In this online talk, Derek Adlam explores the history of Welbeck Abbey’s great flower gardens through a rare series of glorious full-colour images.
In 1889, Winifred Anna Dallas-Yorke married the 6th Duke of Portland. They soon started work to renovate Welbeck Abbey in decadent Edwardian style. These extensive improvements included a grand stately home garden which was started around 1905.
Welbeck has a history of magnificent gardens including medieval monastery gardens, pre-civil-war water gardens and 18th-century landscape gardens.
Designing the Flower Garden for the Duchess
Duchess Winifred continued in this grand tradition and worked to create a glorious Edwardian stately home garden. Her team included Norah Lindsay, Ernest George, Harold Peto and flower painter Alfred Parsons. They included a quarter-mile long herbaceous border, fountains and balustrades, pergolas and a private sunken garden.
But the romantic garden did not last long. Following the start of World War One, the herbaceous border was dug up and planted with potatoes. The border was never restored. However, a rare collection of early colour images remains which show the gardens in their full splendour.
Stereoscopic autochromes were an early form of colour photography that used a special viewer to show images in 3D. They were extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century but fell out of favour when direct colour printing became more common.
The Portland Collection includes an extraordinary series of 50 stereoscopic, autochrome colour photographs of Welbeck Abbey’s gardens. Just a handful of photographers specialised in autochromes. Retford photographer Stephen Pegler learned the technique and took a series of images at Welbeck Abbey between 1910 and 1928. They allow us to experience the glory of Duchess Winifred’s gardens through incredibly vibrant, immersive images.
These evocative photographs are now the only record of some of the most remarkable flower gardens ever created in Britain.
Derek Adlam is the Curator Emeritus of The Portland Collection, author of Tunnel Vision: The Enigmatic 5th Duke of Portland and The Great Collector: Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford, and enjoys tending his garden at his historic Welbeck estate home.
This talk took place on 30th July 2021.