detail from A Prospect of Carmarthen
For about three decades in the mid-18thc two brothers from Yorkshire, Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, toured Britain every summer. They sketched towns, landscapes, estates and antiquities, and every winter they turned their sketches into engravings for publication.
Their work is an important source of evidence of what there was, and what has gone – including gardens – but it is also an important factor in understanding the development of the whole idea of what it meant to be British in the 18thc.
You probably recognize the title of this post and know where it comes from. If you do you probably recognize the man in the boater too. But anyone who knows me will be amazed that I’ve used it because I have very little knowledge and even less interest in “modern popular music” and never have had. So why have I been reading the lyrics of a couple of Beatles songs as well as the biography of one of the Fab Four? And why am I writing about it on a blog about garden history?
The clue is in the last 2 posts which have looked at the extraordinary garden at Friar Park in Oxfordshire created by Sir Frank Crisp between 1889 and his death thirty years later. Today I want to conclude the story with the story of what happened to the estate after his death in 1919, before finishing up [for a change] with some good news. Because Friar Park and its amazing alpine garden was saved by the man in the boater. It became “Crackerbox Palace” and then paid its benefactor back by showing him how wonderful gardening is and making it his overwhelming passion. Continue reading
The front page of Alan Tabor’s fold-up map/guide to the garden c.1914
Last week’s post gave an introduction to Friar Park at Henley, the madcap garden project of Sir Frank Crisp. Crisp was not only rich he was also imaginative and ambitious – a good combination for someone never satisfied with what he had achieved in his garden. As Gardeners Chronicle said in 1899 “small wonder… Mr Crisp.. is ever making such alterations and additions as shall render it ever more interesting and beautiful.”
The whole site was eclectic, drawing on his interest in medieval and Tudor history, but also his openness to new ideas and directions such as the fashion for the Japanese. But it’s his Alpine garden which really bought the garden to public attention. It might make you want to giggle as much as admire but there’s no doubt that Frank Crisp had panache and a pronounced sense of humour… as well as a collection of gnomes.
Sir Frank Crisp frontispiece of The Garden, vol 80, 1916
Way back in March 2017 I wrote about gnome-loving eccentric, Sir Charles Isham, and at the time thought there couldn’t be anyone else quite as besotted with the little men in red hats. But I was wrong! Don’t be fooled by this serious photo into thinking Sir Frank Crisp, a wealthy London lawyer, was another dull and boring worthy. He was actually a wealthy London lawyer with a difference, because he was also a jovial prankster, who built a Gothic revival palace near Henley and then added a vast alpine/mountain garden to complement it, despite the fact that there aren’t any mountains near Henley. To make matters more interesting he then decided to people it.
So today’s and next week’s posts are going to be about this philanthropic eccentric who died 100 years ago on April 29th 1919,and his garden
detail of Passiflora serrafolia
Last week’s post was about the first box I opened from my trolley in the rare Books room of the British Library a couple of weeks back: Mary Lawrence’s Book of Roses. Today’s post is about the second box, which turned out to be a very appropriate choice for Easter week.
Inside the archival box was a slim folio-sized volume with George III’s crest embossed in gold on the green leather cover. Turning the first leaves there was the library stamp of Sir Joseph Banks….
…and facing it a hand-coloured engraving of Passiflora serrafolia or the Notched-leaved Passion flower. Even a cursory glance through A Collection of Passion Flowers made me want to know more.
[All the images are from the BL copy unless otherwise stated]
detail from Passiflora caerulea, the common Passion Flower
Lots of plants have Christian symbolism, even if they’re not mentioned in the Bible, and one of the enduring talents of missionaries, whether they were with a conquering army or on a proselytising campaign, was to adapt whatever they found, wherever they were, to illustrate their stories and to provide evidence for their arguments.
The passion flower is probably the best example of that. As the Spanish subjugated central and south America, thanks to its extraordinary structure, it quickly became the symbol of Christ’s suffering and crucifixion all round the world.