Malverleys Garden

I was invited to see Malverleys Garden, a recently constructed, but apparently mature garden in the countryside south of Newbury. The house is Victorian and the original owners must have had an interest in rare species of trees, which is partly what gives the garden an impression of maturity.

In front of the house is a big herbaceous border:-

Then the rest of the garden has been laid out as a series of discreet ‘rooms’ by Mat Reese, the head gardener, the planting based on Great Dixter, but it reminded me more of Hidcote.

The east border (I think):-

The water garden, called The Cool Garden:-

The Stumpery:-

The Hot Garden:-

The Cloister Garden:-

Then, the Topiary Meadow:-

Through to the White Garden (it gets better and better):-

The walled garden is bisected by a laburnum arch:-

Then, it was time for lunch !

Their garden centre opens tomorrow, plus a very luxurious place for lunch, not far from London and the M4, all so beautifully detailed and well cared for. Open sometimes for the National Gardens Scheme.


V&A East

Attached is the first description of what the V&A’s Storehouse will be like, due to open on the north-west side of Olympic Park, a potentially amazing project giving convenient public access to the great wealth of the V&A’s reserve collection. I used to love taking students to see the V&A’s stores, most especially the amazing wealth of the textile stores, which were so meticulously cared for and documented in a way which was entirely invisible in the public galleries; and I also always remember the carpets rolled up in the stores at Blythe Road. So, it will be wonderful that this sense of discovery will be available to a much wider public.


The Castle Howard Mausoleum (4)

Just in case any of my readers were planning to come to my talk at the Warburg tomorrow, it has now been postponed till next spring: too many people are apparently away because it’s half term. It will still be there next year.


Elizabeth Mavor

Visiting Plas Newydd in Llangollen has made me want to know more about Elizabeth Mavor, the author of the book about the Ladies of Llangollen, which made their story and issues surrounding their sexuality of much interest in 1971 when it was published.

By chance, I knew her when she was writing the book because she used to drive me and her son Peregrine back to boarding school in a Morris Traveller after days out and we were encouraged to have intense conversations about literature which was never much talked about, at least not so intensely, at home. She was the first writer I met.

I see from her biography in the Dictionary of National Biography that there is some issue as to her sexuality. At the time, those who knew her took it for granted that her interest in the Ladies of Llangollen was not purely academic. At least, that is what I remember from listening in on conversations as a precocious thirteen-year old.


The Ladies of Llangollen

We’ve driven through Llangollen a hundred times, but for some reason, unlike Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth and the Duke of Wellington, have never thought to make the short detour to see Plas Newydd, the house which Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby first rented in 1778 and where they lived till their deaths in 1829 and 1831 respectively – they were sixteen years apart in age.

It’s unexpectedly and vividly atmospheric and very well cared for by Denbighshire County Council. The first view from the car park:-

Closer up:-

They were mad about Jacobean wood carving and seem to have festooned the house with wood carving, some of which was original, some commissioned by them, and some donated, but curiously apparently not very well documented (although I confess never to have read their biography by Elizabeth Mavor, still in print):-

Here they are:-

And here are their top hats:-