Kenilworth Castle Ornamental Garden

Description of this historic site

The site of an ornamental garden at Kenilworth Castle which may date back to the Medieval period. It certainly existed by 1575 when Queen Elizabeth I visited Kenilworth castle, but was gone by the mid 1600s. The present formal box garden was created in 1973. Review of Register entry recommended by Lovie as historical develop,ent insufficiently clear.

Notes about this historic site

1 In the corner of the northern and western outer walls of the Castle, the Earl of Leicester made an ornamental garden which was completed in time for the visit made by Queen Elizabeth I in 1575. This garden was completely gone by mid-17th century. On the site is a formal garden (1973), with low geometrical box patterns set in turf and divided by gravel paths.
2 Excavation revealed 12th to 13th century and later medieval features, as well as 16th century.
3 Included in the SAM description for the castle under Monument No 21576 in 1996. The formal ornamental garden occupied an area of almost 1ha and was divided into quarters with the walks meeting at a fountain. A levelled terrace is visible parallel to the northern wall of the keep and this is believed to be the remains of a terraced walkway, originally 3m high, from which the gardens could be viewed.
4 Lovie mentions small garden/orchard to N of Castle ruins and W of Gatehouse, with low box hedges and flower beds.
5 The original Elizabethan Garden was created by Robert Dudley for a visit by Queen Elizabeth I in 1575. Most of our knowledge of the original garden comes from a contemporary account written by Robert Laneham in August 1575. He vividly describes the area to the north of the castle keep as being divided into a system of compartments and grass walks bordered by sand, and filled with flowers, fragrant herbs and fruit trees. In the middle of it all stood a tall sculptured fountain topped by Dudley’s emblem of a ragged staff. The only known plan of the garden was published 81 years later by William Dugdale in 1656. In more recent times the garden area was under cultivation until the 1930s and then used as an orchard before the removal of trees in 1970 prior to excavations by Beric Morley. Resistance and magnetic survey, carried out by English Heritage recorded a number of features which were suggested as belonging to the original garden layout as well as the possible remains of a demolished tower in the northeast of the garden, which is depicted on a fresco of c.1620.
6 A recreated Elizabethan Garden opened in May 2009, using the account by Laneham as a guide. Advertised as ‘Fit for a Queen’.

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