Boswell was enthusiastic about the gardens at the Mansion. All that now remains is a handsome Roman Doric temple and, on the left of the street façade, a red brick screen wall of seven blind arches against which the Orangery formerly leaned. This wall abuts on Owlfields Almshouses [SMR 320]. (1)
In the first half of the 1760s Dr Taylor, the then owner of The Mansion, undertook a scheme to improve his house and garden. Even though his house was situated on the main street of the town he 'turned it round' by building his new octagonal drawing-room, and laid out a garden leading down to the river and looking out over a deer paddock beyond. In 1764 he purchased two small houses to the east of The Mansion which he subsequently demolished, presumably adding their gardens to his own. On the site of the houses he erected the high wall with blank arches which still divides the garden from the street; behind this lay his orangery and hothouse. In the rear garden area he erected a classical summer house. This was a three-arched structure built in the form of a Roman Doric temple, now known as 'Johnson's Arbour'. In 1770 Dr Johnson wrote in one of his letters during a visit to The Mansion that 'Dr Taylor's is a very pleasant house with a lawn and a lake and twenty deer and five fawns on the lawn' [beyond the garden, on the south side of the river]. Taylor had diverted the River Henmore to create a miniature lake or fishpond which, Johnson reported in 1775, was 'so full of mud that the water fowl have left it', although two years later it was dredged. It was finally filled in in the early Victorian period. Adjacent to the lake was a small weir or waterfall which, in October 1772, was making a 'great roaring' as a result of high rainfall. Taylor made frequent improvements to the garden and in 1777 Johnson observed that the garden walk was newly gravelled and was being extended to the waterfall. The garden was not entirely ornamental - behind the blank street wall were gardens 'well furnished with wall fruit'; in his will Taylor mentioned orange and lemon trees growing in his greenhouse. (2)
A historic garden appraisal was carried out in 2010. This describes the development of the garden from the earliest evidence in the late 17th century, mainly in the form of surviving walls with 17th century brickwork, through the 18th and early 19th century garden, with small serpentine lake, diverted Henmore Brook, and deer paddock on the south side of the brook, to the truncation of the garden and its comprehensive re-planting in the early 20th century. (3)
Bibliographic reference: Pevsner, N. 1979. The Buildings of England: Derbyshire. 2nd ed., revised. p 63.
Bibliographic reference: Henstock, A (ed). 1991. A Georgian Country Town. Ashbourne 1725-1825. Volume Two: Architecture. pp 86-87, p 89.
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Centred SK 178 463 (331m by 273m) (Approximate)
ASHBOURNE, DERBYSHIRE DALES, DERBYSHIRE
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Record last edited
Mar 15 2020 10:17AM
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