Our Walled Garden owes its existence to the creation and management of the Leasowes Estate. It soon became an essential element in feeding those who lived on the Estate or were visitors of the owners. Not only that but the flowers and plants needed to beautify the grounds and the rooms of the house were grown within the Walls. Full time occupation was found for a team of six gardeners.
After a break of eighty years, we wish to reunite the Walled Garden and the Leasowes Estate, but this time in a symbiotic relationship where the importance of each enhances the whole.
From the official entry, by English Heritage, we obtain the following description of the Leasowes,
including the Walled Garden:
"A 'ferme ornee' landscape laid out in the 1740s and
1750s by William Shenstone which was a potent influence on the style of
landscape gardening then and in the later C18.
Shenstone was born in 1714, the son of a moderately prosperous farmer
who had died by the time Shenstone came of age. The property he entered
into at that time, the Leasowes, a dairy farm near Halesowen Town, was let,
and in 1739 when he first moved there, he boarded with his tenants. He
had published a volume of Arcadian poems two years before, and in 1743
he began to improve his farm with features intended to evoke the visions
conjured up by pastoral poetry. In time the Leasowes estate came to be
adorned with a wide variety of root houses , seats, urns, cascades and
inscriptions, a landscape which Shenstone (apparently the first to use
the phrase 'landskip-gardening' - Batey & Lambert 1990, p.181) termed
a 'ferme ornee'. His income was modest, and most of these structures were made from wood and other cheap materials found to hand.
Only a few - the 'Priory Ruin' (made partly from materials from
Halesowen Abbey), the 'Temple of Pan', an obelisk and a couple of statues
were more costly.
By 1746 visitors were starting to come to see
Shenstone's work, although not until 1749 did he begin to link the
scattered individual scenes together by a circuit walk. Ironically, it
seems the Leasowes became most widely known after Shenstone's death in
1763, through the publication by Robert Dodsley in 1764 of Shenstone's
Works in Verse and Prose, a second edition of which in 1765 included a
description and map of the landscape. Henceforward, visitors, including
William Pitt, Benjamin Franklin, Mathew Boulton, and in 1786 the
American President Thomas Jefferson, tended to enjoy the landscape via
the 'Circuit' path there described. By then, however, Shenstone's
landscape was already being altered, not least because of a rapid
succession of owners, of which there were six in the ten years following
Shenstone's death. Subsequently there were changes to its setting. In
1797 a canal embankment was constructed down the west side of the site
which cut through Priory Pool and altered the outward views in that
direction. By 1831, when J.C. Loudon visited, it was in 'a state of
indescribable neglect and ruin' (Batey & Lambert, 185). C19 and C20
suburban development , especially to the east and west, adversely
effected the setting still further, while in 1906 Halesowen golf course
was laid out across the central part of the site. Ownership of The
Leasowes passed to Halesowen Council in 1934, and part of the site
became a public recreation ground. Losses to Shenstone's landscape
continued, notably the demolition in 1965 of the Ruined Priory of 1757,
one of the chief features of The Leasowes. Even so, enough survived in
the later C20 to permit a full-scale restoration to be begun in the late
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM AND SETTING:
The Leasowes lies c.2km north-east of Halesowen. To the west the site
is bounded by the Dudley Canal and the main A458 road, while to the
north, south and west it is surrounded by Quinton's suburban housing.
The views westward, especially from the house and from the walk along
the high, north-eastern, boundary of the site, are panoramic, albeit
over the C20 sprawl of Halesowen. The Registered area comprises c.64ha.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES:
Vehicular access to The Leasowes is via Leasowes Lane, which runs in a
curving line east-west across the site. From the west it leads from the
main Mucklow Hill road, and from the east off Manor Lane. A more
northerly entrance, via Sylvan Green, on the west side joins Leasowes
Lane north of Priory Pool. There is pedestrian access, some apparently
unofficial, at various points on the perimeter of the site.
Shenstone's house was pulled down in 1776 and a new one built for Mr.
Horne, who had bought the estate in 1773. Now the golf clubhouse, it is a
grey, stuccoed, two-storey, three-bay building (listed grade I) linked
by single-storeyed wings to two-storey side pavilions. Gothick stables
were demolished in 1960.
OTHER LAND: The Leasowes estate
slopes gently from east to west, with the house, roughly at the centre,
standing on a ridge between two small valleys which lie to north and
south. Both of these are wooded and have streams which flow east-west
via several pools to meet at Priory Pool 350m south-west of the house.
The landscape was accessible in 1997 principally through the modern
paths constructed down the north and south valleys. In the description
which follows no attempt is made to locate the sites of the majority of
historic features of which no visible trace survives; for this see the
1991 Debois survey.
Historically, the proscribed walk around the
landscape began on the western approach to the site, proceeding in an
anti-clockwise circuit. Today the northern valley is most conveniently
entered at the point where it is crossed by Leasowes Lane. Both valleys
are well wooded, with large numbers of mature trees, mainly deciduous
but also with some yews in Virgil's Grove above (north of) Lower Pool,
at the end of the walk. From the point of entry the valley walk leads
200m south-west to Priory Pool, a view down which is revealed as the
150m long pool is approached. Running across its west end is the massive
grassed canal embankment. The path skirts the east end of the pool, and
then swings south-east up the southern valley, which is deeper and
better defined than that to the north. The path climbs quite steeply up
the north side of the valley for c.250m, to the area west of the kitchen
garden. The path takes in a recently restored heart-shaped pond on the
north side of the garden before turning down the west side of the garden
to the southern perimeter of the landscape. From here the general line
of the path follows edge of the golf course as it runs for c.800m
north-east and north, overlooked by high ground with modern housing
along the eastern edge of the site, to rejoin the eastern end of the
northern valley at the east end of Beech-Water (restored c 1999).
Passing around the east end of the pool the path runs north-east and
then north-west for c.300m up and increasingly steep valley slope,
before climbing north out of the valley up a steep flight of earth and
timber steps. On reaching the top the path then turns north-west, to run
for c.250m along a high shelf along the edge of the site with panoramic
views west across the Leasowes, Halesowen and the hills beyond.
Although in sections obscured by the tops of tall trees on the slopes
below, the effect of the view, when contrasted with the dark and secret
world of the wooded valley which precedes it, is still dramatic. Perhaps
the best views are obtained almost at the northern extremity of the
The path then runs down the wooded slope along the edge of
the golf course below, following its north-eastern edge before
re-entering the northern valley above the Beech-Water. Retracing one's
steps, past Beech-Water and dropping down into Virgil's Grove, the route
runs past the site of drained pools, the obelisk to Virgil and the
Chalybeate Spring. Around the house itself there are several mature
specimen trees, mainly coniferous, which serve as a screen behind and
either side of it, and serving as a backdrop to it when viewed from the
east. The golf course itself, which surrounds the club house on all
sites, is almost exclusively short, managed grassland. Planting, to
divide up fairways, is mainly of fairly low trees planted in short
KITCHEN GARDENS: A walled kitchen garden lies
200m south of the house. It was constructed in the 1770s by Mr Horne in a
well-concealed position between the Cascade and the Serpentine Pool at
the same time he rebuilt the house. Its stone-capped brick walls survive
in good condition (1997). In 1936, two years after the site was
purchased by Halesowen Council, the walled garden became the head
quarters of the parks department. It continued to be so used until 1974.
In 1984 a Horticultural Training Unit was established by Stourbridge
College, and this continued to occupy the site in 1997. Old glasshouses
and buildings were removed c.1984, and portakabins and new greenhouses
and other facilities replaced them."