It’s no good I can’t help another deviation to share some recently discovered old trees – Lord Byron may well have walked or ridden along this avenue.

Kingston Lacy Avenue

If you’ve read my early blogs I have spoken before of my passion for old trees, which may sound silly, and my daughter definitely thinks is silly, but when I see things like this avenue at Kingston Lacy I cannot help but be drawn into imagining who has walked past these trees before me, over the same soil. It’s funny because I don’t think about it in the same way when I walk through the house. Kingston Hall was completed in 1667 and it looks as though this avenue was planted then.

When these trees were perhaps ten years old, the Duke of Ormonde lived in Kingston Hall. He was close to King Charles II, having shared the King’s years of exile and was given his title on the King’s restoration. He was in his 70’s when he lived at Kingston Hall, and would have possibly arrived along this avenue, having lived a tumultuous life, in and out of favour in a back stabbing court and holding Ireland for the Crown in the Civil War. He must have had a lot to contemplate as he looked down upon the avenue from the windows of Kingston Hall in his last days.

Then there is the history of William John Bankes, a second son, born in 1786 (The gentleman who explored Egypt and brought home the obelisk). He later became heir and formed a lifelong friendship with Lord Byron, beginning in 1804, when they met at Trinity College,Cambridge. William competed with Byron for the attention and the hand of Annabella Millbanke. He had his own proposal rejected in 1812. Byron writes of him ‘He is very clever, very original and has a fund of information; he is also very good-natured, but he is not much of a flatterer…’ Annabella was clearly not interested in anything beyond perhaps encouraging his adulation and continued attention. ‘One of my smiles would encourage him, but I am niggardly in my glances.’

Of course Byron was not so lacking in flattery. All I have read of him and the letters he has written show a very intelligent man who was extremely capable of flirtation, manipulation and seduction. I would say, if he wished to, he knew how to charm people. We certainly know he had a gift with words. He married Annabella in 1815, after she fell for his fame following the publication of Childe Harold – she read a copy Byron gave to William and William loaned to her. Annabella wrote to Byron then, ‘I am afraid he will hear of us with pain, yet he cannot lose hope, for I never allowed it to exist’.

In an earlier post I showed this picture of the pelisse Annabella is believed to have worn on her departure for her honeymoon, following her marriage to Lord Byron, it is in the possession of the Fashion museum inBath.

I can only wonder if either Byron or Annabella travelled along this avenue, on foot, by horse or carriage. I think there are strong odds that Byron did, as his friendship with William Bankes lasted so many years even surviving his failed marriage to Annabella, though Byron had fled England after this.


Then there are my favourite trees from Stourhead, which out date the Georgian house by centuries, it is believed they may be a 1000 years old, which means they have stood along this entrance way since the medieval period. An army of knights may have ridden past here, escorting carts piled high with household belongs perhaps, as the families moved from residence to residence – their tack jangling, the sound of the horses hooves a low thunder and the bright colours of their clothing and heraldry tabards and banners fluttering in the breeze. Yes, I can imagine it. I have spoken of them before, but now I have a picture.

Old Wardour Yew Alley

My last find however was at Old Wardour, last week. This alley of yew trees was planted in 1730, along a surviving terrace from the second era of the ruins as an element of a ‘formal’ pleasure garden. The terraces had railings along their edge when established and steps. This one overlooked a bowling green, with the ruins as its backdrop. My imagination of course pictures the gentlemen who must have climbed the ruins and engraved their names walking along beside these trees, perhaps flattering a woman, Byronic style. And notably the greatest amount of graffiti is in the entrance facing the site of the bowling green which would match the date of this formal garden. Perhaps these were carved as they waited for their turn or watched a game of bowls.

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark


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This week my exploration of follies has led me to Old Wardour Castle; to the medieval.

Old Wardour Castle near Salisbury was built in the 14th Century, but I am not writing about its medieval beginnings, or its development into a fabulous Tudor residence; I am exploring it as an example of the Georgian fashion for blending romantic ruins into a landscape garden. After all not everyone has a real ruin in their garden and the fashion for follies meant others were building mock equivalents, aspiring to a former stately ‘keep’. It was the 8th Lord Arundell who asked ‘Capability Brown’ to incorporate the ruins into his new garden design.

The Arundell family were forced to leave Old Wardour Castle when it was damaged during a siege in the Civil War in 1644. They built a smaller house beside it in the 1680’s, outside the wall, and began developing the grounds. The early garden was established in 1730. It was formal and terraced, with a bowling green. It was not until the later 18th Century that the garden reached its romantic peak after the 8th Lord Arundell married an heiress in 1763 and set about building both a new house and a new garden.

The new house was quite deliberately perched upon the slope of a facing hill, so that it looked down on the romantic ruins, painting a picturesque view as the family would have seen sunlight shining back from the fallen walls of their ancestral home, framed by woodland.

The mock gothic Banqueting House which nestles beyond the castle’s curtain wall, was built in 1973-4, while New Wardour was still under construction. It is a place where guests may stop and dine after a visit to the ruins.

To add entertainment to the developing pleasure garden of course it had to have a Grotto, which was placed facing the ruins on the far side from the Banqueting House, on top of the old terrace which was still lined by a yew avenue. It was built in 1792 by Josiah Lane of near by Tisbury, a well known local builder of garden ornaments. And you can see like Pope’s Grotto, and that at Prior Park, it is eclectic, containing ammonites and stalagmites. It has twisting, turning tunnels, and numerous little niches in which the explorer might perch and a frightening aura about it, to inspire the fashionable gothic imagination.

Staying in the gothic style is what survives of Lord Arundell’s stone ring. To add even more authenticity and age to his pleasure garden he transported a 4,000 year old prehistoric ring of stones from Tisbury, and added two seats to it for his guests to idle away their afternoons upon, reading poetry, or painting. In these stone alcoves he incorporated decorated stone from the fallen ruins.

I can easily imagine a house party riding out from New Wardour to the ruins for an afternoon of adventure and exploration, for their entertainment. Running through the grotto tunnels, and climbing up through the ruined tower’s rooms to reach the highest point and there carving their names to remember the visit. They would have dined lavishly in the banqueting hall, enjoying their host’s hospitality and then perhaps sat in the alcoves of the stone ring or the grotto, flirting, resting, talking, painting or reading.

And yes there is Graffiti, some from the days of these house parties, and some from later days in the 1800’s when in 1830 the ruins were opened to the public and the banqueting hall became a place for visitors to obtain refreshment, including one private dining room for the more influential. Though in some places it is hard to tell the old graffiti from the new, where it has been worn away by rain and carved over again.

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark

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