Staffordshire is usually associated with the Potteries and the Black Country, the industrial heartland of the Midlands, yet it is also a county of gently rolling landscape with some of the most eccentric gardens in the country. Nothing is quite what it seems. Alton Towers, famous for its blood-curdling theme-park rides, has an historic garden with orangeries, temples and a Chinese pagoda. Trentham, best known of the county’s heritage sites with a rich garden history, has a breathtaking modern garden of swaying grasses by Piet Oudolf. There are remains of Elizabethan water gardens at Gayton and Gerards Bromley and, in Izaak Walton’s county, fishing pavilions in the form of a Doric temple at Calwich Abbey and a Gothic chapel at Blithbury Priory. The county’s richest period is the Georgian when Shugborough was given Chinese, Greek and Gothick garden buildings and Enville, a beautiful Gothick orangery like a Staffordshire ornament. One admiral owner at Batchacre directed mock battles on his lake with naval frigates and military forts. Most bizarrely, The Wodehouse at Wombourne had a mechanical hermit to delight visitors. All these eclectic layouts are a welcome relief to the vapid parks of Capability Brown and the suburban landscapes of Humphry Repton which followed them. The themed gardens – Egyptian and Chinese – at the National Trust’s Biddulph Grange are the county’s most important nineteenth-century designs, and even the Art Deco potter Clarice Cliff had a flower-packed garden in the suburbs of Stoke.
60 colour and many black & white illustrations
Softback with flaps