Wander around the pleasure grounds and discover the beautiful Orangery and Palladian Bridge designed by Jeffry Wyatville.
Designed by Graham Burgess in 1993, large metal hearts are mixed with roses in the Maze of Love. And above the entrance it says: ‘You are expected to kiss your partner each time you pass under a heart shaped arch’.
The Hedge Maze was added in 1975 and is made up of over 16,000 English yew while The Sun Maze and the Lunar Labyrinth were designed by Randoll Coate in 1996.
The 8th Marquess of Bath and his wife and their children live in the house.
A sumptious tea is sometimes served in the Orangery – booking is recommended. Check Longleat’s website for details.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Longleat Priory which had previously been under the control of the Dean of Salisbury was sold to Sir John Thynne for £53.00.
After the building was destroyed by fire in 1567, Thynne employed Robert Smythson to build a new house that was finished by 1580. In 1682, Sir Thomas Thynne was created 1st Viscount Weymouth and to celebrate his new title he signed a contract with Brompton Park Nurseries to create the grandest formal garden in England. Costing £30,000, the four directors of the Nursery took it in turns to spend a month on site with George London in overall charge. Longleat would make the Partnership’s reputation and establish George London as the country’s leading garden designer.
The Nursery not only designed the garden but also made sure that they were employed on an ongoing basis, providing a continual selection of plants, trees, pots and installations. The account books show how the garden changed from 1687 to 1788 when the formal geometry on the valley bottom and lower slopes disappeared while the Grove, the pleasure ground at the top of the hill, was developed into a mid–eighteenth century Arcadian garden.
In 1714, Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth died, leaving the estate to his four–year old, great nephew Thomas. The formal gardens at Longleat were neglected although Thynne created two S–curved lakes out of the Leat. Ironically, Thynne’s interests were in wild animals and up on the Grove, he had a menagerie of leopards, bears, wolves, a vulture, an eagle and a parrot.
In 1775 Brown returned to Wiltshire at 3rd Viscount’s request. He was allowed to do much as he wished and his radical solutions included draining, ditching and softening some of the banks of the Serpentine. Brown also suggested planting thousands of trees although few survive today.
Brown’s principal changes were to the south–west of the park where he created a new walled Kitchen garden and a scenic drive through High Wood from the walled garden to the house.
In 1804, Humphry Repton was commissioned to produce a Red Book which shows Longleat House standing in the fields. Repton tried to correct the emptiness of the Brownian landscapes by siting boldly designed buildings at strategic points. He designed a Boathouse and Fishing Pavilion in the manner of the 1520s, and a viewing Pavilion for the ‘Hill above the Pheasantry’ and a ‘Park Gate’. Repton’s Red Book shows a warmth with people being brought back into the landscape, with meadows, shepherds, sheep and picnic parties with children sailing their boats. Sadly, his suggestions were not implemented and his practical efforts were largely restricted to the Shearwater, a fishing lake away from the house.
Sadly little remains of the garden’s former glory.