A masterclass in landscape
A creative process of research and restoration reveals tantalising glimpses of one of England’s great country house landscapes
With a rich history spanning more than 200 years, the Claremont estate has been shaped by some of the biggest names in landscape design. Vanbrugh, Bridgeman, Kent and Capability Brown each left their mark– from formal gardens and grand avenues to the ‘naturalistic’ English Landscape Garden style for which Britain became world-famous.
By the twenty-first century, the landscape told a very different story. While the National Trust had rescued part of the estate in the 1970s, the rest had been subject to decades of underinvestment, becoming derelict and overgrown. The owners, Claremont Fan Court School, were committed to returning the landscape to its former glory – and so began a painstaking process of research and restoration.
After sifting through years of history, our masterplan screened unsympathetic additions, while also restoring some of the most important design flourishes.
One fascinating intervention was to reinstate the ice pond, which had waxed and waned in different forms throughout the 1700s. This shallow grassed bowl had been designed to flood during rainfall and freeze during winter, providing a supply of ice for the ice-house– the eighteenth-century equivalent of a fridge.
While the ice-house is an evocative but redundant remnant of country house life, we saw the pond still had potential to act as a biodiverse element of the drainage system, taking the storm water run-off from the site. Just as Capability Brown used water to bring beauty and technical capacity, so too would we.
Our masterplan also reinstated tree clumps recalling Kent’s classic 18th century style - and improved the landscape around Vanbrugh’s iconic Belvedere Tower, opening it up to the public. Today the grounds once again read as a compendium of the great garden influences; a masterclass in landscape design.
“Historic landscapes are a real privilege to work on, there’s always rich narratives to reveal and inspiration to uncover”