The garden at Haddon Hall is one of the most romantic in England. ‘Legend’ , it has been said, ‘clings like ivy to its ancient walls.’ It was once the home of Dorothy Vernon, and the story goes that it was from Haddon that Dorothy eloped with her lover, Sir John Manners. The gate through which she ran away, the narrow packbridge which she crossed to meet her waiting lover are still there, and it was certainly through Dorothy Vernon that Haddon came into the Manners family to which it still belongs.
The gardens at Haddon Hall have changed but little since the Vernon’s day. They take the form of terraces, each with its own planting scheme, the second and third of which are linked by a magnificent flight of seventy-six steps between a ball-topped balustrade. In summer this balustrade is beautifully wreathed and garlanded with roses. The steps are built of the local stone, and in their construction, so many hundreds of years ago, no mortar was used.
The top terrace, still known as Dorothy Vernon’s Walk, was once heavily shaded with great trees, relics of the first planting of the garden when the Ninth Duke of Rutland, head of the Manners family, restored the Hall and garden. These trees, grown somewhat top-heavy, were felled, and in their place a smiling lawn was laid, enlivened by the gay flowerbeds which we see today.
The second terrace, too, was radically altered. This had once been planted with yews, which, when originally set out, were kept quite small and clipped, in the fashion of the day, into balls, obelisks and peacocks. Over the years when Haddon Hall was unocuppied, the garden was allowed to fall into neglect, and the yews, untroubled by the gardeners’ shears, romped away and became full-grown trees. These too were cleared away, and more lawn took their place, edged with new, small topiary trees which are rigorously kept in shape.
Few gardens still exist of which all the main features – steps, paving, balustrading, – are over three hundred years old. But if framework of the garden at Haddon is ancient, the planting is modern, with a strong accent on floribunda roses.
The planting of any garden changes from year to year, otherwise it would become lifeless and static. It is probable that, since the writer’s last visit to Haddon, some of the roses may have been replaced by others, but he remembers a shining mass of the golden-flowered floribunda rose, Chinatown, and an imposing group of the deep crimson, strongly scented Papa Meilland. Other roses which enriched the over-all tapestry of colour were light pink Poulsens, deep red Frensham, and the new charming, pale pink Dearest.
The walls of the terraces of Haddon are hung with roses, too, as well as with clematis and vines: climbing roses such as wine-dark Clos Vougeot, the pale, late-flowering New Dawn and the popular Albertine of the bright coral buds.
A great connoisseur of gardens and well known garden writer, Mr A. G. L. Hellyer, once wrote, ‘such is Haddon Hall, a place of dreams, and a garden of exquisite beauty. It would be a dull visitor indeed whose imagination was not struck by it.