West Cowes from the esplanade

West Cowes from the esplanade

‘“On this principle they have proceeded too hastily at Plas Newydd in grubbing hedges & pulling down cottages, for the sake of showing an extent of open lawn in a direction where plantations ought to be encouraged to screen a bleak country, & shelter the ground from violent winds. The painter will see more beauty in ravaged thorn or an ivy-covered maple; than in any young trees that can be planted: & where such vegetable antiquities are found growing in hedge-rows above the general level of the ground, it is better to surround them with young brushwood to mass or groupe in with the old bushes, than to clear them away, or have them standing on tip toe in the middle of a lawn, to be blown down by the first high wind.”[1]

Repton would have approved the retention of the East and West Copses, which frame the view to the Solent at Norris Castle but would have condemned what seems to have been the wholesale removal of old hedgerow trees on the estate.

‘It is evident that the Lawn between the house and the water requires to be clothed, but the difficulty of determining the lines of the plantations is increased by the facility with which the eye surveys the whole at once, because the shapes of the plantations will appear formal or artificial till their outlines become broken by the various growth of the trees.’[2]

Humphry Repton would have approved the breaking up of the copses into groves and admixture of new planting, such as the hybrid Populus x canescens which is to be found there today. On the other hand Repton would not have advised single trees rather than clumps to establish the planting.

“There is no part of Landscape Gardening more difficult or I may say more hazardous than planting single trees; we do not always look forward to the effect of future growth, and after a tree is grown to a large size, the planter becomes attached to it as to a Child he has reared”.[3]

“If we form our judgement from the map only, we shd. say that the breadth of the Domain (the word Domain is here used in the sense which is generally understood in Wales, in Ireland, & in some parts of England, to include so much of the estate as the proprietor keeps in hand near the house, whether it be park, or gardens, or pleasure grounds, or farm for the immediate use of the mansion) is not in proportion to its length; but in reality this is no defect, since there is sufficient breadth to hide the boundary by plantations, if they are not merely carried close to the wall like a narrow skreen or belt, but brought boldly outward to the edge of the road, & across it, as I shall show in speaking of the approach.”[4]

This very particular instruction for Plas Newydd might have been applied to the linear flanks of planting, particularly on the west side of the Fort Norris approach, as appears from the following comment on Valleyfield.

“A drawing room lighted to the West only, would be very unpleasant and scarcely habitable by reason of the setting Sun, and with the addition of the window to the South (which the good taste and judgement of Lord Meadowbank led him to suggest) the room would be appressed [sic] by too much light. Yet this may be obviated; the objection to the farm done away, and the glare of the setting Sun broken by continuing the wood”[5]

Repton is likely to have approved the decision not to plant a belt around the boundary walls – this limits and confines the space:

“The first object of improvement therefore at Hooton, will consist in so planting the Park as to create some degree of intricacy to engage the attention and check the progress of the eye, which otherwise passes over the intermediate space, and fixes on the boundary. This proves the absurdity of planting what is called a belt round the extremity of a Park, in such situations where its whole line must be obtrusive.”[6]

“Nothing is more often mistaken than the progress of improving a place which is frequently begun by removing all the hedges, then planting single trees or small clumps, and a belt or circular plantation to surround the whole outline proposed to be called a Park. – Instead of this I should propose especially in bleak and windy situations, not to remove any hedges at first, but leave them and take advantage of their angles for sheltered corners to raise groupes of trees; and instead of a narrow belt round the place, I would recommend that large masses of wood would be made to the windward of the site proposed for the house from which single trees may afterwards be drawn out to break the formality of the outline.”[7]

The Copses

Repton will have been delighted by the presence of the coastal woodland and will have approved its reduction into the East and West Copses:

“The greatest beauty of Plas Newydd consists in the concave wings of wood on each side, forming a grand amphitheatre, which is hardly to be seen except from the water, or from the opposite shore, yet as many persons may not have an opportunity of accessing the place from there it becomes a very essential part of the improvements to bring these woods into [notice] from the grounds at Plas Newydd.”[8]

“Nature had made a deep Valley to the South which even the power of Vegetation could hardly have been able to conceal, altho’ from a levelling principle in Nature the trees in the valley grow higher than those on the hill: but a series of ponds has been made by dams across this narrow valley, and these being planted with firs and trees that grow faster than oaks, the valley has almost lost its original character of a ravine: this by the axe and the spade might be restored, but there is so much beauty in a clear deep pool surrounded by brushwood, that I would not now advise all these ponds to be removed, though I should have little mercy on the lofty trees which choke up the natural shape of ground, and hide both the house from the opposite hill, and the rising ground from the house.”[9]

“The principal walk in the Wood, is at present formal, with a strait hedge and plantations of firs. I have already suggested that the outline of the Wood toward the house should be broken, and it may still be protected from Cattle by removing the Fence into the Wood, and many of the Firs may be taken away, where they oppress better trees, and present a spiral outline, or fill up recesses, that would be more interesting when cleared. This management will be most essential in the West corner near the Forest, for I consider the Forest as the principal beauty of the Situation, and of which every advantage should be taken.”[10]

Repton also would have recommended putting a walk through the copses.’ [Notes from the Professor, trans. the Type-Setter]

[1]Plas Newydd in the isle of Anglesey North Wales A Seat of The Rt. Honble the Earl of Uxbridge, 1799.

[2] HOOTON in Cheshire – A Seat of Sir Thomas Stanley Bart., 1802.

[3] Longner in the county of Salop, a seat of Sir Robert Burton, Esq., 1803

[4] Plas Newydd in the isle of Anglesey North Wales A Seat of The Rt. Honble the Earl of Uxbridge, 1799.

[5] Valleyfield 1801

[6] HOOTON in Cheshire – A Seat of Sir Thomas Stanley Bart., 1802.

[7] Designs for Scarrisbrick in Lancashire  a Seat of Thomas Scarrisbrick Ecclestone Esqr. by H. and J. A. Repton, 1802.

[8] Plas Newydd in the isle of Anglesey North Wales A Seat of The Rt. Honble the Earl of Uxbridge, 1799.

[9] Sheffield Place in Sussex – a seat the Rt. Honble. Lord Sheffield, 1801.

[10] WOODFORD HALL For John Maitland, 1801