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I thought it was about time I drew some attention towards the group I run 1)‘Run’ is a big word, I need to start updating the lists of gardens again, which is my self-inflicted duty as the group admin. But the lack of updating on my part, luckily does not stop people from joining and adding their photographs.
Sometimes I specifically go out looking for old photos, and that is how I found the old Hampton Court photo featured here.
on photo sharing site flickr: Historical Gardens. It offers a great way to visit gardens without leaving the comfort of your home (maybe ‘look at gardens’ is a better phrase here, as visiting them is always so much more rewarding).

A further advantage of this group is that it offers views from different seasons, different angles and different periods. As such it can be a great source for garden historians. This 1908 photo of one of the pond gardens at Hampton Court, for example, is a great photo of part of the garden that at first glance seems to have remained fairly intact:

When we compare this with a photo from 2011, and look closer, it gives us the opportunity to see the myriad of details that have changed in this small garden, while the main structure of the garden was preserved.

The most prominent difference is visible in the paths, which have retained the spirit but not the quirkiness of the late Victorian or Edwardian pavement.
The planting is different as well, which is mainly the result of a ‘restoration’ of the garden “to what it was intended to be”. A plan that started in 1919, the replanting was done in 1926. 2)A recent publication on the gardens at Hampton Court calls the 1920s restoration a ‘fanciful reconstruction’: Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, The Gardens and Parks at Hampton Court Palace (London 2005), page 67. The flower beds near the oval pond were already gone by the late 1920s. And while the planting seems to have been formalized even more since that 1920s replanting, the 1908 planting was much wilder, with higher perennials [?] setting the stage instead of the seasonally changing planting schemes we see today.

The statuary in the 1908 photo is different than now as well. Firstly, the four downright awful putti eh… statuettes at the front were not there in 1908. My initial thought was they were quite modern additions, but a c1927 photo of this garden shows they were already there -so they must be a result of the ‘fanciful reconstruction’ of the 1920s, alas… 3)Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, ibid., the photo on page 67, there dated c1927.
Furthermore, the statue at the back seems to be different. It could be that the leaden statue of Venus was initially painted white in an attempt to imitate an actual marble statue, and that this paint has been removed. It looks like the position of the right arm is different as well, but from these images that is simply too difficult to tell.


A weird development is that of the four topiary chicken figures dotted around the garden, between 1908 and 2013. These chicks have grown fat! In 1908 they were in a standing position, lean and ready to go like free-range chickens. Now they are lying on the ground, too heavy to stand on their feet and looking like specimens from a battery cage. The c1927 photograph I previously referred to, shows that even by then these animals had already gained considerable weight (they were still standing up but were also at the brink of being over-weight).

I was going to make a comparison with developments within society throughout the past century, with the increasing lack of skilled labour, the industrialization of food production and the immense growth of obesity all being visualized by these here hens.
But then I looked closer and thought: are these still hens? They look more like stylized Grouse-like birds now, especially when we look at the tail. And if they are, is that the result of an intentional choice, or did the birds just develop into this for reasons of sloppy pruning?
Questions, questions…

 

For more photos of Hampton Court, also some taken from the roof, see the HGimages link at the bottom of this post.

 

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. ‘Run’ is a big word, I need to start updating the lists of gardens again, which is my self-inflicted duty as the group admin. But the lack of updating on my part, luckily does not stop people from joining and adding their photographs.
Sometimes I specifically go out looking for old photos, and that is how I found the old Hampton Court photo featured here.
2. A recent publication on the gardens at Hampton Court calls the 1920s restoration a ‘fanciful reconstruction’: Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, The Gardens and Parks at Hampton Court Palace (London 2005), page 67.
3. Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, ibid., the photo on page 67, there dated c1927.

4 Responses to “The obese hens of Hampton Court”

  1. on 05 Jan 2014 at 1:47 pmAnne Wareham

    I love this detailed examination, comment and comparison. Interesting and illuminating about historical preoccupations – and our own.

  2. on 06 Jan 2014 at 8:09 pmHvdE

    Thank you Anne. And yes, also our own preoccupations come to the fore.

  3. on 17 Feb 2014 at 8:52 pmHvdE

    The ‘Dutch Garden’ at Clandon Court, near Guildford and thus not too far from Hampton Court Palace, looks like it is heavily inspired by the Hampton Court pond garden. This Dutch Garden at Clandon Court is dated 1901:
    Clandon Park Dutch Garden first laid out in 1901

  4. on 05 Jan 2016 at 7:53 pmHvdE

    In the mean time, Clandon Court has been completely gutted by a fire in early 2015 (the garden is probably still intact).

    And the Cascade Weblog shows an advertisement for a nursery in Velp (near Arnhem) from 1923, that was called ‘Kew Gardens’, but used an image that showed remarkable resemblances with the garden at Hampton Court.

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