Rural Rides (5)

claremont

 

Claremont  Landscape Garden

Claremont is to be found just outside of Esher in Surrey and is run by the National Trust. The house which is adjacent to the gardens is still occupied, as a school, and is not open to the public ordinarily.

The garden boasts a lake as its central feature which is dominated and overlooked by a man-made amphitheatre with a camellia terrace on top and is fringed by rhododendrons which were just coming into bloom and trees. There are pieces of statuary dotted around the grounds – a boar, peacock and bear – and a charming thatched cottage, the obligatory grotto and island pavilion.

The garden owes its development to the energy and enthusiasm (and money) of Thomas, the Duke of Newcastle (1693 – 1768) who bought the house from Sir John Vanburgh in 1714. Retaining the services of Vanburgh as architect the Duke rebuilt the house, trebling it in size, and landscaped and planted the gardens. Work started on the gardens in 1715 and by 1727 it was already being described as “the noblest of any in Europe”. The kitchen garden, a massive 6 acres, was used to produce “the most delicious fruits of every kind”. The Duke made continual improvements and employed many of the best designers of the time, including Charles Bridgeman and William Kent.

Robert Clive of India bought the house after the Duke’s death in 1769 and employed Capability Brown to pull down the house and build a new one. Clive died in 1774 without having spent a night in his new house. After a number of changes of ownership the house was granted to the newly wedded couple, Princess Charlotte of Wales and Prince Leopold, in 1816. The camellia house which stood where the terrace is now was one of the first greenhouses in the country. Charlotte loved the place but died tragically young at the age of 21 and her mausoleum is sited in the gardens.

Queen Victoria was granted the estate by Parliament for her lifetime but by 1922 most of it was sold for housing development. In 1949 the surviving 49 acres of garden were given to the National Trust.

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