Medieval gardens

The 'Hortus Conclusus' of the middles ages was a secluded garden enclosed within wattle fences and filled with scented flowers, herbs and flowery meads. Such gardens were small and private with shaded walks, pools and fountains.

The deer park was another feature of the medieval landscape, where large areas of woodland and pasture were enclosed and stocked with deer for hunting. The remnants of these parks can be seen in the ditches and banks which formed the park pale, or enclosure, formerly topped by a fence.

Until the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1541, monastic gardens were cultivated to provide food for the community and often included an orchard, dovecot and fishpond. Medicinal plants and herbs were grown in "order" beds in the physic garden.

It is rare for a garden to survive from this period, but Alfriston Clergy House has a garden laid out in the 1920s to evoke the style of a medieval garden. This charming fourteenth century Wealden 'hall house' is set within a herb garden, potager and orchard, imbued with the scent of old-fashioned roses.

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 Alfriston Clegy House and Garden (© National Trust Images/Andrew Butler)


Tudor gardens

The gardens of the Tudor period were formal in design, often laid out to harmonise with the architecture of the house. An appreciation of the gardens of the Italian Renaissance can be seen in loggias and fountains and in the popularity of automata and automated water features.

A mount, ascended by a spiral path, was created to provide views over the garden and the surrounding landscape, where a deer park, created by licence from the king, was considered a symbol of wealth and status. At Herstmonceux Castle, the early fifteenth century moated manor house was originally surrounded by an enclosed deer park. Little of this park remains today, but visitors can still see the walled garden which was laid out soon after the castle was built.

Many Tudor gardens included a knot garden, where interlacing geometric patterns were created within a square frame and filled with herbs, aromatic plants and flowers.

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 Herstmonceux Castle and gardens ©