3rd May 2018 – Gods in the Garden – Michael Brown

Well, I think that our brains are still whirling from our last talk!  Michael Brown, our speaker gave us a whistle-stop tour of gardens and their statues!  We should have been prepared, after all the talk was entitled Gods in the Garden but we did not expect to hear about so many!

Michael started life as a gardener, quickly became a head gardener but his interest in plant history led to a Masters degree and a post as a college lecturer in horticulture.  Since those formative years, Michael has developed  his own take on history and travels the country attending events where he can transform himself into a historic gardener, dressing the part as he goes. A regular at events at Wimpole hall, he has been seen as Capability Brown himself as well as a Georgian gardener.


At our talk we heard all about the statues at Wrest Park, Anglesey Abbey, Grimsthorpe Castle, Waddesdon, Stourhead, to name but a few properties! Michael’s knowledge of Roman, Greek and pagan gods was phenomenal – at times I was reminded of my school girl Mythology lessons. Alas, my pen could not keep up with the detail!

So back to our talk – perhaps I can do no better than to ask you to look carefully at the statues next time you visit a garden, For instance there is an 18th century Grade 11 lead statue outside our local National Trust property – Wimpole Hall.  Try and find Samson slaying a Philistine when you next visit. The original was sculpted by Giambologna, sculptor to the Medici Dukes of Tuscany and is now in the Victoria and Albert museum.  The dramatic pose is based on a composition by Michelangelo, who was in his late seventies when Giambologna met him in Rome.  It is the only substantial work by the artist to have left Italy. Commissioned in about 1562, by Francesco de’ Medici for a fountain in Florence, it was later sent as a gift to Spain, then presented to the Prince of Wales, later King Charles I, in 1623 while he was in Spain.  It soon became the most famous Italian sculpture in England. On its arrival, it was given to the king’s favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, and eventually ended up in the V and A in 1954.  (Thanks Wikipaedia!)  Just remember a few points of the above and you will impress your visitors when you next go to Wimpole!

As for Michael Brown – we heard all about the statues of gods and goddesses and other famous personages at Wrest Park, Grimsthorpe Castle, Stourhead, Croome Park, Chirk Castle, to name but a few properties!  Michael’s knowledge of statues especially but not exclusively, Roman, Greek and pagan gods, was phenomenal but alas, my pen could not keep up with the detail!

Next meeting it will be back to plants – house plants to be specific!

Mary Duff

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