Ten Gothic Gardens
Gothic frontpageIn 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 right places.

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.

A 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.

And 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.

So 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.

Banwell Bone Caves
Belsay Castle Quarry Garden
Bindon Abbey
Busbridge Lakes
Downton Walks
Hafod Landscape
Hawkstone Park
Piercefield Park
Radway Grange
Gothic Garden - Yester, Lothian

And in addition there is ...Tong Follies
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