Sheep used as lawn mowers? Herbs used as medicine?
Gardens were very different places in Elizabethan times.
But it’s back to the future for the gardens at Haddon Hall, near Bakewell.
Now the hall’s team of gardeners are turning back the clock – returning the landscape surrounding the historic house to how it would have looked in the 16th Century to give visitors a fuller experience.
“They didn’t have lawn mowers so you didn’t have the finely cut grass we have today – it was more a flowering meadow,” head steward Jo Walker says.
Scythes and grazing sheep were commonly used to cut grass.
To create a more authentic look, the gardeners will not be cutting the grass as closely as usual.
Jo explained that it is not easy to know how the garden would have looked.
“The terraces from the garden date from between about 1580 and 1650,” she said.
“Over the years it got planted up.
“We thought it would be nice to take it back to before the municipal tiers.”
The origins of Haddon Hall date back to the 11th century.
The current medieval and Tudor hall includes additions added at various stages between the 13th and the 17th centuries. The manor of Haddon was originally in the hands of the Peveril family (just after the Norman Conquest), but was forfeited to the Crown in 1153.
It then passed to a tenant of the Peverils, William Avenal, and was acquired in 1170 by Richard Vernon, who had married Avenal’s daughter. The Vernons were responsible for most of the buildings at Haddon Hall, apart from the Peveril Tower and part of the Chapel, which were already there in 1170. The Long Gallery is the only significant part which was added later.
In 1558 the heir to the manor, Dorothy Vernon, married (or as local legend says - eloped with) John Manners and the Hall has been in the hands of the Manners family ever since.
The Hall has never been bought or sold in its history.
The Manners family became the Earls, later Dukes, of Rutland and they moved their main seat to Belvoir Castle, using the hall very little in the 18th and 19th centuries. The result was that it was almost unaltered since the end of the 16th century when the 9th Duke began restoration after moving there in 1912 and realising the hall’s importance.
In order to take the hall’s gardens back to before the municipal tier, the estate enlisted the help of famous designer Arne Maynard, who is known for his historically–themed gardens.
Trees such as beeches and hornbeams have been planted to give the gardens more structure.
More traditional plants are being grown such as catmint and artichokes.
Elizabethan people had poor access to transport and facilities so they had to be self–sufficient. Their gardens provided them with more than just pretty flowers.
Jo explained: “They had plants used for medicine and plants that were used for dying.”
One example of a plant used for it’s medical properties is hyssop, which made the patient sick.
Plants or ‘threshes’ were also used to cover the floors of people’s homes to make them smell pleasant.