From when it was built in Mediaeval England until the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, there were no gardens as we now know them at Warwick Castle. In fact, for at least 400 years the grounds at Warwick served only to distance the ‘haves’ from the ‘have not’s’. The first evidence of a decorative garden at Warwick relates to the visit of Queen Elizabeth in August 1572. A garden consisting of walkways, shrubs and hedgerows is recorded as being alongside the river Avon. This formal Elizabethan knot garden, through which Elizabeth herself would have strolled, marked the beginning of a change in the management of the Castle’s grounds and gardens. As early as 1604 the gardens at Warwick were being praised as without equal, but it was in the 1750s that the grounds at Warwick were to truly come into their own under the eye of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
Capability Brown is one of Britain’s finest landscape gardeners with his work attracting visitors from across the world. At Warwick Castle, Capability Brown fashioned a landscape that today looks so natural it is hard for the visitor to perceive it as manmade. The mark of his genius is that it is only now, hundreds of years after the design was first made and plants selected and placed in the ground that the true majesty of his work can be appreciated.
The grounds at Warwick Castle extend to over 60 acres. They take in The Mound which was built on the orders of William the Conqueror and formed the backbone of the Castles defence in the early years. Military advances saw The Mound lose its import as a defensive position and in the 17th century it was incorporated into landscape planning and became part of the scenery rather than a key part of the structure at Warwick.
Closer to the main Castle building are the Conservatory and the Peacock Garden and Pageant Field. The conservatory was built in 1786 and still functions today as a glasshouse for exotic plants. Immediately in front of the Conservatory is the Peacock Garden. Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were involved in the planting of trees here and you can see Victoria’s thriving oak tree close to the driveway. Beyond the Peacock Garden, stretching down to the river is the Pageant Field.
Not to be missed on any visit to Warwick Castle is the Victorian Rose Garden. The garden was first planted in the 1860s. Sadly, it was paved over and replaced by two tennis courts in the 1940s. Drawings of the original gardens were discovered in the 1980s and work began to restore the Victorian Rose Garden to its former grandeur. There are roses in bloom throughout most of the summer, but, as any gardener will tell you, the best time to visit is late June and throughout July. Keep an eye out for the new English rose ‘Warwick Castle’ which was bred especially for the re-opening of the Victorian Rose Garden in 1986.
The Peacock Garden
The Victorian Rose Garden
The Knoll and the Mound