Monday, 27 August 2012

The Gardens Of Anglesey Abbey

The dahlias which I showed you yesterday were but a brief, beautiful but wholly inadequate introduction to the gardens of Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire.

The gardens are surely one of the most successful blends of formal and informal design to be seen anywhere in England and, even more surprisingly, were created within the last eighty years out of a flat acreage of fenland. They were the work of one Urban Huttleston Rogers Broughton, 1st Baron Fairhaven of Lode in the County of Cambridgeshire. 

Lord Fairhaven bought Anglesey Abbey in 1930 and set about his dream of living the traditional life of an English aristocrat and gentleman. This was a strange ambition perhaps for a man who was born an American!

His father's family had become wealthy through engineering and his mother's even richer from oil. They sent their son to Harrow School where presumably his dreams of becoming more English than the English were first born. And more importantly perhaps he had the funds to fulfil his wish.

At a time, the 1930s, when because of the Depression many of the owners of large houses and estates were financially embarrassed, Lord Fairhaven was able to acquire many statues at knock-down prices. There are over 100 pieces of sculpture within the gardens and their presence, in both the formal and informal parts of the garden, holds the whole concept together.

Around the house he made several small formal gardens - the dahlia beds, a semi-circular lawn with a wide border of flowers around the curved edge (and, of course, a statue) is just one. Right next to the house is an attractive rose garden.

The statues in these formal beds are always placed symmetrically with often a central piece adding to the strict design. The effect is not however immune to informal and unexpected interventions.....

I really wish that I could tell you more about the individual statues but as yet my enquiries have only unearthed such statements as "most of the statues have a Biblical or mythological theme".

So for now I'll just have to enjoy their beauty without knowing their origin or name - same as I do with many of the plants in the garden!

Away from the flower-beds there are more statues alongside broad grassy tree-lined avenues and acres of grass for children to run, which makes it a popular destination with families.

Woodland paths, a wildlife discovery area, a riverside path, the winter garden which we looked at when we searched for snowdrops back in February and of course the watermill which we also explored in another post.

And there are plenty of places to stop for your picnic too....

....before going in to explore the house itself to see what Huttleston Broughton made of that!

Take care.


  1. This whole set is very poeticly shot. So well composed and beautiful to browse through.

  2. I am assuming that the little lad in your shot is playing at being a statue?

  3. Ah! This is a stunning garden John ... What a treat to have visited there.

  4. such a lovely place to visit for sure and the weather looked perfect for it too. Love that tree'd arbour!

  5. so fortunate to have that many beautiful places to visit!

    Have you ever done a post on The Orchard?...we had a nice tea there on our visit....I loved the big apple trees--apples rarely grow well in Louisiana.

  6. I especially like the image of the roses with the house in the background. I've got one of those American "British pretenders" in my neighborhood, too, but he's focused on Scotland. Fortunately, he's too quirky, old, infirm, and (relatively) poor to ever execute any of his desires like Huttleston Broughton did.

  7. It's always so encouraging when wealthy people use their money to create something lasting of beauty that can be enjoyed by many people. It certainly looks like a wonderful place to spend the day, especially with lots of space for children to run around.

  8. A fantastic blog you have. Pretty dang handy with the camera, too. I have a garden in my back yard but it's more like disorganized ciaos. Appreciate your comment. I like what you said.

  9. the house looks very much like our Government House!! Wonderful gardens and statues....nice that it is shared to the public. cheers.

  10. The grounds are exquisite. Imagine being able to purchase statuary at rock-bottom prices. Well, I CAN dream. :)

  11. Beautiful photos of a lovely place. "Garden" as attached to a great house has such a different connotation than a little plot of veg or a border of flowers.

  12. What a place! Maybe I'm wrong, but this garden seems more symmetrical and orderly than what I think of an English garden. Maybe that is what happens when an American simulates an Englishman but can't shake his Yankee ways completely.

  13. A garden like this is paradise on earth. Marvelous and succinct images that are so engaging I wish I could be there to see the beauty of these gardens in person.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).