Westbury Court Garden
It was laid out in 1696–1705, a rare survival not to have been replaced in the 18th century by a naturalistic garden landscape as popularised by Capability Brown. It is situated facing the high street of the rural village, extending on low-lying water meadows adjacent to the River Severn; the flat watery ground makes the site well suited to a Dutch-style garden, of which Westbury is the outstanding survival in Britain.
The garden's centrepiece is a 137 metres (449 ft) long canal (illustration, right), centred on a two-storey Dutch style red-brick pavilion at one end and a large wrought iron gate in the wall at the far end, designed to extend the vista from the pavilion out into the surrounding countryside. The main canal is flanked by yew and holly topiary in pyramids and balls. A second red-brick building, a summer house built in 1702–04, overlooks a T-shaped canal running parallel to the main canal. Behind the summer house is a small walled garden of cottage plants and beyond the water garden is an orchard of fruit trees, which also contains an ancient evergreen oak planted in the 17th century, the largest ever recorded, it is also claimed to be the oldest in England.
In 1707, a birds-eye view of the Westbury Court and its garden was engraved by Johannes Kip for his Britannia Illustrata: Or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces, as Also of the Principal seats of the Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain, Curiously Engraven on 80 Copper Plates; it shows the main canal, topiary, parterres and the pavilion. The cross-axis canal was a later addition, which is not shown, it does appear in a later Kip engraving published in 1712 in Robert Atkyns' The Ancient and Present State of Gloucester.
The garden at Westbury was created by the owner of Westbury Court, Maynard Colchester I, between 1697, when the brook was first diverted, and 1705. Impetus may have been provided by the canal garden nearby at Flaxley Abbey, which was the seat of Colchester's close friend Catharina Boevey, the widow of William Boevey, member of a Dutch merchant family settled at London; Kip's engraving of Flaxley shows a long rectangular canal, of which only traces remain. Clipped accents to set off the pyramidal yews were provided by 'headed' Laurustinus, headed and pyramidal Phillyrea and "Mizerean trees" in sixes and pairs.
Colchester died in 1715, and the garden continued to be developed by his nephew and heir, Maynard Colchester II, who was probably responsible for the summerhouse and the small walled garden.
Maynard Colchester II also demolished the original late Elizabethan manor house of Westbury Court in the 1740s and built a Palladian mansion in its stead, to designs of a little-known mason of Bristol, Michael Sidnell. This was in turn replaced by a 19th-century country house, no longer standing.
By 1967, with the manor house gone and the garden derelict, the National Trust — who had never been responsible for a garden restoration before — accepted the care of Westbury Court Garden. Miles Hadfield, then president of the Garden History Society, was influential in persuading the Trust to do so. In 1971, work started on the restoration with aid of Colchester's meticulous accounts, Kip's engravings and the evidence on the ground. Authenticity was paramount: in the water garden only plants introduced before 1700 were used.
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- Irvine Gray, "The Making of Westbury Court Gardens" (Garden History Society Occasional Paper No. 1 (1969:15–18).
- Other contemporary gardens characterised as "Dutch" rather than "French" by John D. Hunt (The Anglo-Dutch Garden in the Age of William and Mary) were the topiary garden of Winchenden House, Buckinghamshire, and Hartwell (known only through engravings).
- Greeves, Linda (2006). History and Landscape. National Trust Books. p. 423. ISBN 978-1-905400-13-3.
- Christopher Hussey associated the Dutch style not so much with topiary as with canals, giving Westbury Court as the prime example, observes David Jacques, "Who Knows What a Dutch Garden Is?" Garden History 30.2, Dutch Influences (Winter 2002:114–130) p. 123. Similarly Miles Hadfield considered that "an essential of Dutch versions of the grand manner was that the ground be tolerably level, with an abundance of water" (Hadfield, Gardening in Britain 1960:154). Lster, Hadfield found "not the slightest hint" of a Dutch connection at Westbury Court (Hadfield, "William, Mary, and Westbury", Garden History 2 (1974:27–33).
- Strong, Roy; Oman, Julia Trevelyan (2000). Garden Party: collected Writings, 1979–1999. Frances Lincoln Publishers. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-7112-1458-3.
- Elliot, Charles (2004). The Transplanted Gardener. Frances Lincoln Publishers. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-7112-2380-6.
- "A handsome house and pleasant garden" according to Atkyns (quoted in Gray 1969:16).
- Gray 1969:16.
- Noted from the account book by Gray 1969. For Daphne mezereum compare the advice of Timothy Nourse (died 1699), printed in John Dixon Hunt and Peter Willis, The Genius of the Place: The English Landscape Garden 1620–1820 (1975) 1988:103: "Let there be planted likewise up and down some little Tufts or Matts of Peaks for these look prettily in the Winter, as also some Mizerean Trees and the like."
- Goulty, Sheena (1993). Heritage Gardens. Routledge. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-0-415-07474-2.
- The Elizabethan Westbury Court was built for the Baynham family (Gray 1969).
- Howard Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600–1840, 3rd ed. (Yale University Press) 1995, s.v. "Sidnell, Michael". Payments 1742–45 are recorded in the account book formerly in possession of a Colchester descendant, Sir Francis Colchester-Wemyss, now at the Gloucestershire Record Office.
- Thomas, Graham Stuart (2003). Recollections of Great Gardeners. Frances Lincoln Publishers. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7112-2288-5.
- Historic England, "Westbury Court (1000786)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 21 September 2016