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The old-new Elizabethan Garden at Kenilworth

Some people love Elizabethan gardens, and others like the wild ruins of Kenilworth Castle.

In the 13th century, Kenilworth was the castle where the bachelor knights supporting Parliament made their last stand against Henry III and his son Prince Edward.

In the 16th century Queen Elizabeth gave the castle to her favourite, Robert Dudley. He created a sumptuous residential block and a private garden which he thought would please her when she visited. Alas, she stayed for nineteen days. The expense of entertaining her and all her court almost bankrupted him.

However, the festivities are said to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, so that's alright.

The garden was closed to all but the Queen and her closest companions, but one day while the Queen was out hunting, Adrian the gardener allowed one Robert Langham inside.

Although he cannot have visited the garden for more than a few hours, Langham left an extremely detailed description of its features. The accuracy of his account is borne out by archaeological evidence, which confirms that an eight-sided fountain once stood at the centre of the garden, just as he claims.


Plan of Kenilworth's reconstructed Elizabethan Garden
Image: English Heritage

English Heritage, which previously restored the castle gatehouse, has now re-created the garden based on Langham's private letters. Visitors will see an aviary, "water jokes", arbours, fruit trees and an 18-foot-tall, 8-sided fountain.

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