The Gardens of Easton Lodge, Great Dunmow

We’ve driven around the north-west of Essex for many years, seeing the brown tourist signs for The Gardens of Easton Lodge, and finally got there today. They are only open on a limited number of days throughout the year, and this was the first of the main season (they were open for the snowdrops in February), and what a beautiful day for it! The skies were blue, the temperature in the late teens, and our lunch at the nearby Swan at Great Easton set us up nicely.

To get to the Lodge you go through Little Easton, which is small, but has a beautiful church and some lovely cottages, which we have put on our ‘to do’ list. Like the nearby Marks Hall, Easton Lodge is now a set of gardens for a house that no longer exists. As with Marks Hall, it was knocked down in the mid-20th Century as it was proving too costly to keep.

The story behind Easton Lodge is fascinating, when Frances Evelyn Maynard (aka Daisy) inherited the house from her grandfather when he died at 99, and she was only 3. She did a lot of ‘entertaining’ in her early youth, including the Prince of Wales, to whom it appears she was a very accommodating hostess. However, in her 30s she became a socialist and gave a lot of support to good works, before dying before the start of the second world war in somewhat reduced circumstances.

Over the years the buildings have had a chequered history, with various instances of it being burnt down. Rather bizarrely, the monkey with the flaming torch bringing ruin to the Jacobean wings sounds like something out of a comedy film.

There’s a lot to see in the grounds, which are gradually being lovingly restored by the Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation trust. There’s still a huge amount to be done, and rather than being disappointed by not seeing the finished article (there are examples of those all over the country) it is fascinating to see things like the sunken Italian garden, still in a state, and wondering what it looked like in its halcyon days, and what it could look like in the future.

There are some ornamental gardens to complement the wide open spaces.

What took a lot of people’s fancy was the living sundial, made from box and yew, with a motto picked out in box hedging in French, testing my rusty linguistic skills.

And I was taken by the goddess Aphrodite carved at the top of dead tree

You’ll find out more about the gardens at their website, and they are open alternate Sundays during the summer.

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  1. John Waters

    It is of interest that The Countess of Warwick [in keeping with her socialist views?] employed 67 men from The Salvation Army`s colony at Hadleigh to lay out the Japanese Garden over the winter of 1902/3. These were out of work men – mostly trying to overcoming alcohol problems. They were accommodated at Easton Lodge and the Countess was so pleased with their reliabiklity and hard work that she entertained them at a sumptuous dinner in the grand ballroom set up for the ‘coming-out’ of the Hon. Lady Marjorie Greville. [Although changes have been made the Hadleigh Colony still exists – essentially helping men and women with special needs].