The Ha-ha hero, no address, but poste restante Glasgow, has responded to our earlier discussions of extent (note 58) to insist that I should at least agree with him that the second half of the 18th century was a time of sudden expansion in the number and size of parks.
By all means sir I am always anxious to agree with the intemperate – so Horace Walpole wrote to Horace Mann (August 1750) ‘I wish you could see the villas and seats here! The country wears a new face; everybody is improving their places, and as they don’t fortify their plantations with entrenchments of walls and high hedges, one has the benefit of them even in passing by.’
John Summerson has independently concluded that there was also a boom in house-building in the 1720s, with more than seventy new country houses begun in that decade. Daniel Defoe would have endorsed this opinion, complaining that ‘Even while the Sheets are in the Press, new Beauties appear in several Places, and almost to every Part we are oblig’d to add Appendixes, and Supplemental Accounts of fine Houses, new Undertakings, Buildings, &c.’, while Vanbrugh had described ‘all the world are running mad after building as far as they can reach’ a decade earlier. In fact, most generations have felt that they were in the grip of a housing boom.
When a phenomenon is nationwide, as it was recognised to be in the 18th century, and when the effect is broadly similar throughout the country, then it is tempting to look for a nationwide cause. This is a point I put to my good friend Captain Ken, the noted bicyclist. He replied that it was all down to the improvement in the roads, however I am not altogether sure that he heard the question.