new book out June 2016:
The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden: Beautiful Objects and Agreeable Retreats
The Georgian landscape park is the archetypal setting of the English country house. The Landscape Style has been called the greatest British contribution to European art. Such places are often described as three-dimensional pictures created out of water, grass and trees.
What we see today – when the only sign of life is often a few grazing sheep – is a poor reflection of what these great designs were like in their heyday. Scratch below the surface and history reveals they were a lot less serene and, in places, a great deal more scandalous.This book about the private life of the Georgian garden reveals its previously untold secrets.
The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden puts the people back into this picture of idealised nature and describes life as it was lived by real people. The 18th century name for these gardens was ‘pleasure grounds’ and the name itself tells a tale. These places were created for enjoyment; for fun and frolics, but also for escape from the busy country house were privacy was at a premium.
The book describes a hypothetical day in the life of the Georgian garden, with chapters covering typical activities of morning, afternoon, evening and night-time. We meet the owner of the great house and his guests enjoying a range of past-times from sailing to syllabub eating. We see the children of the house practising archery or playing quoits. When the garden and park are at their busiest we see throngs of people at the grand fetes staged there, and in contrast, at quiet times, witness clandestine lovers sneaking off into the shrubbery.
In 2016 we will celebrate the tercentenary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. With well over 200 commissions across England and Wales, he literally changed the face of much of our countryside. His clients actively engaged with his creations. They picnicked in the temples and eye-catchers that peppered the landscape and the enjoyed boating on the lakes that were so often the master-stroke of his designs. This book is a must for anyone wanting to understand Brown’s landscapes better.
‘In these pages the gardens of William Kent, ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton spring to life.’
– Sir Roy Strong
‘Kate Felus has unmasked the Georgians – caught them in their garden indulgences, fabulous beyond the realms of even their clothes or their interiors. The book is wittily scripted through morning, noon and night, with fascinating illustrations, many rarely seen.’
– Jane Brown
The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden is published by I.B. Tauris, June 2016
The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden is the result of over a decade’s study. Kate’s research began as part of her PhD thesis (Bristol, 2009) ‘Beautiful Objects and Agreeable Retreats’: Uses of Garden Buildings in the Designed Landscape in England, 1720-1820, and has continued ever since.
Kate is a historic landscape consultant, investigating the history of a wide range of parks and gardens and advising on restoration and management. She has published articles and contribute chapters to a number of books, mainly on the social history of the Georgian designed landscape. With walks and talks she regularly brings these places to life.
She has also advised and contributed to television programmes. She appeared with Alan Titchmarsh in the Grotto at Stowe recounting tales of amorous liaisons and syllabub eating (clip on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj14Y4m3sLc). More recently she explained how gardens were used for illicit liaisons for ITV’s Britain’s Best Gardens, aired in January 2015 (clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaTImFMONbM).
‘Looking beyond the Boundaries: Seeing Parks and Gardens in their Wider Landscape – Understanding and Protection’ in Giardini Contesto Paesaggio Sistemi Giardini e Architetture Vegetali nel Paesaggio… ed. by L. Pelessetti & L. Scazzosi, (Florence, 2005)
Dining al fresco in Consuming Passions, ed. by Carroll, Hadley & Willmott, (Stroud, 2005)
‘The Landscape of Blenheim Palace: Three Centuries of Conservation?’ in Histories of Garden Conservation, ed. by Conan, Rojo and Zangheri, (Florence, 2005)
‘Boats and Boating in the Eighteenth Century Landscape,’ Garden History, (2006)
Danbury Park: A Guide to the Historic Landscape, Essex County Council, (2007)
‘Using the Pleasure Grounds: their Social History’ in The Grenville Landscape of Wotton House, New Arcadian Journal 65/66, 2009
‘Charles Hamilton’s Garden Buildings: Speculation on the Social Use of Painshill Park’, in Painshill Park: The Pioneering Restoration, New Arcadian Journal 67/68 (2010)