5. Derbyshire

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Renishaw Hall, Renishaw
Mr and Mrs Richard Hayward

The Sitwells built Renishaw in the 1620s, originally an H-shaped Jacobean house, later Sitwells enlarged it. Sitwell Sitwell built the stables, gothicised the house and added the drawing room and ball room, the latter containing, amongst other treasurers, Salvatore Rosa’s stupendous painting of Belisarius acquired by Osbert Sitwell from Raynham Hall in the 1920s. Sir George Sitwell, dividing his time between Derbyshire and Italy, commissioned a billiard room from Lutyens and himself designed the magnificent garden to the south of the house. This is Italianate gardening at its very best. Yew hedges divide the garden into intimate sheltered spaces, restrainedly adorned with statues and vases and planted with remarkably tender shrubs and perennials. Beyond the final water jet and across the ha-ha, the Sitwells boast that one can see Hardwick Hall “with the eye of faith.”
We will be given a tour of the house before exploring the garden.

Renishaw Hall Tour 5

The Dower House, Melbourne
Mr and Mrs William Kerr

William Kerr inherited The Dower House in 1982. The family came to Derbyshire in 1988, but shortly thereafter moved to Hong Kong leaving behind a totally abandoned garden. From the early years of 2000 Griselda returned for short periods spending two years at The English Gardening School, then Broomfield College and Brooksby.   Since then she has not only created a fabulous garden, which is a plantsman’s dream, but also written the most useful and practical gardening book to have been published for years (The Apprehensive Gardener). The early 19th century house stands at the top of a slope looking across Melbourne Pool. On the highest ground is a woodland garden on the remains of a tennis court, below which a network of paths lead down banks planted with specimen trees and interesting shrubs to a glade and bog garden on the edge of the Pool.   The return to the house takes in a large lawn surrounded by a rose tunnel, late summer borders and a bank of flowering shrubs at their best in midsummer.

The Church of St Michael and St Mary, Melbourne
Melbourne Hall was once a residence of the Bishops of Carlisle, who may have considered it more convenient and safer to venture no further north. This explains the magnificence of the neighbouring Norman church which Pevsner describes as one of the most ambitious parish churches in England. While it is sad that the twin towers on the west façade are unfinished, the spectacular Norman interior is indeed worthy of a bishop.

Melbourne Hall, Melbourne
Lord and Lady Ralph Kerr

The original hall at Melbourne was extended by two wings, that to the east, facing on to the garden was added in the early 18th century. The gardens were designed in 1699 and laid out in 1704 by the royal gardeners Henry Wise and George London for Queen Anne’s vice-chamberlain Thomas Coke. He required them to “suit with Versailles”. The scale is somewhat smaller, but the proportions of the terraces bounded, by yew hedges, running down to Robert Bakewell’s superlative ironwork arbour, give it a sense of grandeur. The garden contains many good lead figures by John van Nost and, at the top of The Grove, a formal woodland and water garden, is the spectacular Four Seasons vase, given to Thomas Coke by Queen Anne.

Meet Renishaw Hall. Lunch at The Dower House