Discussing this Elizabethan portrait in a lecture recently I found myself describing the image in the background sometimes as a maze and sometimes a labyrinth and wondering if there is any difference between them?
In any case what on earth is the maze/labyrinth doing in the background of an Elizabethan aristocrat anyway?
Which one is shown in the portrait and why is it there?
I gave a lecture for the Gardens Trust recently about Friar Park, the extraordinary house and garden of Sir Frank Crisp. An eagle-eyed friend of mine got in touch afterwards to ask about one of the images I’d used – the one below with a detail enlarged on the right. Was it, he asked, a blackamoor statue? Indeed it is but although I’ve looked at the maps and images of Friar Park over and over again in the last few years I hadn’t really taken much notice. It was just another sundial in the Dial Garden. Just shows how easy to overlook things or not to see them. That’s the point of this post.
I’m also going to do something I’ve never done before in the seven years I’ve been writing this blog, but you’ll have to read on to find out what that is!
I was told off last week for writing a “teaser” post by mentioning Alice but not including much about her and nothing about Wonderland but today’s I hope will make up for that.
There are two gardens at Christ Church which have Alice connections. The first is the Cathedral Garden which was originally part of the precinct of St Frideswide’s, the priory shut down by Cardinal Wolsey when he founded his college.
The other is the adjacent Deanery Garden, which was then and remains now the private garden of the Dean, who runs not only the cathedral but is also the head of Christ Church itself.
What were these gardens like? Is either of them Wonderland? Continue reading
I started this post a while back following a a visit to Christ Church for the Gardens Trust conference in Oxford in September 2019. The visit had special significance for the Gardens Trust because Christ Church was once home to Mavis Batey the driving force behind the foundation of the Garden History Society – now part of the Gardens Trust -way back in 1966. Her husband Keith was the Treasurer of Christ Church and she obviously fell in love with the city and Christ Church in particular.
Amongst her many other achievements, including being one of the leading codebreakers at Bletchley Park, she also wrote about the most well-known literary figure associated with the college and the city: Alice Liddell, who was the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass.
I got so far with my research and then it slipped down the agenda until recently when I saw that the V&A were planning an exhibition about Alice which was supposed to open next week but luckily is scheduled to run until Christmas. So that was a good excuse to go back and look again at the world of Alice in Gardenland….
The report of the deliberate killing of a swan in my local park got me thinking, not just about the brainless slaughter of an innocent creature presumably for “fun” but about why it was there in the first place.
Swans have a very special place in history and there are all sorts of myths and stories about them – from the story of Leda and the Swan to Lohengrin and the mystery of the Swan Song, so I decided to do a bit of research about their place in our historic gardens and parks…and unfortunately kitchens as well. [But of course you can skip that bit!]
And what’s it all got to do with these strange late 16thc drawings?