Hornby Castle (1).JPG

Hornby Castle

Having been away on business I was sorry to come late to a communication from Dr L G of Hackney. It is always a pleasure to catch the good doctor’s lean figure through the frosted glass at the chemist’s, easily recognised by the tented chapeau that he wears when it rains for fear, as he puts it, that water may interfere with the working of his magnificent mind. He now wishes to put his considerable talents to the creation of a menagerie garden in the style of that great original, Capability Brown.


It struck me immediately to put him in touch with Dr M of York. He will be well-known as a collector of very small trains (the Hornby OOOO series), yet he still has time to take an interest in those fragments of old gardens that Brown retained wherever he could – or even, conceivably developed de novo around ruins.

We met and walked together at the foot of the Yorkshire wolds where we discussed such examples as the mediaeval moated site at Hornby Castle which was redeveloped as a garden in Brown’s day, something like, one might think, Quince Tree Pond at Ampthill, if that was the garden that Horace Walpole found in 1773, writing of Catherine of Aragon ‘Nothing remains of the castle, nor any marks of residence but a very small bit of her garden.’ By way of the old gardens that he retained at Queen Mary’s Bower at Chatsworth, we then extended the purview to include the Old Castles at Wardour and Sherborne until by the end of our tour we found ourselves locked in a consideration of Brown’s approach to Hampton Court, which he told the king he would not alter ‘out of respect to his profession’. Surely these fragments of old gardens speak more to the antiquarian than to the respect of the professional? – but here Dr M and I could not agree – I should add that though the two doctors are equally tall, Dr M may readily be distinguished from Dr L G by the persistent light dew that forms upon his brow. He tells me that clouds mistake him for the Sugar Loaf Mountain and he has learnt to accommodate their habit of condensing in a fine mist about him. This alerted me to caution him against coming too close to Dr L G at their meeting, lest he inadvertently bedew Dr L G’s chapeau, or indeed Dr L G with his chapeau keep, in his enthusiasm, the cooling dews from Dr M’s fevered forehead.

I look forward to their conclusions and shall be pleased to report them in a future note. Meanwhile I rather hope that Dr L G will take Dr M’s train-set to his heart and find a place for it in the menagerie.