The grounds at Chiswick House are amongst the most iconic of all the historic gardens of Europe. In the 1720s they reflected Lord Burlington’s innovative ideas on Palladianism and antique gardens, whilst the area transformed by William Kent to give a rustic appearance in the early 1730s has been recognised as one of, or perhaps the, birthplace of the landscape garden. The grounds were periodically brought to the forefront of taste, reaching another high point as the venue for spectacular garden parties under the 6th Duke of Devonshire. As a garden of many periods it has given rise to passionate national debates since World War II on the principles of restoration, and as a public park it has been an important project assisted by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Its renewed high state of keeping and its tranquil beauty belies its ‘deep’ history of intellectual debate, social tensions and practical difficulties.
The book concentrates on the four main periods when Chiswick gardens were in the national spotlight, two when being in the forefront of taste and two concerning the restorations, the first being in the 1950s when the whole question of garden restoration was entirely new. The second restoration, on and off since 1988 intersects with the development of a philosophical stance and national policy on the restoration of parks and gardens.
There is much of interest for art and architectural historians, garden historians, social historians and those local and international visitors who enjoy the finest public park in West London.