“The garden must be considered not as a thing by itself but as a gallery of foregrounds designed to set off the soft hues of the distance,” he wrote. “It is Nature which should call the tune. Real beauty is neither in garden nor landscape, but in the relation of both to the individual . . . a background for life.”
Sir George Sitwell, 4th Baronet (1860-1943)
Renishaw Hall is a Grade I listed country house in Renishaw, Derbyshire which has been home to the Sitwell family for over 350 years. It was the winner of the Historic Houses Association / Christie’s Garden of the Year Award for 2015.
Perched atop a rocky vista providing inspiring views, the house was built by George Sitwell, then the High Sheriff of Derbyshire, in 1625. Successive generations have undertaken substantial alterations to the house, including the remodelling of the Billiard Room and Ballroom by famed Edwardian architect Edward Lutyens in 1908. The house contains many fine artworks and antiques, a fabulous as well as a historically maintained ‘old kitchen’ with lead sinks and a 1920s dishwasher in situ.
A far cry from their start as ironmasters and colliery owners, the Sitwell family developed a passion for artistic and literary pursuits, with a touch of English eccentricity thrown in for good measure. The on-site Sitwell Museum provides a detailed look at the colourful lives of the more famous Sitwell family members, including the ‘literary trio’ of Dame Edith, Sacheverell and Sir Osbert Sitwell. While the hall is said to have inspired D. H. Lawrence to write Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
RENISHAW HALL GARDENS
The Renishaw Hall gardens are primarily the vision of Sir George Sitwell, the great-grandfather of the current owner, who designed and created the current gardens over 50 years from 1886 to 1936. He eschewed the Brownian landscape that was in place at the time he inherited Renishaw, favouring Italian gardens that he greatly admired and more floriferous displays which he believed added much beauty to the garden. Today, the Hall overlooks a classical Italian garden, considered to be one of the most important in England. Sir George’s original layout has been masterly updated recently by renowned designer Arne Maynard. The terraces entertain wide spaces, classical statues and immaculate lawns creating a sense of grandeur. These are punctuated with enclosed spaces formed of yew hedging cloaked with roses, a wealth of floral treats and an intricate planting layout; all providing just the right amount of delicacy to soften the structured layout and make the terraces welcoming.
Further afield, the gardens become less formal and include a laburnum tunnel at its most spectacular in late May, a magnolia woodland and wilderness garden underplanted with glorious bluebells. Plus, somewhat surprisingly, the National Collection of Yucca contained in the old orangery re-purposed into a yuccary. Two man-made lakes sit serenely in the valley below the Hall and provide a peaceful place for both humans and wildlife to enjoy.
Renishaw Hall is one of our favourite gardens at Violets and Tea. From bluebells in spring, to over 1,000 blossoming roses in summer followed by the autumnal colours of specimen trees, this a beautiful garden primarily designed to be enjoyed.
We visit Renishaw Hall on our Great Estate of Derbyshire & the Hampton Court Garden Festival tour in 2021.
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Images © Eliza Ford