In June 2013 I wrote about my visit to Wentworth Castle Gardens mentioning that I hoped to return to inspect the completed restoration of the Victorian Glasshouse. Yesterday, at last, I managed to get back there and noticed that the trust, the employees, contractors and volunteers had made many further improvements and additions.
The Fully Restored Victorian Glasshouse
The Glasshouse is now filled with exotic hothouse plants from around the world. Except that, for some unknown reason, the urn on the left of the picture holds plastic flowers!
The Chilean Bellflower ‘Lapageria Rosea‘
The Chilean Bell Flower is named after Napoleon’s first wife Josephine La Pagerie. William Lobb, a Cornish plant hunter for the firm Veitch and Sons, brought it back from Chile during the 1840s. This beautiful flower is the national flower of Chile and is now protected in the wild.
The Blackamoor was bought by Lord Strafford. The statue symbolised the profitability of the slave trade, but its likeness later became a powerful image for the abolitionists. The statue was bought to commemorate Asiento de Negros [Atlantic Slave Trade Monopoly], which Strafford won for Britain at The Peace Treaty of Utrecht, 1713 and became popular in British gardens during the 18th century. From c.1790, the movement to abolish the slave trade chose ‘The Kneeling Slave’ as its logo – adding the inscription “Am I not a man, not a brother”. In the mid-1980s, in response to the statue’s history, students at the Northern College painted the black statue white. Restored in 2010, the decision to return the life-like skin tones to the statue sought to re-enforce the humanity of the individual depicted. [Wording accompanying the restored statue]
On my last visit I noticed volunteers hard at work in one of the gardens and this is now a fully restored Victorian Flower Garden. On the site of the former 18th century bowling green this secret garden has been re-designed and re-planted many times. The seasonal bedding plants are changed twice a year to give spring and summer colour. Note the restored benches decorated with horse chestnut patterns.
In addition to the formal gardens there are nearly 600 acres of parkland, woodland and farmland criss-crossed by grassy paths and tracks. This is only a fraction of Thomas Wentworth’s original estate and is still known as Stainborough Park. In addition to the deer park, there’s a collection of unique historic monuments including Queen Anne’s Obelisk, the Rotunda and the Duke of Argyle’s monument. We only managed to reach the Rotunda which is thought to be modelled on the Temple of Vesta and the Sybil at Tivoli.