English Garden Design: Sutton Place In Surrey

Ditchley Park was the last major British garden to be designed in the Italian style.

During the 1930s Jellicoe received plenty of smaller commissions which provided an opportunity to introduce elements of the Abstract style. Accordingly the frontispiece to The Studio’s 1932 Garden Annual shows a garden by J C Shepherd G A Jellicoe with a distinctly modern flavour, and in 1933 Jellicoe and Page worked together on the design of the Caveman Restaurant and garden in the Cheddar Gorge. It’s a well-known fact that the project was widely illustrated in the 1930s as an example of modern architecture but only part of the garden was built. So this conjunction of a designer and a client sharing a weakness for modern art has produced the magnum opus of British garden designin the second half of the twentieth century. Sutton Place in Surrey. It contains a Paradise garden depending on a serpentine grid with fountains at the nodes, a secret Moss Garden with two hidden circles, a Magritte Walk, a Miro swimming pool, a lake designed as the setting for a Henry Moore sculpture and a marble wall by Ben Nicholson. Besides, the latter is a work of great beauty and represents an artistic ideal which has had an overwhelming influence on the Abstract style of garden design.

Without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artist, let’s create a really new guild of craftsmen. Like the crystal symbol of a completely new faith. Which will embrace architecure and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers. We believe in the probity of the creative act.

Tunnard believed that garden designers must ‘return to functionalism’ and he used quotations from Le Corbusier. Styles are a lie’, and Adolf Loos. To find beauty in form instead of making it depend on ornament is the goal to which humanity is aspiring’. Above all he believed that ‘The modern house requires modern surroundings, and in most respects the garden of today does not fulfil this need’. His point was well made by a photograph of a crisp whitish rectangular modern house in Northampton, by Peter Behrens, that looks most uncomfortable perched on top of a Jekyllesque dry stone wall and a semi circular flight of steps which ‘fail entirely to harmonize with the character of the house’. Anyways, many designers agreed with Tunnard but the public did not -the Behrens house was virtually the first in England to be designed in the International Style. Public seem to have looked at Tunnard’s photograph and decided that the garden was delightful but the house was an abomination.

Whenever painting in our time considers generalisation, so, that’s to say the uncovering of the purely aesthetic in plastic features, as its principle value’, as contrasted with traditional painting, where particularisation was of primary importance.

He believed that art should concentrate on the primary colours and forms, and ‘leave the interpretation of stories, tales, and all that to poets and writers. Then, the landowning class which commissioned the great British gardens of the period showed no taste for stylistic innovation in their twilight hour. This is the case. Nor is there any reason to think that garden designers had a significant interest in modern art before The Modern Movement was assailed by the leading designers of the day when it appeared over the skies of England. On top of that, in, 1916 Thomas Mawson was still laughing at the ‘art nouveau craze’ and lectured on ‘the ridiculous ornament and the exaggerated design which this over enthusiastic cult produced ‘. After the grand conception, in 1934 Sir Reginald Blomfield -this is very important, and it gonna be noticed that they are put in their proper place, not before it. While understanding the wishes of the client, whether I know it’s a private citizen or a public committee in NY or London.

By the way, the kind of garden which ought to accompany a modern building was illustrated by a photograph of Bentley Wood at Halland, designed by Chermayeff and Tunnard. So it’s an austerely beautiful and entirely modern design. Garden owes nothing to ‘the second stone age with its plethora of flagged paths and dry walls’. Henry Moore helped to make another of Tunnard’s points. Some decent stuff from contemporary architecture is closely about some good stuff from modern sculpture and constructivist painting since architects, sculptors and constructivist painters are in written or personal contact with one another’.

England was engaged upon the Italian phase of the Arts and Crafts style when the first modern gardens were being designed in Europe.

Russell Page looks back on the British gardens which were made between 1900 and 1930 in his autobiography. He criticises them for employing ‘a ragbag of styles has nothing to do with real style’. You should take it into account. He and identical designers were attracted to the classical gardens of France and Italy by their abstract spatial qualities. It is this analysis contrasts with the eighteenth century associationist approach of Archibald Alison, who valued the urn at Hagley being that it was ‘chosen by Mr Pope for the spot and now inscribed to his memory’, as well as with the nineteenth century stylistic approach of Loudon and Kemp. Loudon advised that urns and statues should only be placed where they can be ‘viewed in connection with some architectural production’ and Kemp that ‘statuary, vases, and similar architectural ornaments, are the fitting associates of Grecian and Italian houses, and appear less suitable in relation to every style’. Examples of abstract designs by Sylvia Crowe can be seen at Fulmar Grange in Buckinghamshire and the Commonwealth Institute in London.

the diagram of the Abstract style shows a transition from a rectilinear paved area into a curvilinear planted area.

Surely it’s intended for comparison with the previous diagrams but it must be remembered that it represents a garden of perhaps as little as 1 hectares while most of the earlier diagrams showed estates of 1000 hectares and more. Anyways the modern paved area should be no more than a patio outside a French window but here the use of 600 x 600mm concrete slabs with prominent joints reminds amid the de Stijl aesthetic. Then the main reason for referring to a ‘Abstract Style is that it draws inspiration from the abstract geometry of modern art. British garden design. Notice that this corresponds to the early twentieth century painters’ desire to produce a new art which was objective, analytical and nonfigurative. Since there was a tendency to abstraction in primitive art it’s tempting to name the new style of garden design after amongst the four modern movements in art which have had most influence on garden designers. One could describe it as the Cubist style, the Constructivist style, the ‘Neo plasticist’ style or the Expressionist style. Besides, my reason for not using any of these names is that they would imply too close an identification with the somewhat wordy objectives of a particular group of artists.


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