One of our current garden projects is to build a seating area outside the kitchen door. It’s a suntrap, which, thanks to the cottage’s thick, stone walls, retains the warmth long after the sun has set. I dream of an Italian garden with bourgainvillea and lemon trees, plus a pizza oven tucked in there somewhere. During the summer at least. Before I get to that stage, we need to dig and clear. It’s split level, so I’m busy researching features to make the most of the levels. Part of my research includes visiting other Italian gardens, and fortunately Mr TTC found one at Westonbirt House, which is not too far from us.
Westonbirt House was built as a Victorian private residence, but is now a school. It’s across the road from Westonbirt Arboretum, which is a popular destination for families. The House and garden are open on various days through the year. It’s best to check their website for more details.
We weren’t expecting to go on a tour of the house, but I’m glad we did. It is still used by the school, with dorms, dining hall and offices in regular use. A separate trust raises funds to renovate the building’s and garden’s original features.
Our tour guide was a former teacher from the school and she was so knowledgeable. Lots of extra snippets of history and insights to the rooms and house.
(Photo credit for the ceiling photos to Middle and Youngest Teens)
The rooms we saw were amazing. The ceilings (the photos above) and walls were decorative and eye catching.
Until recently, the room in the above photo was used as a dorm. I was sent away to school (not this school), but my dorm was not even close to this one. Can you imagine falling asleep, maybe rehearsing French past participles for the next day, with a ceiling like this above you?
The bell system was a sight to see. For Downton Abbey fans, they reckon that Westonbirt house had a more extensive number of bells. I’ve no idea as I’ve not watched the series. I was intrigued by some of the labels. Obvious ones like the Blue bedroom, but also the Yeomans Lobby caught my eye. The bells were covered up until fairly recently. I can’t imagine how exciting it was to discover it.
The Italian garden
The House sits in 210 acres of parkland. There were parts we ran out of time to see, as the house tour took longer than we expected, but we did see the Italian Garden.
We chose a beautiful day to go. It’s a statement garden that I’m sure impressed the original owner’s guests too. I loved the wall and carefully clipped box hedges in the formal garden. I don’t seem to have a photo, but there were also fabulous floor mosaics too.
Geraniums outside the Camelia House. What’s not to love?
What ideas did I come away with? This was a research trip, after all. I’d love to incorporate a mosaic floor somewhere, but it may not work for us. Our cottage is slightly more humble (and older) than Westonbirt House, for sure, so it might be a bit over the top.
I’d love to have a water feature. The one above really caught my eye as it spans a split level. There is a glass tank so that you can peep through the balustrades and potentially see fish swimming. I don’t think there were any in there, but I love the idea. Gargoyles on one side of the pond cascade water to a lower pond. I’m sure we could include some of these elements, albeit scaled down considerably. Plus one or two interesting stone pieces.
I think this one may be leaning towards Gothic rather than Italian, but I could still find a place for him, I reckon. What do you think? What would you opt to add to your outside space?
We had a great day out and all three Teens came home inspired too. We’ll go back again and explore more of the garden next time. It’s definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in history and gardens.