LECTURES / TOURS and CONSULTANCY

Ann lectures for the Arts Society (previously known as NADFAS), national institutions and local history groups. Consultancy includes: commissions to research the history of houses and estates and writing publications based on the findings; advising on garden and designed landscape recreations and restorations; conducting geophysics to locate the remains of lost building and garden features; providing a view on the authenticity of historical documents.

LECTURES / TOURS

1          Opulent royal and courtier Tudor gardens: a richness of different art forms

2          Raglan Castle: a Renaissance palace of national importance [This lecture may be combined with a

            guided tour of Raglan Castle]

3         Cambridge College gardens: their history from the thirteenth century [Ann is happy to act as guide

            for those wishing to visit any of the medieval/Tudor colleges]

4          Polymath Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George II: her contribution to English culture

5          Anne of Denmark, wife of James I/VI: her passions for architecture, gardens and jewellery

6          Gardens from the Tudor and Stuart periods

7          How do garden historians research garden history?

8          Troy House estate: discovering the forgotten home of the Dukes of Beaufort

9          Bramshill, Hampshire: the mystery of its historic gardens and botanical paintings

10          Coton Manor, Northamptonshire: a history of its gardens [This lecture may be combined with a

            guided tour of Coton Manor Garden]

11        Raglan, Troy and Badminton: the gardens of the Somerset family to 1715

Ann giving her lecture on Raglan Castle at Abergavenny Borough Theatre

LECTURE DETAILS © Dr Ann Benson

1          Opulent royal and courtier Tudor gardens: a richness of different art forms

Tudor gardens were among the glories of the age. They enabled the richness of Renaissance culture to extend beyond the house and in so doing, became living art forms to delight the senses, facilitate outdoor entertainments, whilst simultaneously serving as symbols of power and courtly magnificence. Fountains, water gardens, grottoes, sweetly scented arbours, orchards of all kinds of fruit, intricate knot gardens and mazes, were enlivened with an increasing variety of new plants discovered from recent journeys to the East and the New World of the Americas. Focussing on the gardens of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and those of their leading courtiers vying for royal favour, this richly illustrated lecture includes Burghley, Kenilworth, Theobalds, Hampton Court, Montacute, Holdenby, Wilton, Raglan ‒ and many others.

2          Raglan Castle: a Renaissance palace of national importance

Take one of the finest late medieval castles to be built in England and Wales and set it within the remains of an elaborate Renaissance garden rivalling any in the British Isles and you have Raglan. More palace than castle, Raglan’s buildings and gardens were the products of continued growth, not one grand design. Successive generations of the Herbert family, who became the Somersets by marriage and then Dukes of Beaufort (1682), contributed to that continual growth drawing on their wealth, royal favour and knowledge of the leading fashions during the Tudor and early Stuart periods. Raglan’s knot gardens, bowling green, extensive terraces overlooking a man-made lake that competed with Kenilworth’s for size, a moat walk with shell-lined alcoves filled with statues ‒ and the most elaborate water parterre known to have ever been created in the British Isles ‒ are all presented using Ann’s research with its digital re-creations.

[This lecture may be combined with a guided tour of Raglan Castle]

3          Cambridge College gardens: their history from the thirteenth century

Oxford has its quads but Cambridge has its courts. The difference? All is explained as Ann describes how the early history of Cambridge produced colleges with tennis courts and bowling greens attached to buildings grouped around lawns and leafy spaces. She selects from her research of the sixteen colleges founded in late medieval and Tudor times to illustrate the beautiful architectural features of the buildings variously supported by religious bodies, kings and queens. Richly illustrated throughout, Ann then reveals how the college grounds have changed across time due to their association with notable head gardeners and college members such as Laurence Chaderton at Emmanuel, Sir Issac Newton at Trinity and Charles Darwin at Christs, and from responses to changing fashions and financial pressures. A virtual tour of the college gardens as they currently exist provides a final feast of colour and form to delight the senses.

[Ann is happy to act as guide for those wishing to visit any of the medieval/Tudor colleges]

4          Polymath Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George II: her contribution to English culture

Caroline of Ansbach, Queen-Consort of George II, and four times Queen-Regent, was rightfully called ‘The Illustrious’ by her contemporaries. For the first ten years of George II’s reign until her early death (1737), Caroline largely governed England with Sir Robert Walpole. Sculptors Giovanni Battista Guelfi and John Rysbrack, the poets John Gay, Thomas Tickell and the Whig journalist Joseph Addison, a particular favourite, were all welcomed to her salons. Isaac Newton was carried in his chair from his house nearby. Despite being a Roman Catholic and a Tory with a leaning to Jacobitism, the poet and garden designer, Alexander Pope, was a frequent visitor because his genius stood before every other consideration for Caroline. By attracting many of those who were shaping the political and cultural landscape of early eighteenth-century England to her salons, Caroline promoted the Hanoverian dynasty and satisfied her interests in art, architecture, gardens, literature and science.

5          Anne of Denmark, wife of James I: her passions for architecture, gardens and jewellery

Historians have often dismissed Anne of Denmark as frivolous and of little consequence. This lecture draws on more recent research to reveal Anne (Anna) as a woman who was not only adept at managing political and personal pressures but also one with many cultural interests. Anna was fifteen when she left an affectionate and sophisticated home in Denmark to arrive in Scotland for marriage to James VI. He had coarse personal habits, whilst the Scottish Court was rife with internal conflict. Her adjustment to her new life, learning broad Scots to better communicate with members of the Court, and adeptness in managing the Court’s internal workings to secure her position as Queen, shows a woman of significant abilities. She prospered when James ascended the English throne, and used her access to increased wealth to pursue her interests in the performing arts, architecture, gardens and the creation of exceptional jewelry.

