Reg Haskell Photography

The Gardens at Dartington Hall

Dartington belonged to the Martin family from the early-C12, but in 1386 it passed to the Crown. Nicholas Fitz Martin obtained the right of free warren at Dartington in the early-C14, and in 1326 his enclosed deer park covered some 100 acres. In 1388 it was granted by Richard II to his half-brother, John Holand, Earl of Huntingdon and later Duke of Exeter. The first Duke was executed for treason in 1400, but Dartington continued in the family until the death of the fourth Duke in 1475. Between1487-1509 it was owned by Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, after which it reverted to the Crown. In 1525 it was given to Henry Courtenay, earl of Devon; it reverted back to the Crown upon the earlís execution in 1539. In 1559 the estate was sold to Sir Arthur Champernowne, Vice Admiral of the West, and continued in the ownership of his descendants until 1925, when it was purchased by Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst (Pevsner). By the mid-C19 Dartington had become an agricultural estate, with the medieval structures partly serving as farm buildings (as noted in the Tithe map and apportionment, 1840). The Elmhirsts undertook a major programme of restoration under the supervision of William Weir from 1927 to 1938, while at the same time establishing The Dartington Hall Trust in 1932, which promoted experimental approaches to rural reconstruction and progressive education. The Trust was an amalgamation of three specialist Trusts. New buildings were built to accommodate the Trustís activities, but no overall development plan for the estate was made. At the same period Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst commissioned designs for the gardens around the Hall from H. Avray Tipping in 1927, followed in 1932-35 by Beatrix Farrand. From 1945 to 1968 Percy Cane advised on the design of the garden. Dorothy Elmhirst recorded the development of the gardens in a series of notebooks from 1943 until her death in 1968. Following the death of Leonard Elmhirst in 1974, Dartington has continued to be administered by The Dartington Hall Trust as a centre for its educational, sociological and artistic activities.
The garden includes high quality sculptures by Willi Soukop (statue of a donkey, 1935), Henry Moore (Reclining Figure, 1946; listed Grade II*), and Peter Randall Page (Jacobís Pillow, 2005).
(ref: DHLE)
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