Clinging to the past: medievalism in the English ‘Renaissance’ garden

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When studying the Tudor period, garden historians often over-emphasize what is deemed new, concentrating on anything that might be linked to continental, particularly Italianate, influences. If some of the greatest architectural triumphs of the period were a quirky combination of ‘antiquarian medieval’ motifs (Wollaton Hall's traceried windows and soaring tourelles, for example) with sophisticated continental features (Wollaton's Italianate plan), it seems likely that the same eclecticism would have been employed in gardens. What needs to be examined is what Tudor builders knew about earlier gardens in Britain (or elsewhere). Because the period is so often treated as a ‘beginning’ (of the early modern period), what remained of important royal and aristocratic medieval gardens, both materially and in the collective memory, has not been adequately determined. Once we have a proper understanding of what survived to be admired by the Tudors, we might be able to assess how gardens reflected both indigenous and Renaissance ideas. Perhaps the best way to differentiate between medieval and classical inspiration is to look carefully at the evolution of individual garden features – fountains, garden buildings, earthworks, planting and basic principles of design – to determine at what point classical ideas began to dominate and when medieval features were revived and to what purpose.

Keywords: Renaissance; Tudor; eclecticism; garden; medieval; revived

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Independent scholar

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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