In introducing his “Historic Gardens of Dorset” Dr Timothy Mowl said that talking about 'The Gardens of England' is an unhelpful generalisation. Each county has its distinctive park profile and its own richly introverted garden character. We can do no better than to quote his comments about Dorset:
'Secretive, aristocratic and remote, Dorset gardens exist in a world of their own …. it is our last unspoilt Arcadian county. Until 1900 Dorset remained the semi-feudal society that Thomas Hardy knew, and its gardens reflected that. Exquisite small manor houses of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lay tucked away in downland folds or by winterbourne meadows, each within its unambitious walled gardens.
‘Some aimed higher. Cranborne is the Cecils' hunting lodge where the ghosts of John Tradescant and Mountain Jennings still haunt its innovative Jacobean enclosures, Lulworth had the earliest Franco-Italian formal garden in the country, while Melbury is the ultimate survivor: a Norman forest with a Tudor deer park. But manor houses like Chantmarle and Athelhampton were merely waiting for the Edwardians to make their grounds live up to their facades. Then, in the late twentieth century, a new wave of designers settled in the county creating the historic gardens of the future - John Hubbard’s inspired bucolic simplicities at Chilcombe and Penelope Hobhouse’s farewell to her art at Bettiscombe.’
The Dorset Gardens Trust has an active group of surveyors who have surveyed about 200 sites, drawing on information in the public domain such as the County Records Office, OS Maps, newspapers, county histories and Country Life magazine, and our growing library donated by generous members, backed up in most instances with site visits and a photographic record. We can only list on our website those already in the public domain [e.g. the English Heritage Register] and gardens whose owners have given us permission.
We thank those who have already expressed their willingness for us to show photographs of their properties on our website, and we trust you will enjoy those that we have uploaded so far. We hope over time to have an expanding list of Historic Gardens in Dorset with associated photographs.