The new formal garden at Arundel has been conceived as a light-hearted tribute to Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), known as ‘The Collector’. He died in exile in Padua during the English Civil War and though his body was brought back to England and buried in the Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel, the elaborate tomb which he had specified in his will was never erected. This garden, adjoining the church, may now be an appropriate memorial for the future.
Lord Arundel was the first of the great English art collectors, whose antique marbles are now at Oxford, and the library at the Royal Society; but the magnificent Van Dyck and Mytens portraits and some other objects commissioned or collected by him form the basis of the collection now at Arundel Castle, while his retrieval of lost family estates, titles and honours after the disasters of his ancestors’ executions and attainders in the previous century were instrumental in the revival of the Norfolk family. So there is good reason to commemorate him here.
The new garden occupies about a third of the area of the Georgian and Victorian walled kitchen garden, which for the last forty years had been an ugly tarmac and concrete car park. All the walled garden originally supplied flowers and vegetables to the castle and to Norfolk House but was gradually given up after the Second World War and was largely derelict by the 1970s, as happened in those straitened times at many English country houses. The present Duke and Duchess, with the enthusiastic backing of the Castle Trustees, have already re-created the rest of this area as an organic kitchen garden; part of a general programme of restoration and enhancement of the whole castle and grounds undertaken over the last twenty years or so.
This new garden has been designed by Isobel and Julian Bannerman and has been conceived as a Jacobean formal garden. It is in fact an imaginative re-creation of what the Collector Earl’s formal garden may have been like at Arundel House, his town palace overlooking the Thames in London (now the site of the Howard Hotel and Temple Underground Station!). The domed pergola and fountains are based on those seen in the garden vista in the background of the famous Mytens portrait of the Countess of Arundel (in the drawing room here), while the various gateways and pavilions are based on Inigo Jones’s designs for Arundel House (preserved at the RIBA Drawings Collection). They have been executed in green oak and have a rustic charm and robust character appropriate to the garden. The grand centrepiece is the rockwork ‘mountain’ planted with palms and rare ferns to represent another world, supporting a green oak version of ‘Oberon’s Palace’, a fantastic spectacle designed by Inigo Jones for Prince Henry’s Masque on New Year’s Day 1611, flanked by two green oak obelisks. This contains a shell-lined interior with a stalagmite fountain and gilded coronet ‘dancing’ on top of the jet. The garden is divided into formal courts with a centre canal pond and tufa-lined cascade.
The garden is an evocation of a Jacobean garden, not a re-creation. In the words of its brilliant and original designers ‘it aims to stand alone, to be pleasing, timeless and memorable’. It is an appropriate new addition to the architectural ensemble at Arundel Castle which stretches back over nearly a thousand years to the establishment of the Norman Castle in 1067.
Admission to The Collector Earl’s Garden is included within our standard admission prices