The restoration, even at large price, of what English Heritage calls one among “the great lost gardens of London” sounds a worthwhile, even noble, challenge. But what if that “lost garden” is a fable, a pipe dream by no means actually constructed? English Heritage plans to rework the property of Marble Hill, a grand home by the Thames, by reintroducing elaborate gardens it says have been impressed by Alexander Pope, the satirist and poet, and 18th-century royal backyard designer Charles Bridgeman.
The unique designs featured a ninepin bowling alley, an ice-house seat and a flower backyard, surrounded by twisting paths and groves of bushes and English Heritage plans to recreate all this, alongside a “vibrant” cafe and youngsters’s play space.
Yet the Marble Hill Revived scheme is predicated on flimsy proof, say campaigners, who’ve carried out their very own detective work and suspect that historical past is being subverted to trendy ends. “How can English Heritage make the assumption that, because Bridgeman visited the park on a single occasion, he not only advocated the landscape scheme but also laid it out?”, stated park campaigner Janine Fotiadis-Negrepontis, who hopes to cease the radical redesign.
Her fellow Love Marble Hill campaigners imagine that the 2 well-known males had little to do with the gardens which have been really constructed – and now loved by hundreds of holiday makers annually – and that English Heritage has secured a grant of £4.1m of Heritage Lottery funding on the premise of disputed historic connections. They suspect the charity, which runs 400 historic websites throughout the nation, goals to create a viable occasions venue on the location, with a big cafe and manicured gardens, merely to make sure an revenue stream for the longer term.
“In order to unlock large amounts of funding, English Heritage has to show the important history of our park and how unique it is, and this is the reason why references are made to Pope and Bridgeman in the Lottery funding application,” stated Fotiadis-Negrepontis. “English Heritage itself has discredited Pope’s 1724 plan and there is no evidence the later plan was really laid out; archaeological works undertaken by Historic England found nothing to support that. It really is a case of the emperor’s new clothes.”
The campaigners have already had some success. An earlier English Heritage planning utility put earlier than Richmond Borough Council was withdrawn final yr when a petition in opposition attracted 4,000 signatures. The charity now seeks to submit revised plans this summer season.
Bridgeman was the main identify in landscaping within the 18th century and has been described as “the last great gardener to work thoroughly in the French tradition”. Pope, the creator of satirical essays and poetry comparable to The Rape of the Lock, additionally had a robust curiosity in backyard design and lived in a neighbouring villa.
Speaking this weekend, Anna Eavis, curatorial director of English Heritage, denied the premise of the marketing campaign group’s key objections and stated that after in depth analysis the charity stands by the hyperlinks to Pope and Bridgeman. “We have found archaeological indications, bills for payment and engravings, and we have worked with many different expert bodies on this, including the Environment Trust. Yet at the same time this is about interpretation, and so we are holding a symposium in June to present the case. If there is new evidence, we will consider it. We have no plans to run large corporate events on the site.”
Marble Hill House was initially constructed for George II’s mistress, Henrietta Howard, who grew to become the 9th Countess of Suffolk, and the marketing campaign group queries whether or not she might have had sufficient cash to hold by such an costly design. “It was well known that Henrietta’s purse was depleted with ongoing building works at Marble Hill at this time,” stated Fotiadis-Negrepontis, including that Pope’s fellow satirist Jonathan Swift poked enjoyable at her lack of funds in 1727 when he wrote the strains: “My house was only built for show, My lady’s empty pockets know; And now she will not have a shilling, To raise the stairs, or build the ceiling. Tis come to what I always thought, My dame is hardly worth a groat.”.
The Love Marble Hill group additionally factors out that modern work, together with works by Augustin Heckel and Richard Wilson, don’t present indicators of the Bridgeman plan.And the one reference it could actually discover to a bowling inexperienced is in a invoice for a paint known as “bolling green” used on railings within the grounds.
English Heritage argues that proof of the grounds’ extra complicated format lies in a sketch drawn on a doc present in Howard’s archives on the Norfolk Records Office in 1991. The campaigners, then again, argue that is actually a potential blueprint and never a factual survey of what was already there. The backyard historian David Jacques, whose e-book Gardens of Court and Country got here out final yr, informed the Observer he believes the marketing campaign group is responsible of wishful considering. “If you don’t like something, you just refuse to believe it and I think this is what is happening here,” he stated. Jacques labored as a marketing consultant for English Heritage 10 years in the past, however stated he has no present ties to the charity. He stays satisfied of the hyperlink to Pope, persuaded partly by doodles on the manuscripts of some his poems which seem like concepts for Marble Hill.
Some of the opposition to the English Heritage scheme is fuelled by fears that a considerable amount of woodland can be sacrificed. The native Site of Scientific Interest, Love Marble Hill says, is a house for song-thrushes, bats, owls and badgers.
The charity, in flip, states that Marble Hill’s tree inventory is in decline and that solely shrubbery and diseased bushes can be focused. It additionally plans to open up the home to the general public for extra of the yr. The English Heritage web site makes a monetary case too: “In 2016-17, it cost English Heritage more than £200,000 to run Marble Hill. As a charity, we cannot sustain that level of cost and the Marble Hill Revived project will help to reduce the overall running costs.”
The park has been a political battleground at the least twice earlier than. At the start of the 20th century the Twickenham group fought off a plan by the Cunard enterprise to construct a housing improvement. Its defeat led to the Open Spaces Act of 1906.
Then in 1986 the park was controversially handed to English Heritage when the Greater London Council was abolished by Margaret Thatcher.
Vanessa Thorpe from theguardian.com