James I (James VI of Scotland) enjoyed a lavish lifestyle away from the grim and drudgery of 17th Century London. In Theobalds Palace, he enjoyed the usual gentry pursuits of hunting, feasting and throwing lavish banquets. During this period, England was exploring more of the world around it. Strange exotic plants and animals we take for granted, were a sign of wealth and power. Elephants, tigers and camels were brought into the grounds of Cedars Park to satisfy the King’s love of animals. The gardeners and botanists (see our Background page) were experimenting introducing new species into our environment (see historical plant list).
The ascension of Charles I to the throne with his Catholic wife, constant warmongering demands and his Absolute Monarch tyrannical rule, began to change the political landscape. During the civil war of 1640-1646, where brother was set against brother, land was plundered and the stability of the monarch was tragically ended, with the execution of Charles I in Whitehall, London on 30 January 1649. England was plunged under a new regime lead by Oliver Cromwell 1649-1653 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/cromwell_01.shtml).
Oliver Cromwell, a devoted Puritan (see Peter Toon’s book on Puritism), saw the Absolute Monarchy as an affront to God. Using religion and need for constitutional change, Oliver Cromwell and his new model army denounced the lavish lifestyles of the monarchs and their courtesans. The wealth gained from exploration of new lands, creating sumptuous homes and banquets was denounced and in some cases outlawed.
Oliver Cromwell believed that a person’s devotion to god should be about sacrifice and penance. During his reign, it was forbidden to hold social meetings of large groups of people and to worship god as the Catholics did with relics and symbols. It was during this suppression of religious worship that people turned outwards to nature for answers. Wealth was being expressed by planting exotic plants, bringing new fruits and vegetables into the country. The devotion of religion became symbolised in lavish patterns only seen from vantage points, using three-sided shapes representing the Holy Trinity and Cross pathways. Mazes were created for reflection, to be lost in the wonder of nature. Theobalds Palace had one of the first known created in 1590. It was subsequently destroyed in 1642 by Cromwell’s army. (Click here for more information). This “taming of nature” saw avenues of shrubs edging tall Elm trees, topiary as a way of shaping and stunting growth.
Our 17th Century garden incorporates elements of these ideas. The four raised beds are triangular set within a cross pattern only clearly visible from a certain point. The plants have been carefully chosen to represent the exotic and local communities around Cedars Park today (for more information see Background). In addition, Vision 4 growth wanted to demonstrate the needs of disabled people by using raised beds which are accessible from all sides. To have a variety of colours and smells, with plants which can be touched and eaten. This design incorporates all the sensory and physical needs of visitors to the park.