Ten Gothic Gardens

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Radway
We have to begin the story somewhere, and Radway seems to make sense as the starting-point. Sanderson Miller was born here at Radway Grange in 1716, son of a businessman from Banbury who'd prospered enough to buy this pleasant little estate and to provide his son with sufficient funds to spend the rest of his life enjoying himself as a jobbing gentleman-architect. Sanderson became a prodigious folly-builder and -designer for Britain's gentry and aristocracy, knocking up very pleasing ruins and towers across the country.

But Radway had history, real history. There were Gothic follies before Miller's; Alexander Pope's grotto-castle at Twickenham dated to 1718. But at Radway, for the first time, there was the crucial element of the true Gothic Garden, an interaction between imagination and landscape. For the slopes above the Grange looked out across a grand prospect of Midland countryside including the site of the Battle of Edgehill. What a set of associations, what a spur to reflection and contemplation about matters ranging from the transience of human ambition to the liberties of the trueborn Englishman.
First, Miller set about Gothicising the Grange itself, adding pinnacles and spiky bits, and perhaps a grotto of his own which remains in the grounds - private and currently inaccessible. A Picturesque cottage appeared on the hilltop, and other buildings around Radway village have Gothick touches too - not least a cottage which  goes by the name of the Hermitage.

Radway Grange
Radway Castle InnThen, to crown Edgehill, Miller built the first sham castle, now the Castle Inn. As well as the real battle down in the plain, Radway now possessed a symbol of imaginary bloodshed, dominating and binding together the landscape as a composition. Here you can see the first sparks of the Gothic imagination's creative engagement with the melancholy potential of the British countryside, rather than just dumping a folly here and there bearing no relation to the topography around it. Yes, it is
only a beginning, but a beginning it is, and in the form of the Castle itself, a very handsome one.
Radway landscape
Radway looking to Edgehill
There are two other elements that complete the ensemble at Radway, both lying within the lozenge of land which is the Grange estate and defined by the footpaths that run around it. The obelisk on the hillside is nothing to do with the imagination of Sanderson Miller, and commemorates the Battle of Waterloo. The stone staircase up the hill, though, known as Jacob's Ladder - a common name for this type of feature in 18th-century gardens - is of unknown origin. Strange.
Radway obelisk
Radway Jacob's Ladder

 
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