International Women’s Day is nearly over but, for my contribution, I’ve still got about 25 minutes to write something about Edna Walling (1895 – 1973), a British Australian landscape gardener whose work I find especially interesting. I would also say beautiful except that, since her work is in Australia, I have only seen it in photos, plans and a book about her called, The Unusual Life of Edna Walling, by Sara Hardy.
I have visited Dunham Massey in Cheshire over many years and have observed how it has grown into a lively modern visitor destination, with the National Trust undertaking a phased programme of conservation and development for well over a decade.
I have to be honest, the hall is good but unadventurous, architecturally speaking. There have been three historical halls since the 1600s. They have been spectacularly painted in a series of bird’s eye view illustrations and the best of the three was perhaps the 1690s hall. This, as far as I can tell, was a courtyard design replete with Dutch gables, corner towers, huge leaded light windows and other Elizabethan and Jacobean features. It seems to have been a lively building with several phases. It was unfortunately replaced, or perhaps encased, in the 1730s by a very plain brick building designed by John Norris, a largely unknown architect. It was a very conservative and dated design but it at least it had the typical Georgian qualities of efficiency, harmony and balance.
The main façade and interior, however, was completely reworked in Edwardian times by Joseph Compton Hall, another unknown designer, into something even less interesting! I can see that he was trying to introduce some warmth and interest but, to be honest, it was probably better before altered it. The eaves and dormers either side of his odd Carolinian style focal point are too domestic for such a large building. Consequently, Dunham has nothing to match the dramatic Palladianism of nearby Lyme Park. What there is, however, is beautiful workmanship in a lovely orange Cheshire brick and, most importantly, a gorgeous der park setting. Continue reading “Dunham Massey”