Burghley House

The park at Burghley House is one of the typical great multi-layered designed landscapes. On an aerial photograph a High Baroque Style and a Serpentine Style could be identified. A layout of the park from the 16th and early 17th century is not known. Could there have been an avenue from the north to the south? The High Baroque Style was introduced at Burghley Park in 1683 by George London (c1640-1714) with further additions in 1700 and 1702. With his design he placed the house in the central position and developed avenues for vistas, view relationships and formal gardens with symmetrical parterres, basins and a canal. The map from 1755 shows this design and woodland plantations, maybe from the time between these dates and the Forest Style influences. It also mirrors the state of the park before Lancelot Brown (1716-1783) began his work. He worked a long time on this place. The website parksandgarden.ac.uk states: “The park today is the largest surviving example of Lancelot ‘Capability‘ Brown’s work in the country. The serpentine lake with a waterfall descending into a dell, the balustrade bridge with Coadestone lions, banqueting house, model farm and gamekeeper’s cottage, carriage drive and park layout into Upper, Middle and Lower park are all by Brown”. The key features of the Serpentine Style are thus all included. To what extent Brown’s design integrated or fell all avenues is not exactly clear. In fact there were also changes made between 1804 and 1867, in the Historism period, with plantations of avenues. The map from 1870 shows especially the north avenue in clear lines. In 1898, in the typical way of the late Victorian period, formal gardens and reconstructed of these are recorded around the house, also a rosary. From the 1890s to 1901 the Burghley Park Golf Club, which has now approximately 700 members, was developed. It is part of a typical early 20th century feature of more as one designed landscapes. In order to add more visitor attractions a Sculpture Garden and a Garden of Surprise were opened in 2007 that mirror developments of the late 20th century. To summarize these developments one can state that two main changes were introduced regarding the whole landscape. However, a sum of further alterations in the gardens and landscapes presents a mixture of functions and designs. A holistic idea behind it can not be discovered.

Current condition and management

Despite these developments of the last 250 years the place is still in private ownership. It has an ambitious and highly motivated team responsible for the visitor management, gardens and the landscape. It could possibly be work for a landscape architect to match some of the pattern together in order to better the understanding of this site. Another attraction such as a carriage ride could be an opportunity for visitors to comprehend the whole designed landscape and see the old Roman road. The landscape team is responsible for the management of the landscape works on the preservation of the avenues, veteran trees and Brown’s design ideas. New tree plantations were started in 2003 and will continue until 2020. The North Avenue with lime trees (descendents of the original lime from this site) is an example for this. The park as a part of an estate with extensive agriculture and farms has to be efficiently managed. Unfortunately the Queen Anne Avenue is suffering from this to some extent, the trees need pruning in order to make the trunks visible again. Six gardeners work in the gardens with 23 hectares (3.8 hectare per gardener). The tree management and the cut of the yew hedges are outsourced. The management includes six hectares short cutting of lawn once a week and two hectares of meadow. The Head Gardener does nearly 15 guided tours a year himself, and he uses the existing Management Plan as a guide for his own work. The formal gardens in the back of the house are private. In the East-West line of the house, the area up to the north is for public use, and is also used as a public park for the town.

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