Book Review: RHS Bridgewater by Phil McCann and Chatsworth: the gardens and the people who made them by Alan Titchmarsh

I really enjoy books about gardens I have visited and loved. So I could not help but revel in delight about these two new books about two such gardens.
I was given these books but not with the intention that I would review them.  I have not paid for these books and I am not expected by anyone to write about them.  My words and opinions are my own. 

RHS Bridgewater: the making of a garden by Phil McCann an RHS book published by Riba Books 
I have visited RHS Bridgewater a couple of times, but bizarrely have not been back to visit now it is open to the public.  I have enjoyed watching the garden develop, but it turns out the last time I visited was March 2020 - it was my last day out.  It also turns out both of my visits were in Autumn or early Spring, so I really really must visit in Summer.

A lot of research has gone into tis book and Paul gives us the complete history of the gardens, which is not really a long history as Worsley New Hall as it was called, was completed in 1845.  This does not make it any less interesting, this place has had several different uses over the years.  There are photographs and paintings of the Hall and what a statement of wealth it was.  This was the first Earl of Ellesmere stamping his place further on the landscape alongside his network of canals.  Sadly the Hall was shortlived as it was demolished in 1949 and yet its history has continued with its role in the Cold War and being the venue for much camping by Boy Scouts.  What I love about this book are the stories and photographs of the gardens.  The photographs from when it was a hospital in WW2 and the memories where people whose lives have been woven through Bridgewater over the decades.  This makes this book special.

The gardens were purchased by the RHS in 2015 and this book takes us on the journey so far.  I like that the teams involved in making the garden are all featured, from the designers to the volunteers making the work happen.

I really loved this book.  If you have visited already this book will encourage you to return to see how the gardens are developing.  If you have not visited then this book will encourage you to if you are able to and if not it gives you a wonderful over view of the story so far.  It is a fabulous book.

Chatsworth: the gardens and the people who made them by Alan Titchmarsh published by Ebury Spotlight
Gosh what a masterpiece of a book this is.   Alan should be very proud of this work, it is such high quality.

This book is a weighty tome because it has so much packed into it.  It gives a full history of Chatsworth House and Gardens.  We start at Bess of Hardwick and move through to the present day.  This is a house that is embedded in the stunning Peak District landscape.  It sits in a bowl surrounded by ancient woods, hills and peaks, it is a huge Estate in a very beautiful setting.

The story of Chatworth is one of wealth and power and this is evidenced through the house and gardens.  The Cavendish family are woven through key moments in England's history and the gardens have evolved and changed in parallel.  This book is well researched and full of historical paintings and photographs.  We are also brought right up to date with the stunning photography by Jonathan Buckley.  Seeing the development of the gardens is fascinating.  I was aware of the Great Conservatory, designed by Joseph Paxton and seeing photographs of its prime and its sad decline are really interesting.  Seeing this alongside how the space is gardened today gives us a rich picture of how time is imprinted on the gardens.  There is a real feeling throughout this book that history is not in the past, but alongside that happens now.  

Alan focuses on the family as well as the gardens and this is the right thing to do as this is a family that through the generations have all left their legacy in the garden.  I enjoyed learning more about the family and their histories.

I really enjoyed this book, I am hugely fond of Chatsworth as it is a garden I have visited since being a child.  It told me so much I did not know, it showed me areas in the garden I have never seen and now need to go and explore.   It is a great gift for someone who already loves Chatsworth or who will fall in love with it after reading the book.  

Take care and be kind.

For more from the Blackberry Garden follow me on Twitter X  Facebook and Instagram