Sunday, 20 May 2007

Artists Impression

Here is, to my mind, the best of the artist's impressions of the Kenilworth Castle garden at the time of Queen Elizabeth's visit. Image by kind permission of English Heritage.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Elizabethan Extravaganza

This coming weekend is an Elizabethan Extravaganza at Kenilworth castle. English Heritage describe it on their website in these words "The Queen's favourite, Sir Robert Dudley is hosting an extravagant pageant at the castle and you are invited! Enjoy falconry, hunting on horseback, music and have-a-go dancing, lessons in etiquette and social behaviour and mounted tournament games!" Sounds like great fun, weather permitting.

The event runs over Sunday and Monday. As usual, the place will be full of re-enactors in full costume. This shot is from a part of a similar weekend last year.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Filling in...

Visually, the visit to Kenilworth castle today was a little disappointing. There is little actual sign of progress on the garden reconstruction, but appearances can be deceptive. The excavation has been covered with a membrane and back-filled to protect the archaeology, which is visible on the photograph as the membrane-covered foundation of the fountain peeping through the topsoil.

The plan is to start with the reconstruction of the terrace against the keep. This will be followed later this year by the layout of the paths and planting of flowers, hedges and fruit trees. The hard landscaping will not start until next year with a target completion date of summer 2008.

The terrace according to Laneham was a ten foot hy & a twelue brode, eeuen vnder foot, & fresh of fyne grass and was bordered by a balustrade and obelisks, sphearz, and white bearz, all of stone, vpon theyr curioouz basez.

About the planting, Laneham says Whear further allso, by great cast & cost, the sweetnes of sauoour on all sidez, made so respiraunt from the redolent plants and fragrant earbs and floourz, in foorm, cooller and quantitee, so delicioously variant: and frute Trees bedecked with their Applz, Peares, and ripe Cherryez. The only other plant mentioned by Laneham is the strawberry.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Bowl or ball?

More on the Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle. One of the artist's reconstruction drawings that I have seen shows a ball upheld by statues as the central feature of the fountain. This is presumably based on the letter written by Robert Laneham which is our only surviving description. However, I'm not sure that this particular reconstruction drawing is correct.

The appropriate passage from Laneham's letter is quoted in an earlier post, and part of it has probably been translated from "theyr hands vphollding a fayr formed boll" to "their hands upholding a fair-formed ball". However, the word "boll" is used elsewhere in the letter to mean "bowl" as in "fyrmenty boll" - "frumenty bowl". Elizabethan spelling is not very consistent: see Laneham's spelling of fountain in the extract in the earlier post. However, their spelling tends to be more phonetic, and similar words throughout the letter (thunderbollts = thunderbolts, bolld = bold) use oll for a "owl" sound, and never an "al" sound.

I'm guessing that (in the passage describing the figures in the central feature) Athlaunts has been translated Atlantes, and that that is the reason that the ball features in the reconstruction (because an Atlas figure typically upholds a terrestrial globe).

However, the current English Heritage release contains a different reconstruction drawing and description that does use a bowl, rather than a ball so it will be intriguing to see how the final fountain ends up. I'm sure, though, that English Heritage will get it right.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Elizabeth I visits Kenilworth

The Elizabethan garden that will be re-created at Kenilworth was designed and planted in readiness for the visit of Queen Elizabeth I in 1575. English Heritage run regular events at Kenilworth and here is a shot of a re-enactment of that visit showing the Queen addressing her loyal subjects.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

A fayre fountain

The pre-excavation information that we have about the Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth comes from a letter written by Robert Laneham (who was Clerk of the Council Chamber to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester) describing the visit of Queen Elizabeth I in 1575. The recently completed excavations have confirmed the layout as contained in Laneham's letter. The focal point of the centre of the garden was an elaborate octagonal fountain. The complete foundations for this were discovered during excavation along with culverts for bringing water in and out of the fountain, and white marble chips that show the accuracy of Laneham's account.

He said:
In the center (az it wear) of this goodly Gardein, was theer placed a very fayre Foountain, cast intoo an eight square, reared a four foot hy, from the midst whearof a Colum vp set in the shape of too Athlants ioined togeather a backhalf, the toon looking East, toother West, with theyr hands vphollding a fayr formed boll, of a three foot ouer: from wheans sundrye fine pipez did liuely distill continuall streamz intoo the receyt of the Foountayn, maynteyned styll too foot deep by the same fresh falling water: whearin pleazauntly playing too & fro, & round about, Carp, Tench, Bream, and for varietee, Pearch & Eel, fysh fayrliking all, and large; in the toppe, the ragged staffe, which, with the boll, the pillar, and eyght sides beneath, wear all heawen oout of rich & hard white Marbl. A one syde, Neptune with his Tridental Fuskin triumphing in hiz Throne, trayled into the deep by his marine horsez. On another, Thetis in her chariot drawn by her Dollphins. Then, Triton by hiz fyshez. Heer, Protheus hearding hiz sea buls. Thear, Doris & her dooughterz solacyng a sea & sandz. The wauez scourging with froth & fome, entermengled in place with whalez, whirlpoolz, sturgeonz, Tunneyz, Conchs, & wealks: all engrauen by exquisit deuize and skill, so az I maye thinke this not much inferioour vnto Phoebus gatez, which (Quid sayz), & peraduentur a pattern to thiz, that Vulcan himself dyd cut: whearof such was the excellency of art, that the woork in valu surmoounted the stuff; and yet wer the gatez all of clean massy syluer.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Kenilworth Castle garden

pre-excavation garden at Kenilworth CastleI'm looking forward to my visits to Kenilworth Castle this year. Last year was special, as Leicester's Gatehouse was opened to the public for the first time, and the last stage of the two-year excavation of the Elizabethan garden was drawing to a close. The excavation was in preparation for as complete and accurate a reconstruction as possible of the garden as it was when Elizabeth I visited the Earl of Leicester in 1575. The previous garden was set out as a simple knot, with topiary, gravel walks and herb planting - mostly lavender. Work starts this year on the reconstruction. As I've followed the excavations over the last two seasons and visited them with the site director, I'm really keen to see what the reconstruction will eventually look like, and how it will progress. Hats off to English Heritage for their policy of public involvement: usually I get to visit active excavations through my membership of archaeological societies, but there were weekly guided tours of the Elizabethan garden dig for all who turned up. An excavation newsletter is available online that contains an artist's impression of the final layout.

A previous attempt to confirm the layout of the Elizabethan garden in the 1970s consisted of two diagonal trenches which managed to miss all the major features of the site (and the back-filled trenches from that excavation were one of the most obvious sights from the castle keep).

During my visit to the site last year, a pit containing the remains of a horse was being excavated and recorded. This (and two cow carcasses) were nineteenth century animal burials made when vines were being planted, as the bodies were supposed to provide nutrients.Excavating a horse carcass at Kenilworth Castle

Re-creation of lost Elizabethan Garden to begin after thorough research.