|In the past, I thought Richard Davenport-Hines, in his magnificent book Gothic: 400 Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin went a bit over the top discussing 18th-century
follies and romantic landscape gardening. A decade later, and I'm
inclined to think he got it absolutely right, but didn't mention the
The Gothic imagination has been powerfully skewed
by the visual in a way that few Gothic scholars really want to engage
with, even now, preferring to stay within the covers of
books. That influence began with the gloomy ruin-haunted landscape art
of painters such as Poussin and Salvator Rosa, but it carried on
through the various madmen who constructed the Gothic
gardens of England and Wales, and who attempted to use the materials
they found around them to replicate the exciting, dramatic
backdrops of their travels, or just their imagination. And a lot of
these gardens are almost forgotten - I had certainly not heard of any
of them until I began looking into it, and Davenport-Hines mentions not a one.
Gothic Garden is not just a landscape with follies scattered around it,
even Gothic ones. It requires on the part of its creators a creative
engagement with the possibilities of the local topography
to draw out its melancholy implications. That said, you will find that
each of the places listed below has its own character and sometimes
that rule is a bit stretched. Radway, the earliest landscape here (it
isn't really a 'garden' at all), represents the first glimmerings of an
awareness of melancholy
and drama which within twenty
years will come to full fruition at Hackfall. Belsay doesn't have a
single folly, and is in fact an accidental landscape; while Tong - not
a 'garden' and so appended to the list - is nothing but follies, and only really qualifies because it represents a mad melancholy too extreme to be missed out.
of course many of the gentlemen (and gentlemen they all were, Gothic
Gardening seems to have been a malady the ladies have escaped) who
generated these weird landscapes were utterly, splendidly nuts. Bishop Law at Banwell appears actually to have been driven mad by the landscape he created.
follow us to the caverns and the damp woods, the haunted follies and
remnants of incurable melancholy, romantic fever, and ruinous
overspending. To the Gothic Gardens.
|And in addition there is ...|