The view from here

Re­cent restora­tive work has re­turned the gar­den of a renowned Arts-and-crafts house to the taste and vi­sion of its cre­ators, finds Steven Des­mond

Country Life Every Week - - My Week - Pho­to­graphs by Mar­i­anne Ma­jerus

The gar­den at Standen, East Grin­stead, West Sus­sex

Philip Webb, by then a grand old man of the Arts-and-crafts move­ment, must have en­joyed his first visit to Standen in West Sus­sex. in 1891, he ap­proached, as we do now, along the shady coun­try lane from east Grin­stead to have a look at the site. it was just the sort of place his imag­i­na­tion cher­ished.

he ar­rived half­way down a hill past the cliff face of a worked-out an­cient sand­stone quarry onto a sort of vil­lage green over­looked by holly­bush Farm­house. A big barn closed the square on one side and a won­der­ful ru­ral view opened out to­wards the south, stretch­ing away, far be­low. Only the geese on the green chal­lenged him as he stepped out to look over the place.

Webb had been ap­pointed ar­chi­tect by James beale, a rich so­lic­i­tor, but a lo­cal gar­den de­signer, Ge­orge Simpson, had al­ready been en­gaged to be­gin land­scap­ing the site and to level the ground on which the house was to stand. Webb, a metic­u­lous man, felt im­me­di­ately un­com­fort­able with this ar­range­ment. it was not long be­fore Mr Simpson was side­lined and the po­si­tion of the house had been shunted some way back against the wooded slope to the west from which it now projects.

Simpson’s partly com­pleted lay­out, for which the plans sur­vive, was adapted and re­mod­elled by Webb. This com­pro­mise set the tone for the gar­den that de­vel­oped over the next 40 years.

The key to the whole project, thought Webb, was that view. While he was work­ing on-site in the mid 1890s, he wrote to the beales: ‘i could not but en­joy look­ing through a partly open win­dow on the south and see­ing the lovely wooded hill on the other side of the val­ley.’ So en­tranced was he by this view that he de­lib­er­ately ig­nored the fruit pie with straw­ber­ries and cream the but­ler had brought him. Some view—and some in­ti­ma­tion of Webb’s pow­ers of re­straint.

Look­ing at that view now from the po­lite com­fort of the con­ser­va­tory, it is sub­di­vided in the way great ru­ral gar­dens have been since the time of pliny the Younger. The eye runs out over a gar­dened ter­race, then across a lawn that falls dis­con­cert­ingly across the line of sight, then on with­out in­ter­rup­tion into a pas­ture margined by wood. The lack of a vis­i­ble bound­ary sug­gests the pres­ence of a ha-ha, which a short walk soon dis­cov­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.