Wiltshire, summer sunshine was in full flow and it was time to discover a county to the south of Britain that is abundant in places to explore.
Besides the beautiful rolling landscapes and canals there are also a lot of historical sites to see. Firstly, it was time to pay Iford Manor and The Peto Garden a visit. Two for one in this, a Grade 2 listed building and a Grade 1 listed garden.
The building of Iford Manor you see today dates back to around the 15/16th century. It was originally a wool factory in the hands of the Horton family. However there has been a house here as far back as the Domesday Book at least.
In the 1700s it was remodelled to a more classical style as it passed through the hands of several families in time. To name a few The Hungerfords, The Chandlers and The Gaisfords.
It was the Gaisfords that in the 1800s started to create gardens space and woodland that some of the great trees you can see today.
Then in 1899, Harold Peto bought the property for himself.
Peto lived here from 1899 until 1933 when he died. And in that time he created this wonderful Grade 1 listed garden.
He travelled a lot and came back with lots of garden ornaments, statues and structures to help create a garden of his own making that built upon what was already there.
Peto loved Italian gardens and as you walk around you cannot fail to see this influence. The blend of flowers and stone architecture is a marvel to see.
You can see as you walk around the blend of history with colour. Terraces, cloisters, courtyards and lily ponds all wonderfully preserved and it is a testament to the current owners that we can see all of this today.
On a day full of summer sunshine like the day I was here you cannot help to be mesmerised. There are hidden gems everywhere.
Take the time to go around every corner, up every step and along every path, it is a magical place to discover and find peace.
For instance walking up the steps lead me to several pools and terraces. Eventually I end up at the Great Terrace and the Casita (pic below). The Casita is a wonderful mixture of several different styles and items Peto collected during his travels. Like the dancing nymph and the Verona columns.
The sides of the Casita are decorated with reliefs from Naples and Byzantine roundels and you can even find some Venetian-Gothic style works in the walls. And combined with the beautiful flowers, a treat to see.
Everywhere I go you will find something new to fascinate. Textures, form and colour everything is perfectly designed to be a visual treat to the eye.
In the far side of the garden there’s a charming 18th century Garden House. Which was moved here from the garden below the road. The small balustrade was rescued from the river. With all interior features to be original it’s a true little gem.
The garden isn’t just a visual treat and a great place to take lots and lots of photos. It is also a venue for Iford Arts.
The Cloister, known as Peto’s ‘Haunt of Ancient Place’ he built in 1914 in Romanesque style from the local Westwood stone and decorated with antique fragments. It is used today as a venue for opera. And there are many more jazz proms and cloister concerts throughout Iford Arts Season. You can’t wish for more beautiful surroundings.
What you see today is greatly due to the passion and dedication of the current owners. The Cartwright-Hignett family bought the property from the Peto family in 1965.
For after the war it was thought the garden was lost forever. After purchase it was painstakingly restored the garden and over the years added to it and extended it respectfully. A Japanese garden section was added too.
I was lucky to have been accompanied on my garden tour by the current owners, William & Marianne Cartwright-Hignett.
This gave me a real insight into everything. From small details to great history. It was a pleasure to enjoy this Wiltshire Gem, to see and learn so much.
And a real gem it is. If you are visiting Wiltshire it is located not far at all from Bradford-on-Avon. Take the time and enjoy.