6          Gardens from the Tudor and Stuart periods

Gardens from the Tudor period have not survived, but we have a wealth of information about them. Amongst the nobility, ornamental gardens were a symbol of status: they reflected their owner’s wealth and an awareness of the Renaissance ideals of controlling and improving nature. For example, the Tudor knot garden, where everything is in its place, reflects a culture of bending nature to man’s precise wishes. The finest Tudor gardens were created for Henry VIII and by the courtiers of Elizabeth I, and with the same precision that is seen in the era’s wainscoting, embroidery and plaster-work. The gardens of the following Stuart period combined more complex knot designs containing coloured minerals, with more exotic plants, ornate fountains, water parterres, canals, and sculpture that became more classical than heraldic in design. This lecture brings these gardens to ‘life’ using contemporary letters, books, paintings and recreations, both real and virtual.

7          How do garden historians research garden history?

Great country houses have often amassed across time records of the designers of their gardens, accounts showing what was done and when, estate maps, paintings, drawings, and occasionally, diaries and stories of peoples' experiences of being in the garden. Discovering a garden's history can be challenging because it requires investigating different types of evidence from different disciplines, including social history and archaeology ‒ but it is also immensely enjoyable as a sleuthing activity when the bits of the jigsaw fall into place. This lecture reveals how one aristocratic family, the Dukes of Beaufort and their ancestors, created gardens at their three main homes, Raglan Castle during Tudor times, Troy House during the Stuart period and Badminton on the cusp of the eighteenth century. Richly illustrated, including 3D and fly-through reconstructions of these gardens from her research, Ann provides an insight of how the history of a garden can be discovered.

8          Troy House estate: discovering the forgotten home of the Dukes of Beaufort

Dr Ann Benson is the first to uncover the chequered history of the Troy estate that was once owned and occupied by the Dukes of Beaufort for more than three hundred years. Ann shows how her research and transcription of a forgotten 1557 inventory reveal the history of the house and its gardens from the 1200s, to a period of extensive building in early Tudor times when Henry VII and his Queen, Elizabeth of York, stayed at Troy. She continues with the discovery of ornate plaster ceilings and priest holes from the early Stuart period to the 1680s when the first Duke of Beaufort trebled the size of the house and created grand gardens to reflect the family’s status. Subsequent tragic events and French nuns escaping religious persecution all come into play, culminating in a video reconstruction of the house and garden in its seventeenth-century heyday.

9          Bramshill, Hampshire: the mystery of its historic gardens and botanical paintings

Bramshill House, in north-east Hampshire, is one of the largest, surviving Jacobean mansions in England. A house from the 1350s was largely demolished by Edward la Zouche, 11th Baron Zouche (a favourite of James I) in 1605 when he began to build the Bramshill House of today. Its design shows the influence of the Italian Renaissance. The formal gardens and parkland were also first laid out by Edward la Zouche in the early 1600s. This lecture traces the creation of those beautiful gardens and designed landscapes. Their subsequent modifications, including the significance of Edward as a horticulturalist and creator of a botanic garden  ̶  and employer of the eminent Flemish botanist, Matthias De L’Obel  ̶  are also covered. One room overlooking the walled garden at Bramshill is entirely lined with paneling containing unique botanical paintings; Ann presents her exciting new research on identifying the date and source of these images.

10          Coton Manor, Northamptonshire: a history of its gardens

Coton Manor in Northamptonshire is famous for welcoming thousands of visitors to its garden each year, many making an annual ‘pilgrimage’ to its bluebell wood in late April. However, it is still very much a home with the owners being hands-on in its maintenance and the opening of the garden and plant nursery to visitors. It’s rare to find a garden that has been in one family for nearly a century. This richly illustrated lecture is based on Ann’s research and tells how the house and its surrounding designed landscape have developed – and survived ‒ from Domesday to the present. It covers the ravages of Civil War when the ancient house was razed to the ground, Restoration when the house was rebuilt in 1662 from stone salvaged from nearby Holdenby House, and ownership by an American heiress and her English husband, who are the grandparents of the current owners.

[This lecture may be combined with a guided tour of Coton Manor Gardens]

11        Raglan, Troy and Badminton: the gardens of the Somerset family to 1715

When Henry VII arranged the marriage of his favourite, Sir Charles Somerset, to the heiress Elizabeth Herbert, the King’s interests within Wales were more secure than ever before. The marriage also became the genesis of the rise of the wealthy and politically savvy Somerset dynasty (Earls of Worcester), which from 1682, became the Dukes of Beaufort. Elizabeth brought land and the Herbert’s main residence of Raglan Castle to the marriage. This lecture covers the Somerset’s transition of Raglan from fortress to Renaissance palace. It deals with the fall of Raglan in the Civil War, the family’s subsequent move to Troy near Monmouth, where they enriched its architecture and gardens to reflect the family’s national importance. Finally, following the first Duke of Beaufort’s astute reclamation of the family’s wealth and position – and his wife’s design and botanical skills ‒ Badminton became famous for its palatial buildings and cosmologically inspired gardens.

 email: mail@annbenson.co.uk | © 2020 Richard Benson