Snapshot: Now and Then

Terrace, 1911, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Terrace, 1911

Winterbourne’s broad terrace was employed successfully by architect, JL Ball, as a means of transitioning from house to garden. Ball prescribed a typically understated treatment of the retaining wall and in particular the small verandah which links projecting cross wings on either side: ‘the ceiling and walls inside the verandah to be whitewashed and the oak beams, posts and fascia to be left clean from the plane.

Gravelled for much of the Edwardian period, the Terrace was later paved with crazy paving in the 1930’s. Later still, University of Birmingham horticulturalists, taking advantage of heat projecting from the exterior of the house and a south-eastern aspect, planted the terrace with exotics, including a chusan palm in the centre, and annual bedding displays.

Today, the chusan palm, having outgrown its original planting position, has been re-located to the Asian section of Geographical Beds whilst the carpet style bedding has now been replaced with more informal potted displays in keeping with the gardens original Arts and Crafts ethic.

The Wheelock children, c.1923, Lower Lawn steps, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

The Wheelock children, c.1923, Lower Lawn steps

Harry Wheelock purchased Winterbourne in 1919 where he and his family, including his nine children seen here seated on the Lower Lawn steps, remained for six years. Although the family made no significant changes to the garden, they certainly enjoyed their time within it; formal lawns were utilised regularly for games of tennis whilst many summers were spent sleeping beneath the shelter of the nearby verandah.

Behind the seated Wheelock children, it is possible to see the Lime Walk; an avenue of pleached lime trees (Tilia) leading to the Terrace. These trees were planted by Winterbourne’s original owners the Nettlefold family. The upper branches of the limes are trained together whilst the lower ones are pruned bare to provide shade in summer and framed winter views following leaf fall.

By the 1990’s only one tree remained. Left untrained it came to dominate the south-west corner of the Upper Lawn. Fortunately, by this time the irregularly shaped Irish yew trees, planted by John Nicolson following the Wheelocks departure, had long established, replacing some of the vertical linearity lost when the Lime Walk was removed. The avenue was reinstated again in 2011, this time using Tiliacordata ‘Greenspire’.

The Japanese Bridge, c. 1930, Winterbourne House and Garden, Digging for Dirt

Japanese Bridge and Rock Garden, c. 1930

Winterbourne’s final private owner, John Nicolson, was responsible not only for the sentinel Irish yew trees, but several garden features including the Japanese Bridge which allows safe passage from one side of the Rock Garden pool to the other.

In the 1930’s much of the fervour surrounding grand herbaceous borders, resulting from Arts and Crafts sensibilities, was replaced with a greater appreciation for individual plantsmanship, spurned by the commercialisation of new varieties introduced at the turn of the century. A great many of those plants arrived from Asia and their influence can still be seen in the Rock Garden today where Japanese maples, azaleas and rhododendrons provide spring and autumn colour.

So well established are some of these plants that the Japanese Bridge is no longer visible from the far side of the Rock Garden, its view obscured by several mature rhododendrons. Also significantly larger is the red oak (Quercus rubra) which appears directly in front of the bridge in all three photographs and now stands as one of the tallest trees in the garden.

9 Thoughts on Snapshot: Now and Then

  1. Oddment


    Thank you for the history and especially for the wonderful black-and-white photos — what a treat! A gardener cannot thrive on mere black and white, of course, but such photos have their own stories.

    • Winterbourne House and Garden


      Hello Maureen. Those old images are great aren’t they?! The staff here are very familiar with lots of the photographs taken between the Edwardian period and the 1930’s as we use them a lot on site to illustrate our history to the general public – so it was really good fun for us to explore photographs from our much more recent history in the 90’s – and revealing!

    • Winterbourne House and Garden


      Hello Erica. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on our post. Glad you enjoyed seeing pictures of our house and garden throughout the ages. Wonder what images taken from the same spot in 50 years time will look like….?

      • gardentourist


        I hope that in 50 years we won’t be able to take images only, but also perfumes, bees buzzes and wind caresses all in a shot… ok… tonight I’m a bit too techno-dreamer! 😀

    • Winterbourne House and Garden


      Hello Helen. Thanks for stopping by. The Japanese areas of the garden are wonderful aren’t they? It is interesting to see how the gardeners of yesteryear made the most of the view to the Japanese Bridge. A little judicious pruning of the Rhododendrons should open up that view again.

  2. Annie


    Thanks for visiting my New Hampshire blog, thus allowing me to learn about Winterbourne House and Gardens. I’d think I’d like to stop by on my next visit across the ‘pond.’ Lovely estate with dedicated staff and volunteers! Inspiring blog, too….

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