Southwick's Gardens & Grounds

Southwick Hall arose from a forest clearing in the C12th without any thought of a vista or garden, on a cold and damp north-facing slope: the priority of the original occupants, as wool merchants, was to provide for their sizeable flock of sheep.The Georgian incumbents addressed this by establishing gardens to the north across the brook, but on a gentle south-facing slope. They laid out paths and ornamental gardens between two of the rivulets draining down from the forest and created a lake from the brook. The ornamental side of this garden disappeared with time; but the vegetable garden became the productive walled garden of the Victorian and Edwardian times, its layout and ruins still clearly visible today.

The Caprons, arriving in the 1840s after a period of neglect, had their own fresh ideas for an ornamental garden – to the south and west of the hall – along with the master plan to 'turn' the house around, so that the front of the hall (and main aspect) faced south, and no longer north. Paths were laid, flower beds created and specimen trees planted. At its heart, adjoining the west wing of the house, was the lawn; its centrepiece, a large ornamental urn, was displaced by the later craze for tennis and croquet. The wisteria, a gift for the Caprons' new home – and immediately described as ‘rampant’ – grew to cover almost all the west front of the house. An exotic water garden was planted by the brook in 1913, but the lack of gardeners during the wars saw it gradually absorbed by the surrounding woodland. A favourite with little egrets, the area is now carpeted with Japanese butterbur and includes a swamp cypress and bamboo, which flowered exactly one hundred years after it was planted. In contrast to the more formal gardens of the grander historic houses, with their specimen plants, Southwick Hall's gounds offer an immersion in quiet woodland and little-disturbed nature.

Southwick's 'sea of daffodils' is always a feature: planted between the wars, they survived the ploughing for potatoes in WWII and are still spreading. The snowdrops naturalised along the brook, now all around the grounds, are also a hallmark; so too the aconites and – blinding, when caught in the right light – the wood anemones. Southwick's mature trees are also a dominant feature of the grounds, as they were perhaps at the outset. They include a persian ironwood and a great lime pollard, with its muscular straight limbs; and the 'Coronation' crab, a natural parasol on the great lawn, with the Georgian wing of the Hall beyond – a favourite with artists.

Along with the brook, ornamental beds and ruins of the Victorian farm, the woodland offers a sheltered haven to many other species of flora, fauna and birdlife, against the natural backdrop of Rockingham Forest.

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