Renishaw Hall and Gardens - Enchanting Havens
Renishaw Hall is a country house in Renishaw in the parish of Eckington in Derbyshire, England. It is a Grade I listed building and has been the home of the Sitwell family for over 400 years. The gardens are open to the public and are to date the most beautiful gardens I have ever visited.
A few months ago, in the middle of May, I drove up to Sheffield to see the Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things exhibition that was being held at the millennium gallery. It was the furthest north in England I had ever been so I took the opportunity to visit some of the beautiful houses and gardens there. Renishaw Hall stole my heart.
The house was closed due to the current climate but it available for group tours, taking you around the ground floor of the house where you can see their art collections. The Sitwells have always been avid collectors and patrons of the arts and the history of the family is filled with writers, innovators and eccentrics. Their collection includes paintings by Rex Whistler and they have created The Sitwell Museum which holds displays of letters, books and artefacts from the archives and the family’s own private collection.
And while the house is magnificent in its own right, it is the gardens that I will be taking you on a little tour of. We begin at the edge of the house looking out across Top Lawn and the Gothic Aviary.
The day is overcast and the rain hasn't long stopped which works in our favour as we have the entire place to ourselves. We round the corner of the house, the warmth of its sandstone walls unaffected by the lack of sun. The path opens out into the top lawn, a large border snakes around a tree leading the eye to the Gothic aviary, the last of the magnolia petals flutter to its feet.
We walk along the path past the 'First Candle' to the South front, the house towers behind us, white flowers and lilac wisteria climb to the bedroom windows, iris' and forget-me-nots spill from the most glorious border I have ever seen. There is not a leaf out of place despite the storms a few days before, the garden is lush with the freshest green. Out across the stripped Middle Lawn more exquisite borders can be seen, dotted with jade coloured obelisks wrapped in roses. The rush of the fountain between a gap in the hedges can he heard in the distance. Opposite the 'Second Candle' is a locked gate leading to a small garden courtyard curiously named 'The ballroom'.
As we leave the square hedging of the lawns down some stone steps we enter a less formal part of the garden named the 'Chapel End'. More overflowing borders but this time with yellow rhododendrons scenting the air. An ornate red gate bars the way to the woodland and the bird song is all that can be heard. Two Roman statues guard the way to the laburnum walk and to their side the stone tank garden sits amongst white bluebells and moss. Down a small flight of gothic steps topped with gothic pediments and we enter what is aptly named the Wilderness.
A path lined with glossy leaved camellias clinging on to their last flowers leads to the Classic Temple, a roman folly sat amongst an endless carpet of bluebells, wild garlic and ferns. It felt like a lost world and a sanctuary. A goddess stood amongst the pillars, a rose yet to flower tumbling above her head.
From this temple there are four paths, one back towards the house, left into the Wilderness, right to go down to the Lakes and straight ahead to the New Woodland Garden. We go straight ahead through meandering paths of rhododendrons and a laburnum walk. The path takes us down into the woods, through the ancient beach trees a glimpse of something gothic can be seen. The Gothic Lodge sits at the edge of the lakes, through its gate a carpet of pure white flowers can be seen. A lone swan ripples the water and I can't help but think of all the parties and evening strolls of the fascinating people who graced its banks. On the other side of the lake sits another building whose purpose has long been lost.
Back up the hill to the Woodside and we reach the Fish Pond, across a victorian iron bridge sits a little island surrounded by hedges and just beyond yew hedges we see our first sights of the fountain and the turquoise waters of the Swimming Pool.
Walking through a gap in the hedge the garden opens out, borders of rich green plants on the verge of flowering line each side and at the centre the most beautiful pool gleams like a gem stone. The fountain streams upwards and showers onto the water, making the water ripple in vibrant shades of green. Even on a cloudy day like this it looks like the perfect place to swim. I guess that's why it's called the pool and not the pond. The steps leading from the Bottom Terrace to the house were watched over causally by two statues draped in their marble fabric.
There is the Flag Walk, the Buttress Border, the National Collection of Yuccas and a Secret Garden that I walked straight past (truly living up to its name). I could not capture it all and even it I had I still don't think I would have done the gardens justice. I will return again to see the interior of the house and the Sitwell Museum, hopefully at a time when everything in the garden is in full bloom. While Chatsworth House is just 35 minutes away, its gardens pale in comparison to the intimate beauty of Renishaw Hall.
Reading Recommendations & Content Considerations
Reresby Sitwell Desmond Seward
Below are two short films I made for Instagram from my trip to Renishaw Hall (apologies for the one in portrait mode). Some parts of the garden just couldn't be captured in their full glory in a photograph or on film but you can hear the birds and see the water flowing and imagine a group of Bright Young Things having a picnic on the lawn.