Guest Blog: Sir Roy Strong – collaborating with Haddonstone to design The Laskett Gardens

Haddonstone has been collaborating with Sir Roy for approximately 15 years, supplying The Laskett Gardens with the highest quality cast stone garden and landscape designs.  Here Sir Roy discusses his ongoing relationship with Haddonstone and how we have helped him to realise his vision for these very special gardens.

  • Sir Roy Strong photographed at The Laskett Gardens

Sir Roy Strong, CH, FRSL

Sir Roy Strong, CH, FRSL is an English art historian, former museum curator, writer, broadcaster and landscape designer.  He has served as Director of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, was knighted in 1982 and made a Companion of Honour in 2016.

Sir Roy became Assistant Keeper of the National Portrait Gallery in London in 1959 before becoming its Director in 1967, aged 32.  In 1973, at aged 38, he became the youngest Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London.  Seven years later, he was awarded the prestigious Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation of Hamburg in recognition of his contribution to the arts in the UK.

Sir Roy is a prolific writer and is currently working on his 44th book.  Over the years, he has written extensively on the country’s history as well as a long series of books on garden history and design and his diaries have recently been re-published.

  • The Nymphaeum at the laskett gardens

Sir Roy has always said a garden is an ever-evolving creation – like a painting that is never finished”.

This is very much the case at The Laskett Gardens in Herefordshire, one of the largest private formal gardens to be laid out in England since 1945.  Spread over four acres, the stunning Laskett Gardens have formed an ever-changing creation for Sir Roy and his late wife, the designer, Julia Trevelyan Oman.

In addition to The Laskett Gardens, Sir Roy has designed gardens for Gianni Versace at Versace’s Lake Como villa, Villa Fontanelle, and Versace’s Miami house, Casa Casuarina.

He also designed an Italian garden at Sir Elton John’s residence, Woodside, in Old Windsor, Berkshire and was responsible for designing the hedges and topiary at Highgrove House for H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.

In 2015 Sir Roy Strong bequeathed The Laskett Gardens to Perennial, the UK’s only charity dedicated to helping people who work in horticulture.

Collaborating with Haddonstone

Haddonstone has been collaborating with Sir Roy for over 15 years, supplying The Laskett Gardens with the highest quality cast stone garden and landscape designs.

Working closely with Sir Roy to help him realise his unique vision for The Laskett Gardens, we have produced designs for the some of the most beautiful areas of the gardens, including the Nymphaeum, Colonnade Court and most recently the Belvedere in the Orchard.

We were also commissioned to enhance the façade of Sir Roy’s residential property, supplying cast stone window surrounds with pediments, as well as a handsome new portico incorporating cast stone pilasters and an upper cornice.  An additional Gothic style entrance porch was installed to the side of the building and the property was finished with two very personal oval commemorative roundels with surrounds.

 

 

 

  • Haddonstone designs at the Colonnade Court at the laskett gardens

Sir Roy discusses working with Haddonstone

“Any successful use of Haddonstone material depends in my case on having someone at the company who can flesh out what one wants to do with what I describe as ‘Haddonstone bits’. That person was Gary Grimmitt.

The Laskett Gardens have evolved over forty years from a field. It was always little by little as funding became available. It is a garden which is held together by spectacular vistas which culminate in a structure of some form.  I always use the latest Haddonstone brochure as a kicking off point looking at this and that and how it can be added to or altered so that it remains always special to this house and garden.

With Gary I worked on three projects, the first a massive Colonnade some 50 feet wide but whose backing was a plastered breeze block wall enlivened with two classical bas reliefs. Flanked by two busts of Roman Emperors it forms an amazing end to a walk from the house”.

  • Haddonstone belvedere at the laskett gardens

“The next was to mark my 80th birthday.  On the other side of the house I took out a yew hedge and extended the formal vista by a paved area held in by an Italianate tableaux made up of two huge gate piers topped by eagles, a low curved wall and, at the centre, a miniature triumphal arch with a small rustic grotto with trickling water and a statue of Apollo.

Finally came the Belvedere, which looks like a chunk of Chatsworth, sited in the Orchard. That began with spotting in the Haddonstone brochure something which I turned into the Belvedere’s summit, a balustraded viewing platform with pillars and a roof which I enlivened with gilded pineapples.  Overall it is some 30 feet or more in height and can be glimpsed wherever you are in the garden floating above in the distance in the same way that such things appear in landscapes by Claude Lorraine”.

Sir Roy Strong, CH, FRSL
  • A sketch of the Haddonstone belvedere at the laskett gardens

The Belvedere

These original Haddonstone drawings detail the proposed Laskett Gardens Belvedere.  The Belvedere stands within the Orchard and is built in classical style with a flight of steps leading to a viewing platform from which visitors can take in the beautiful surroundings.

  • An initial sketch of the Haddonstone belvedere at the laskett gardens

Gary Grimmitt, Assistant Architectural Sales Manager, Haddonstone:

“It has been an immense pleasure over the past 15 years or more to know and assist Sir Roy Strong in fulfilling his visions and designs for The Laskett Gardens.

Our initial commission was the embellishment of the front façade to the house, shown on page 9 of the Haddonstone brochure, where standard Haddonstone items and bespoke castings were supplied to achieve a classical appearance.

Following this, Sir Roy set me more of a challenge, to design a Gothic style entrance porch to the side of the property, based upon his initial hand drawn design (see illustration). This was quite a challenge as the stone is viewed both externally and internally, however, with discussions and detailed drawings regarding the construction, Sir Roy’s concept design was accomplished.

The Colonnade, Nymphaeum Garden and the Belvedere Tower were by far the biggest additions to the gardens as far as Haddonstone were concerned and will hopefully be appreciated for years to come, by both Sir Roy and visitors to the Gardens, alike.

Having walked around The Laskett Gardens with Sir Roy and listening to him talk about the various vistas,  it is easy to understand the dedication he has shown in achieving his visions for both himself and to the memory of his late wife Julia.

I do hope that visitors to The Laskett Gardens will take inspiration from Sir Roy’s ideas and help them to fulfill their own desires.”

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