This is one of the main areas of the leisure parts of the garden. Called the Croquet Lawn today, it was originally referred to as the tennis lawn, and there was a grass tennis court laid out. The image shows how both tennis and croquet would be played side by side. Parties were often organised on the lawn, and friends of Helen’s and young people from surrounding big houses would make up the guests. Tea was always an important feature of these parties, and maids in aprons and caps would bring great trays down to the summer house.
This area has received a lot of attention in the last few years. The main border became very overgrown in the late twentieth century and its original stone retaining walls have disappeared. A group of volunteers was set to work to completely clear the bed of overgrown shrubs and weeds (all of which was done by hand). When clearing it they revealed the Acer palmatum ‘Corallinum’ tree, which we believe to be the tallest of its kind in the country.
The path behind the bed was also rediscovered. The original yew hedge remains and is slowly regenerating on this side now that it is exposed. There was originally a pergola running along the length of this path with vines growing on it. Beneath the pergola the path was surfaced in brick. As part of the revival of this area of the garden we will be reinstating the pergola and rebuilding the path. We will also be rebuilding the sandstone walls which used to retain the sloping borders and reinstating sandstone edging. The borders themselves will be replanted with reference to Mrs Beale’s original planting schemes.
For many years now the Croquet Lawn has had a drainage problem and in 2011 a company was hired to remedy this. The turf was removed, new drainage channels put in, top soil added and then new turf laid and rolled. Unfortunately we have ended up with more of a problem than we started with and now we will be tackling this ourselves later in the restoration schedule. In the meantime we will continue with maintenance and minor remedial work in order to ensure that we have a suitable surface for hosting our summer events that are planned. In the long run we are aiming to once again be able to make croquet available to visitors and also allow croquet matches to be played by visiting clubs as we have done in the past.
The summerhouse was originally in the corner of the lawn by the steps. At some point it was relocated to its current position. It will most likely remain here as moving it would require a complete rebuild. The roof shingles will be restored as part of the restoration.