Garden History of Devon

The history of designed landscapes in Devon can be traced back to early deer parks with references as early as one at Winkleigh in 1086. Typically of 100 to 200 acres, the protective enclosure of deer parks also included warrens for rabbits (coneys) and fishponds. In some cases the boundaries of some parks can still be seen. The survival of medieval gardens is rare, but there are references suggesting enclosed gardens (hortus conclusus) existed. Being far from the metropolis, Devon was little affected by the Italian influenced formal design style of the Tudor and Stuart period, the designed landscape continuing to favour enclosed areas including orchards and deer parks; likewise the late seventeenth century French and Dutch-inspired designs which largely required flat land for their effect - a topographical feature rather at a premium in Devon - were not replicated in the county to any great extent although some features were adapted to local conditions, as at Forde Abbey. The influence of the Grand Tour and a desire to reflect the landscape of ancient Rome was particularly evident in the early eighteenth century, Bicton and Castle Hill being the pre-eminent examples, both designed and developed by their owners; both too were also adapted with the development of the English landscape garden. Although 'Capability' Brown can only definitely be credited with the design at Ugbrooke Park and advice at Mamhead House, other fashionable designers worked in Devon, like Nathaniel Richmond at Saltram, Eggesford and possibly Escot, but the majority of landscape gardens throughout the county were developed by their owners with their head gardeners or stewards. Humphry Repton's two designs in Devon, at Luscombe and Endsleigh, very much maximise the Picturesque qualities of the landscapes and introduce more flowering plants around the house, a feature that was to become more prevalent through the nineteenth century.

In the Parks and Gardens section of this website are entries for all the sites in the Devon Gazetteer. These include a brief description, but we are adding detailed site reports as these are prepared by our volunteer researchers. Descriptions drew on research of Trust members, The Buildings of England: Devon by Cherry and Pevsner (1991), The Garden History of Devon; An illustrated guide to sources by Dr Todd Gray (1995)(commissioned by Devon Gardens Trust), Devon Gardens: an Historical Survey edited by Steven Pugsley (1994), and Devon Country Houses and Gardens Engraved by Dr Todd Gray (Vol. 1: 2001), and on studies of the 2nd edition OS maps, aerial photographs. 

NB. Site boundaries have not yet been delineated for all sites, but we are grateful to Devon County Council Historic Environment Officer for helping us to do so as reports are completed.