Views from the Orangery: the gardens of Sir Philip Sassoon

This research returns to the topic of gardens as ‘living documents’. It uses the orangery at Trent Park, Enfield as the starting point for an exploration of the gardens created by Sir Philip Sassoon (1888-1939). The two gardens examined (Port Lympne, Kent being the second) are ‘living documents’; cultural landscapes connected to the worlds of politics, the arts, and design and significant meetings in both world wars.
The orangery designed by Reginald Cooper, c. 1931

Figure 1. The orangery designed by Reginald Cooper, c. 1931 (photographed by kind permission of Middlesex University, 2006).

The orangery at Trent Park was built c.1931 to designs by Colonel Reginald Cooper (1885-1965) now a rather elusive historical figure. It was designed in the neo-classical style as part of Sassoon’s remodelling of the large Victorian house on the estate inherited in 1912 from his father Sir Edward Sassoon (1856-1912), from whom he also “inherited” his Hythe constituency.

Like many authentic Georgian orangeries, Trent’s combined a strategic visual location with horticultural and social roles; switching from overwintering the Versailles citrus trees to providing poolside shelter in the summer.

Trent (created from 1926) was the garden of maturity; devoid of the grandiosity of Port Lympne, more in keeping with Sassoon’s progress up the political ladder. But there are common threads.

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Sir George Scharf & the Orangery at Knole Park

Helen has long been interested in the history of orangeries, and so was delighted to act as one of the advisers on the re-instatement of the orangery at Knole Park in late 2009/early 2010. The position brought unexpected archival dividends for her research into historic orangeries, and prompted further research using the sketch books and diaries of Sir George Scharf as a manuscript source. This article gives a first outline of some of her findings.
The Buzalgo stove

Figure 1. The Buzalgo[ref]The Buzalgo stove is a rare survivor of an 18th century heater invented by Abraham Buzalgo (d.1788). An online article ‘Hot Air from Cambridge Library’ notes that in 1744 there were eleven models in production in various sizes. Knole’s may be one of the only two surviving stoves on public display (the other said to be at Williamsburg, Virginia, in the United States.[/ref]

Acting as one of the advisers on the re-instatement of the orangery at Knole Park in late 2009/early 2010 brought unexpected archival dividends for my research into historic orangeries. Standing in the then empty orangery, marvelling at the amazing stove (later identified as a Buzaglo – see FIG. 1) and watching the play of the wintry light through the huge windows with their coloured glass insets, sparked a wish to return to the topic at some future date. In the autumn of 2011 the opportunity arose. With the Sackville papers temporarily unavailable while the Centre for Kentish Archives relocated to their new site, the focus of my research switched to the National Portrait Gallery Heinz Archive & Library and the papers of the Gallery’s first director, Sir George Scharf (1820-95).

Scharf was a man with a mission. Appointed Secretary to the newly-established gallery in 1857 then, from 1882, Director, he was charged with the task of collecting portraits for the new gallery. He visited many of the key historic houses of the era to make an inventory of portraits (including engravings) in private hands, as well as in public collections. The findings would also help the gallery distinguish copies, and identify the best methods of capturing images. With photography still in its infancy his sketchbooks are the pictorial record of his visits, a nineteenth century precursor to the notion of an image bank.

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Historic gardens in Oxfordshire: place and power

For the University of Oxford, Department of Continuing Education Helen devised and taught a five week ‘taster’ course, ‘Place and Power’.

The course which ran in April 2009 focused on three Oxfordshire gardens:

  • Nuneham Park
  • Ditchley Park and
  • Buscot Park

Helen ran an extended version of the course, ‘Historic gardens in Oxfordshire: place and power’ in 2010.