritson was driven by the dearth of studies concerned with the social and financial reasons why gardens changed and evolved as they did, particularly from a cost-benefit point of view. His questions are: what did the owners seek from their gardens and what are gardens for?

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Thatched ice house

Exhibition

References

Dixon Hunt, J. (2003) The Picturesque Garden in Europe, Thames & Hudson
Quest-Ritson, C. (2001) The English Garden, Penguin Books
Sales, J. (1998) National Trust Magazine, Spring Edn., National Trust