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Meeting Report - Sep 2016

The meeting of the Romsley and Hunnington History Society, which took place on Tuesday, 27th September, was the first of the new season and was very well attended. The speaker for the evening was Joe Hawkins, Head Landscape Architect of Hagley Hall. He gave a talk on, "Hagley Park, Past and Present." From the beginning, it soon became clear that Joe was a dedicated expert on Landscape Gardening and he gave a breathtaking and enthusiastic talk about his job at Hagley Hall.

In the 18th Century it was fashionable for stately homes to have elaborate, formal gardens, but George, Lord Lyttelton, had a vision of an informal, romantic landscape, having been influenced by the paintings and literature of the period and the sights he had seen on his, "Grand Tour of Europe." He set about constructing a wonderful vista in his own parkland at Hagley. This was much admired at the time but over the years, for various reasons, the gardens were neglected, the pools silted up, and the cascades buried under layers of vegetation.

However, Lord Cobham, who now owns Hagley Hall, decided that something must be done to restore the grounds. In 2014 along came Joe Hawkins, full of enthusiasm, with his love of nature and history, and with imagination and curiosity and most importantly his expertise in landscape gardening. His task was to rescue Hagley Park and transform it into a thing of beauty, once again.

It wasn't easy! Joe's research began by looking for clues in old pictures and drawings of what the park once looked like. Then he set out to piece together the enormous jigsaw by exploring the sites of the man-made features, all lost in the ever encroaching wilderness. He had many setbacks and it was all hard, manual work, but gradually the old landscape began to reveal itself and from the slides Joe showed us, all the work was well worth it.

Throughout his talk it became apparent that Joe's work was his life, and he is still making new discoveries every day and the Park is evolving under his care. So far the restoration has cost well over 3 million pounds. Some of the money has come from grants and Lord Cobham has contributed a great deal of his own money, but eventually it is hoped, that by opening it to the public, it will be self supporting. As to the idea of a romantic landscape, it must have worked as Joe met and married his wife while working on the project and they now live in the grounds of Hagley Hall.

The next meeting will take place in the Church Hall, on Tuesday, 25th October, at 7.30pm, when Diana Clutterbuck will give a talk on, "The Young Diarist of Hartlebury." Everyone is welcome.

Pat Evans

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Some contents of this website are taken from the book Romsley and Hunnington, a Millennium History,
written by Joe Hunt and Julian Hunt and published by the Parish Councils of Romsley and Hunnington, in association with the RHHS.

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