in Purley Barn
“The Art of Deception in the 17th Century Garden”.
A discourse on deception is a surprising garden history topic yet this is exactly what members were treated to at the Trust’s Spring Lecture in early March.
Dr. David Marsh, the Chair of the Education, Publications and Communications Committee of the Gardens Trust and a popular speaker about historic gardens, introduced his audience to the world of ‘make believe’ in the pleasure gardens of the seventeenth century. These were created by a master of the art of deception, John Evelyn (1620 – 1706), a contemporary of Samuel Pepys. The gardens so crafted with skill and often great financial investment were a phenomenon of their time, admired and wondered at by the ‘polite society’ of late Stuart England.
David’s insight into the lengths that people were prepared to invest in an artifice to both delight and make a bold statement as to one’s wealth & position, was fascinating. Inspired by grand examples of the ‘art’ during a period as a refugee in Continental Europe, John Evelyn recreated the ‘paradise that was Eden’ in the gardens of his wealthy clients in England. An expert at artifice, his wonderful & substantial creations, often employing water to drive mechanical devices, would not go amiss in today’s theme park. However, these ingenious devices were both to entertain and to enjoy intellectually, as Evelyn believed that gardens were the recreation of paradise and brought one closer to God.
Members enjoyed an entertaining and informative evening - a fascinating insight into the minds of our forebears. David was warmly thanked for his unique insight into the role gardens have played in transporting people to a ‘Garden of Eden’, creating excitement and wonder on a grand scale.