070624.Walcot, Georgian Garden of No. 4 King’s Circus

June 24, 2007 at 2:23 PM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Chisel Marks, Conservation, Flowers, Gardens & Parks, Light and Shadow, Restoration, somerset, University of Bath, Walcot | 10 Comments

Was going to go down and take picture of the mayoral procession to St John’s Hospital today but because it was raining too hard, I only got halfway down the hill before deciding the rain might not be good for my camera. (I don’t have an umbrella.) So here’s a historic gardens and landscape post to christen the University of Bath’s new MSc in the Conservation of Historic Gardens and Landscape programme. I’ve retyped almost all the plaques to cut down on photos and I’ve included this rare image of a soil leveler.

Plaque I:

“In 1985 work began on recreating a Georgian-style garden. The existing garden was mainly Victorian, with a lawn and rockery, although a classical pavilion and a fish pond had been added in the 1920s.
No. 4 Circus was completed by autumn 1761. No illustrations or written descriptions of the original garden survive but excavations by Bath Archeological Trust, the first to be undertaken in an English town garden, revealed three garden plans pre-dating the 1920s alterations.

“There was no grass at all in the first garden here. Most of it was converted with gravel mixed with clay. Three flower beds were placed on the central axis with a large, round-ended bed across the bottom. The garden was self-contained, designed to be seen purely from the house.

“Around 1770 the paved paths were extended across the ends of the bottom bed to provide access, via a flight of steps, to the Gravel Walk, which linked the newly built Royal Crescent with Queen Square.070610.17.SO.Bath.Walcot.BrockSt.d.J.WoodII.1767-1770.GeorgianGrdn

“In 1836 a basement area was added to the back of the house and the surplus soil was spread over the garden. Above this protective clay layer, generally 18” thick, a new garden was created. For the next 150 years the garden saw little change until archaeologists removed the clay in 1986, and revealed the 18th century garden plan. The basement area was filled in and the garden restored to its layout of c. 1770.”

Plaque III:

“The archaeological excavations of 1985-6 revealed the design of the 18th century garden beneath soil spread over the area during work to the basement of the house in the 9th century. The original paths and beds were located but it was not possible to identify the species or location of the plants/ The garden has been reconstructed according to the plan of c. 1770 after alterations had been made to include the steps to Gravel Walk.

“The planting is based on a plan and list of plants prepared by Dr. John Harvey of The Garden History Society. It attempts to recreated the mood of a small town garden of the period as known from documentary sources. The trellis screen and honeysuckle pole are located in positions identified as post holes during the excavations although they are modern reconstruction. The seat is an exact copy of an 18th century original.
“Grass lawns were not easily maintained prior to the invention of mechanical lawn mower in 1832. Rolled gravel or ‘hoggin’ was used here instead. The borders are edged in Dwarfed Box, which together with the clipped topiary of Box, Yew and Holly reflect the lingering formality of earlier garden style. In the late 18th century the plants themselves were the main interest, not as today for their mass effect, but as individual botanic curiosities, often recently introduced by travelers to the New World and Indo-China. Fragrant flowers were favoured, double flowers preferred to single forms and variegated foliage was a novelty. The walls too were used to train fruit trees and climbing plants.

“The size of this garden had prevent the use of any large trees but there are small trees, shrubs, roses, hardy perennials and bulbs, with annuals planted in the central beds each Spring. All the plants used are known to have been available in the 18th century.

“The garden was completed in 1990 and is maintained by Bath Museums Service.

“Excavation of the garden was by Bath Archaeological Trust. We gratefully acknowledge the kind assistance of Bath Preservation Trust, Avon Gardens Trust, The Garden History Society and Dr. John Harvey, and the financial support of The Charles Robertson Trust, Mayor’s Honorary Guides and Bath City Council (Conservation Section)”


Tel: +44(0)1225 477752 Fax: +44(0)1225 444793

Georgian Garden Links: 

Georgian Gardens in Context, Garden Guides, “A Georgian Garden Reborn”by Yvonne Cuthbertson, Georgian Gardens by David C. Stewart,



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  1. What, James, no umbrella in England? That’s like having no air conditioning in Virginia. I loved this post. The garden excavation reminded me of the excavations that went on in Williamsburg and Monticello in Charlottesville. Those structures were built during the Georgian Period, so the aesthetic is similar.

  2. nice post – history of gardening is really interesting, i think. maybe thats just me…

    have you been to the Geffrye museum, north/east london? more interiors than architecture, but also garden history. really a good place to visit.

    and James.
    Wear A Hat.
    one with a big brim would keep the rain off your camera too.

    oh and PS, really liked your solstice pics & posts.

  3. I was having a discussion recently (within the past couple months) with my mother about grass and how pointless it was.

    Me: “Grass is stupid! All it does is require mowing! It doesn’t even look that good!”

    Mom: “Well, it’s supposed to remind us of our roots in the African savannah or something, I think.”

    Me: “That’s stupid. Wasn’t there a time between living on the African savannah and inventing lawn mowers? Can’t people get along without grass?”

    Mom: “Oh no, instead of lawn mowers, they had sheep.”

    So thank you for clearing that up. Hoggin, huh?

    P.S. When I compliment you, I try to simultaneously insult you. And I did! So don’t get defensive. You still have way too many pictures on your main page.

  4. sheep are nice too.
    …But yeah, grass takes up water and all it does is ward against mild soil erosion….trees are better against both soil erosion and CO2 poisoning/global warming.
    …Gravel…I dunno, it doesn’t waste water, it’s good for drainage….and I’m pretty sure they have clay and gravel stretches of terrain in Africa…
    …I had a recent conversation too, about a month ago, or so,…but it was about b*nkruptcy collection l*wyers….

  5. Excuuuuuuuuuse me for slightly misinterpreting your incoherent mumblings.

  6. encore une belle leçon d’architecture.

    still a beautiful lesson of architecture.

  7. You two just need to lighten up and get a ROOM!


    Hey! Come check out my post for today! ‘Twas a blast!


  8. Hey, I’m getting ready to post one of those silly lawn rollers myself later this week! What a coinkidinky!

    No worries about your photos, dialup just stinks, regardless. Don’t post fewer photos because of that.

    We’re looking into getting high speed at home — $50/month!!!

  9. Great site, I have just bought a georgian town house near Portsmouth and was wondering how to deal with the garden, it,s in a dreadful state at the moment as the house has been empty for many years and the last person that lived there obviously did not care for gardening.XXX

  10. […] James (2007): 070624. Walcot, Georgian Garden of No. 4 King’s Circus. Bath Daily Photo […]

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