Slow Life has been in suspended animation for the past eight months whilst I’ve been writing a dissertation for my MA in garden history. The 33,000 words which I would have written for Slow Life in that time have gone into the dissertation instead. One of the subjects which I’ve been researching has been the houses which the owners of large estates provided for their head gardeners. The one pictured here is at Levens Hall, whose formal gardens, which are full of topiary, are one of the biggest tourist attractions hereabouts. The gardener’s house was built in 1701 for Guillaume Beaumont, a Frenchman, who had trained under Le Notre at Versailles, before coming to England to work for James II at Hampton Court. Beaumont created the gardens at Levens Hall which by some miracle escaped the attention of vandals such as Capability Brown to survive today.
Since his time there have been only ten head gardeners, all of whom have lived in the house built for Beaumont. The latest occupant is Chris Crowder, who has been there for 25 years and has kept the gardens looking as good as they ever have been.
Postscript: The rabble in the photo are some of my fellow students on the MA course, which is run by Buckingham University under the amiable but highly professional guidance of Professor Tim Mowl. Next year’s course, which is just getting underway, is fully subscribed, so I would recommend anyone who is looking for a year or two of fun combined with learning to apply early for the course starting in September 2014.