Kenilworth re-created garden will be fully open to the public in May.
English Heritage say:
The garden will feature magnificent carved arbours; a bejewelled aviary and an 18-foot high fountain, as it did when it was designed by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester to astound visitors, including Elizabeth I.
Gardens recreate Elizabethan age [includes video link]
The 16th century gardens of Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire are about to open to the public after being restored to their former Elizabethan glory. They were created by Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, in an attempt to win the heart of Queen Elizabeth I. The gardens feature a spectacular 18ft high marble fountain, a gilded aviary containing lizard canaries, pheasants, and guinea fowl.
Even before its opening the garden is proving controversial:
English Heritage has denied claims there is “little evidence” that the Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle ever existed. The claim was made at a public meeting before work on the garden began, according to an article in The Sunday Times at the weekend.
The article was largely about a new TV documentary called English Heritage which looks at several different projects on properties in the UK, including the Kenilworth garden.
But it also added that, at a public meeting to discuss the proposed garden, the question was raised as to why English Heritage was spending so much money on a garden of which there is “so little evidence”.
It also reported that two digs had been carried out to look for evidence of its layout,but nothing was found.
The garden is being recreated to an exact description from a letter written by castle courtier Robert Laneham in 1575 when Elizabeth I visited her favourite courtier, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
John Watkins, head of gardens and landscapes at English Heritage, says there is plenty of evidence to go on – Laneham’s letter as well as archaeological finds.
He said: “One of the reasons we have worked so hard on this project is the fact that we have this eyewitness account of the Elizabethan garden.
“It is an accurate description and tells us where things were and the dimensions of them.
“Laneham did exist and worked for Robert Dudley. He had an eye for detail and design and we have a lot of evidence to validate this letter.”
He added: “The letter describes the aviary, fountain and terrace.
“We have carried out archaeological digs. Six trenches were dug and the second trench found pieces of the foundation of the fountain.
“A full excavation of the site was carried out over two seasons and the letter described it as being an eight-sided fountain which was 4ft high and the pool below was 4ft deep.
“The letter says it was white marble from the Carrara quarry in Italy. We found chips of marble during the excavation and it was confirmed they were from the fountain and that particular quarry in Italy.
“This is better than having a plan of the garden. Just because plans exist, it does not mean they were carried out; a plan is just a plan.
“In the 1970s a garden was created from a plan from 1650 at the castle but it was doubtful that it had ever been laid out.
“This was nothing more than an idea but this time we have the eyewitness account and the archaeological finds to back this account up.
“This is a magnificent thing to be able to do and will prove an invaluable tool to those visiting Kenilworth who will be able to see it as it was created for Elizabeth I.”