Thursday, December 16, 2010

Croome, Worcestershire


Winter blooms

Croome is historically important because it is the first major work of the great landscape gardener and architect Lancelot Brown, known as ‘Capability’ Brown because of his habit of assuring prospective clients that their grounds had great ‘capabilities’ for improvement. At Croome, Brown designed both the house and the park, although his work was supplemented in the house by Robert Adam, who worked on the interior, and James Wyatt, who designed some of the ‘eyecatchers’ around the edges of the park.

The park itself, created for the 6th earl of Coventry from 1747, was designed to feature a river, imitating the nearby Severn, and a large curvaceous lake with an island. Stately trees punctuate the views, as do a fascinating selection of garden buildings, including a grotto, guarded by a Coade stone statue of Sabrina, goddess of the Severn. Some of the buildings were designed by Brown, some by Adam, and James Wyatt added several of the more distant eyecatchers, including a ruined ‘castle’ that I included in an earlier post.

I was planning to do a post about Brown’s grotto at Croome, but on the frosty afternoon I walked around the park the other day the statue of Sabrina was swathed in wrapping, put to sleep as it were for the winter under a protective puffy green duvet, as were the other statues and urns dotted about the park. So instead, here’s a building called the Temple Greenhouse, which was designed by Adam.

Today it looks more like a temple than a greenhouse, because the windows that were once fitted between the columns have been removed. So it can no longer contain exotic plants, but still makes a noble feature in Croome’s landscape. Adam included symbolic sculptures to complement the vegetation that once filled the greenhouse: overflowing cornucopias and this brimming basket of flowers. These vigorous reliefs are full of life, with a variety of blooms turned this way and that, and leaves twisting, as it were, in the breeze. They bring a welcome bit of summer to the frosty winter landscape.


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Croome Park is owned by the National Trust, and there are some stunning photographs of it here. The house, Croome Court, is owned by the Croome Heritage Trust, and is leased to the National Trust, which is managing its restoration.

9 comments:

Reggie Darling said...

What a marvelous post. Thank you. I would love to see the greenhouse with the windows restored to the portico. I suspect it would look stunning filled with orange trees and the like. Reggie

Emile de Bruijn said...

Beautiful photograph of the basket with flowers and fruit - carved in amazingly high relief.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Reggie: Thank you for your appreciation. I hope to return to Croome in the spring and take some photographs of Sabrina and her grotto.

Emile: Thank you too - the carving is remarkable, isn't it? I'd love to know how the greenhouse windows fitted into this building, and whether they were part of the original design.

The Devoted Classicist said...

I had known and admired this building from published photos for years. The huge windows filling the space between the columns were very inspirational. So I was surprised, when I finally visited the site, to find the building as pictured here. Hopefully, the greenhouse sash will eventually be restored.

lostpastremembered said...

Oh my goodness, I just found your blog. It is extraordinary. I can't wait to go back over all your posts (and use it to help me on my English visit next year). It will be like a Christmas present to look at all the wonderful buildings. I look forward to seeing your series on BBC America as well.

worm said...

amazing flowers! the mind boggles at the craftsmanship

Philip Wilkinson said...

Lostpastremebered: I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog. I can't claim the series as 'mine' - I just wrote the book - but I hope you find it entertaining anyway!

bazza said...

Croome Park has quite a pedigree! I had heard of it but never seen a picture. Can any other nation show off this kind of thing in the depth that you present on this blog? I think not.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: These islands have a fantastic architectural richness, you're right. It's everywhere, and the history of specific places and even specific buildings goes back centuries. Other countries also have fantastic buildings, both large and small, ground-breaking and mundane. I've been thrilled, in my time, by the historical treasures of France, Germany, and Italy. But when one gets to know well one of the less explored countries of Europe – I'm thinking of the Czech Republic, where I spend a lot of time - hidden gems reveal themselves. To go to such places is to remind oneself, too, that we don't have everything. Even the Czechs have things we don't - a proper, full-on baroque, a developed, delicate rococo, what they call Cubist architecture, and so on. But having said all that, there is so much here. Look at the myriad buildings covered by Pevsner's volumes - and often, on this blog I cover things not even mentioned by Pevsner!