Gardening Journalist

Country Illustrated

The hard face of history tamed in a garden's smile

The Sunday Times

Wher'er you walk, Sudeley Castle garden is a place of grand passions. From the romance of Kings and Queens of England, to the terror wrought by violent deaths, its past lives on today in new and inspired designs, as Roddy Llewellyn describes.

Why is it that dastardly deeds cling to the pages of history books, whereas acts of philanthropy and altruism are often forgotten? As Shakespeare wrote, 'The evil that men do lives after them: the good is oft interred with their bones.' So it is with many wonderful gardens and houses, saved by people who cared for them with a passion. Yes, some sought grandeur; but many others restored houses and their gardens for the pure pleasure of the task.

One such woman was Emma Dent, who moved into Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire in 1855 with her husband John Croucher Dent, a member of the Worcester family who made a fortune in gloves. Her two uncles by marriage, brothers John and William Dent, had bought Sudeley as a ruin in 1837. The castle had been in decay for 180 years, since Oliver Cromwell, whom none can forget, reduced most of this historic house to a ruin.

Sudeley is steeped in an almost incomparably rich history. Built during the 15th century, it subsequently became the property of Richard III. In the 16th century Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed there, and in 1547 Edward VI gave it to his uncle Lord Seymoure, who greatly enlarged the house for Catherine Parr, the future wife of Henry VIII. Queen Elizabeth I was also a frequent visitor.