Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester made a garden at Kenilworth Castle. This was no ordinary garden. It was made to impress Queen Elizabeth 1 when she visited him at Kenilworth. He hoped to win her hand in marriage. The garden took years to build and included a central Carrera marble fountain, a huge bejewelled aviary, carved wooden arbours and beds filled with scented flowers, herbs and luscious fruit. Sadly for Robert Dudley Queen Elizabeth 1 never married and the garden was lost for 400 years…
- Detailed descriptions of the garden written by eyewitness Robert Langham who worked for the Earl.
- Plants they knew were widely available in the 16th Century from Thomas Tusser.
- Archaeolgical investigations on site uncovered foundations which pinpointed the exact location of the white marble fountain in the centre of the garden.
The garden we see today is not an exact copy but we can be fairly sure that this modern reconstruction of the Elizabethan garden is quite similar in many ways.
When you enter the garden from the Castle archway above the entire Elizabethan garden is laid out before you. There’s a terrace with ornate timber rose arbours at each end where steps lead down into the garden.
The garden is divided into four with raised flower beds filled with herbs, flowers and fruit trees. Species roses probably featured heavily and they introduced splashes of bright colour and scent into the formal garden along with perennials such as Lychnis coronaria, Lychnis chalcedonica and Dianthus/Pinks.
Paths were made of fine gravel. It’s quite likely that local materials were used originally so sand or gravel from nearby quarries or even from the mere (lake) right outside Kenilworth Castle may have been used.
Low growing scented plants spill out over the timber edges of the raised beds onto gravel paths. There are Pinks Dianthus spp. and Thrift Armeria maritima in profusion. For height and interest there are standard roses, fruit trees and evergreen shrubs such as Bay and Holly.
From the terrace above the garden you can clearly see the cottages in the lane. Some of them are made of red brick and others have red clay tiles on the roof. A perfect match to the red stone walls of the castle, the aviary, the obelisks and some other details in the garden. If this is deliberate then it’s very clever I think. If it’s a happy accident then that’s even better!
Castle Green, Off Castle Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire. CV8 1NE
For opening times please see the ENGLISH HERITAGE website. There is also an overview of the castle and its history including Robert Langham’s letters describing the garden in 1575 with photos and drawings showing the History of Kenilworth Castle.
Thanks for reading this garden review on Garden Visitor.co.uk. I hope you enjoyed it.
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