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The Victorian Gardens of Brodsworth Hall Judith Dunn Photographs courtesy Ivor Hughes T he Brodsworth estate in South Yorkshire has been settled since the late Iron Age and had a manor house by the eleventh century. By the eighteenth, it was a seat of the Earl of Kinnoull and home to his son, then Archbishop of York. In 1791, a successful banker, Peter Thellusson, acquired it. He came of a long line of Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution in France, who established a network of business enterprises throughout Europe. Thellusson left a will so fiendishly hard to prove that it took half a century of legal wrangling to sort out. (Indeed, the case is sometimes said to have been the model Dickens used for Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Bleak House.) Finally, in 1859, the estate came into the hands of his great- grandson, Charles Sabine Augustus Thellusson. Charles was already wealthy, having married an heiress, Georgiana Theobald. He was able to consolidate his own fortune by judicious property sales and set about creating at Brodsworth a family house and garden for his wife and six children to enjoy. And, of course, one in keeping with his position. Like many at the time, he demolished the existing house and recycled some of the materials into a splendid new one. The house took just two years, the garden somewhat longer. A team of gardeners laid out formal gardens and herbaceous borders and extended the parkland. The woodlands were renovated and new approach roads built, along with estate buildings and houses for the head gardener and gamekeeper. By 1865, when he was appointed High Sheriff for the West Riding, Charles Thellusson had a country seat eminently suited to a sporting gentleman. The estate spread over 8,000 acres, providing income from tenant farmers and giving work to whole families. A team of nine gamekeepers managed the shooting, a prime activity for family and guests. The pleasure gardens covered 15 acres; spacious lawns and formal gardens near the house with shrub and flower beds beyond. Meandering paths, bridges and tunnels, sculptures and architectural features provided the interest and variety typical of a mid- Victorian garden. After Charles’ death in 1885, Brodsworth passed to each of his sons in turn, then to his grandson Charles Grant-Dalton. His widow, Sylvia, lived there for 30 years until her death in 1988. By then, the estate had shrunk to 4,000 acres as buildings and land had been sold. Charles and Sylvia’s daughter, Pamela Williams, chose not to live in the house. The estate remains in trust for the family, but Mrs. Williams gave the house and pleasure gardens Page 42 ◆ Antiques Journal ◆ May 2014 The “Eye-catcher,” an apparently ruinous wall, artificially created to be viewed from a distance from various points in the garden.