The Italian Garden statutes’ spring clean

Italian Garden
March 31 2016 | Garden History

Italian Garden

bringing history to the forefront in the italian garden

Perhaps the most intriguing of all the gardens at Hever Castle is the Italian Garden, full of colourful plants and bursting with history.

Past owner William Waldorf Astor was the Italian Interior Minister from 1882-1885 and this began a love affair with everything Italian, especially the artwork. On purchasing the Hever Castle Estate in 1903, he sought to bring a touch of Italy to the Kent High Weald; creating the Italian Garden with Joseph Cheal and Son. Hever Castle Gardens are home to statues from some very famous locations in Rome – the Forum of Trajan, Villa Orsini, Villa Borghese, Villa Taverna, Villa Patrizi and Pompeii.

Italian Garden

One of the oldest pieces is in the Italian Garden is a Cinerarium, which was made to hold cremated remains and in this case possibly a whole family! It is inscribed C.SEI C.L CROCI SEIAE C.L FELICVLAE COL. SEI MARITI FILI (C. Seius Crocus, his wife Seia Felicula and their son S Seius Maritus) and dates from the 1st century AD.

Astor was somewhat eclectic in his collecting and we have statues, busts, well heads, cisterns, sarcophagi (mainly children’s), columns, capitals, altars and 6 large storage amphorae from Pompeii to name just a few. They range in age from 1st century AD up to the 19th. 

Italian Garden

The statues continue to surprise and delight visitors today, but given their rich history they require a lot of maintenance to remain in pristine condition. 

We are in year 6 of a 10 year cleaning programme in partnership with Cliveden Conservation. The best way to clean statues is warm water with a sensitive detergent and a scrubbing brush. How often they are cleaned really depends on what the statue is made of, the Nymphs on the Loggia fountain are made of Pentelic marble so it is very noticeable when they need a clean.

Next time you’re walking through the Italian Garden consider that some of the sculptures are almost 2000 years old – you never know what treasure you’ll find hidden on Pompeiian Wall!