2 March 2017 – The Forgotten Gardens of Eaton Lodge – Claire Matthews

Have you heard of the forgotten gardens of Easton?  Following a fascinating evening with Claire Matthews, a member of Gardens of Easton Preservation Trust, club members were inspired to discover that this hidden gem of a garden is close – just 30 miles down the M11 at Dunmow, near Stansted.

With the use of slides, Claire took us on a wonderful historical journey into fortunes of Easton Lodge. The Estate dates to Tudor times when Queen Elizabeth I gifted a hunting lodge and a 23-acre deer park to Henry Maynard in recognition of his services to the crown. In 1847, the Elizabethan mansion he built burnt down and the house was rebuilt in Victorian Gothic style to designs by Thomas Hopper. However, it was when the estate was inherited by the immensely rich, Daisy, later Countess of Warwick, that the house enjoyed it’s “Downton Abbey” life style. Daisy, a noted beauty, was one of the great hostess of the day and her lavish weekend parties included guests such as Edward, Prince of Wales and his friends known as the Marlborough House Set.

In 1902, the Countess commissioned Harold Peto to create further gardens for Easton Lodge, a sunken Italian Garden, a croquet lawn with French styled pergolas, a lily pond surrounded by a balustrade with seats and curved stairs and a Japanese glade. Daisy died in 1938. A year later, the war office requisitioned the entire estate. Thousands of trees were destroyed in the deer park to create an airfield for 386th Bomber Group.

When the house was handed back to Daisy’s son Maynard Greville in 1950, it was pulled down except for the Jacobean west wing, now known as Warwick House. A silver birch wood was planted where the old house had been.

Bringing us up to date, we learnt that the Preservation Trust was established in 2003. Since then, volunteers and the owners of Warwick House have been painstakingly restoring the gardens to their former glory. Visitors travel great distances to see the snowdrops and there are more than 33 varieties of daffodils in the Lime Wood.  There is a tea room and Archive Building. Look on line for opening days  www.eastonlodge.co.uk  Thank you Claire for sharing the secrets of the Gardens with us!

Rosemary Jones

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