The gardens at Standen were important to the Beale’s right from the start – their house in Holland Park had only a tiny garden and so Mrs Beale, especially, was excited about the opportunities land gave her. In fact the designs for the garden materialised before the Beales had decided upon an architect for the house. After buying the land the Beales went to a local landscape designer from Horsham – George Simpson, who came up with a plan which compartmentalised the gardens into different garden ‘rooms’. With the input, particularly of Mrs Beale, it is Simpson’s plan which is still very much in evidence today particularly in this area of the garden.
One of the main issues of planning the garden before the house is that you have to assume where the house is going to go – Simpson planned very carefully with James Beale where it was that the house was going to be built, he left plenty of room for it and excavated the main gardens accordingly. When Philip Webb was brought in to design the house he had very different ideas about where his house should be. He wanted to link it in with the existing farm house (which the Beale’s had assumed would be pulled down) and tuck it into the hillside – the house is, therefore much further back than originally intended. Simpson’s plan shows where the original line of the terrace was to be, and even when the house was re-sited it looks as though they weren’t going to re-landscape the ground. They obviously changed their mind, and the terrace as built is much further back, making this lawn, the Main Lawn, larger than originally envisaged.
Our main focus for the restoration in this part of the garden is the terraces around the house. This would have been one of the areas most spectacularly showing off Margaret Beale’s planting schemes. Philip Webb would have preferred to have his houses surrounded by English flowers – cottage type planting schemes. Mrs Beale, however, liked to have more exotic plantings. In this way her taste was harking back more to the bedding out schemes of formal mid 19th century gardens, but because it was in an Arts and Crafts structure it makes it really quite unique. Webb might have had his own way with re-positioning the house, but Mrs Beale was obviously a more formidable opponent than her husband, and he wasn’t going to get his way with the planting.
Mrs Beale liked to experiment with her planting designs and change the borders around the house frequently according to the seasons. She selected bright vibrant colours for this area and it is this approach to planting that we are trying to recreate here. We also experiment with new plants just as she would have done when she brought back seeds and plants from their own travels but also those brought back by plant hunters of the day.
The house walls will be rewired as part of the restoration so that the climbing plants that were removed during building work several years ago can be reinstated with those that were part of the original planting scheme. We will also be rebuilding the sandstone edging to the borders and rebuilding the top section of the brick wall around the terrace. To the far end, where the Acers are planted we will be repairing the sandstone wall and there will also be resurfacing work on the terrace. Where the trenches were dug out to run electricity from the boiler room across the terrace to Grandfather’s walk we have filled them in and then covered them with crushed sandstone. This is in fact the surface that would have originally been on the paths. However a much more durable surface is now required to cope with the number of visitors that we receive and to provide a surface that is suitable for all weathers.
The Acers planted at the end of the terrace are all original Beale plants brought back from their world tour in 1906. They were planted out in 1907. They give spectacular autumn colour to this area of the garden, especially when viewed against the backdrop of this end of the house with the Little Room above and the Conservatory to the right.