When Baron Ferdinand bought the estate in 1874, the central hill was bare farmland. Soon after, it was transformed into a beautiful garden and parkland - much of which remains today.
The Garden then and now
After buying the estate, Baron Ferdinand was quick to get to work on the land. The crown of the hill was levelled, drives and banks were cut, and mature trees and formal gardens were planted.
The Garden was designed to surprise and delight the Baron's guests at every turn. In his day, a garden tour would include the Aviary, the ornamental Dairy, the huge glasshouses, romantic Pulham grottoes and a menagerie of deer, goats and llamas.
Ferdinand's sister and heir, Miss Alice, was also a keen gardener and continued the tradition of innovation, adding three-dimensional carpet bedding, which can still be seen on the Parterre today.
Sculpture in the Gardens
Sculpture is key to Baron Ferdinand's vision for the garden, used to create a series of focal points and discoveries. A host of allegorical and mythological figures tempt you down a path or surprise you as they emerge from the shrubbery. Whether closing a vista, emerging from shrubbery or leading the eye down a path, it forms one of the most important collections of 17th and 18th century garden statuary in the country, and complements the sculpture inside the House.
The Stables was built and used to house the horses and carriages that brought Baron Ferdinand and his guests to his famous house parties. Ferdinand's architect Destailleur designed the Stables in a French 18 Century style. On one side is the Coach House where Ferdinand's carriages and Alice's motorcars were kept. It is now an art gallery with changing exhibitions of contemporary art.
The Stables for the horse and the tack rooms were on the other side. Above these were the hay and grain lofts. The two pavilions at the entrance to the courtyard housed the grooms, coachman and chauffeurs.
The statue of a horse in bronze in the centre of the courtyard is thought to be a study for the Duke of Wellington's best charger, Copenhagen, intended for his monument in London at Hyde Park Corner. Others think it is Gorse, Ferdinand's favourite hunter.
Bequeathed to the National Trust
In 1957, the property was bequeathed to the National Trust. However, after World War II, the Parterre on the south side of the house had been partly grassed over, the Aviary and Dairy were in disrepair and much of the garden had been reduced in size.
In 1990, Lord Rothschild initiated an extensive restoration programme to recreate the garden's original splendour, including work on the beautiful carpet bedding on the Parterre and in the Aviary Garden, and renovation of the Water Garden at the Dairy. The menagerie and glasshouses no longer exist, but other areas of interest have been added. The collection of garden sculpture has also been enriched, with the addition of works by contemporary artists.