Little did I know on 1 September, as I walked with a friend along The Long Walk in Windsor Great Park, that a few weeks later Queen Elizabeth’s funeral cortege would cover the same ground en route to St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Our destination was Frogmore House and garden, open for charity (in this case Guide Dogs) on one of its three or so fundraising occasions of the year.
Extending to 35 acres, the garden at Frogmore is less than a quarter of the size of Kew Gardens, the other estate influenced by the horticultural enthusiasm of Queen Charlotte, consort to George III. Apart from Frogmore House itself, another major landmark in the grounds is the Royal Mausoleum where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried. The site of this Byzantine style edifice was identified by Victoria within days of her husband’s premature death in December 1861. The Royal Mausoleum has been described as one of the finest Victorian buildings in the country. The imposing building stands across the Frogmore Lake from a smaller mausoleum, built to accommodate the mortal remains of Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent.
The Frogmore estate also features several smaller buildings and follies, all of which combine to create a fascinating landscape from both a historical and garden design point of view. An elegant iron bridge, reminiscent of a bridge across the lake in St James’s Park, crosses Frogmore Lake which twines across the centre of the garden, its sinuous outline emulating a river. Looking back from the promontory to which the bridge leads, there’s a fine prospect of the south western facade of the house. A short walk from the bridge and one can see the Duchess of Kent’s Mausoleum and, nestled at the lake’s edge, the ‘Swiss Seat’, a timber hut dating from around 1833 which the guide book describes as ‘faced with split trunks arranged as gothic blind tracery’.
One of my favourite buildings at Frogmore was Queen Victoria’s Tea House. Built of brick and tiles, it consists of two small rooms joined by a loggia. An enormous Wisteria is trained over the colonnade which surrounds the building. Elaborately decorated chimneys dominate the tiled roofs of each half of the building. There were a few small Wisteria blossoms to be seen, presumably the third flush. This has been a plant which has revelled in the summer’s heat this year it seems, judging by this and the specimen in my own garden. Evidence of the drought was apparent elsewhere at Frogmore, where the soil in the borders (mostly shrubberies) was dry and cracked.
Another Wisteria lent a suitably mysterious air to the Gothic Ruin, almost obscuring its beautifully arched windows. An onion dome tops an elegant white marble structure, the Indian Kiosk, presented to Queen Victoria in 1858. There are few flower beds in the Frogmore garden. The glory of the place is the variety of trees from across the world which, with the lake, create a peaceful parkland within the Great Park itself.