William Andrews Nesfield
Nesfield was originally a watercolour painter, who had first ventured
into landscape gardening in the 1830s when he designed period gardens
for his brother-in-law, Anthon Salvin. His influence at the Royal
Botanic Gardens was engineered by the First Officer of Woods and
Forests who, in January 1844, informed William Hooker that Nesfield
had been chosen to draft a design for the new arboretum. This arboretum
was to stand within the grounds of the Botanic Garden, and would
replace Banks' now overgrown arboretum. Hooker was uncertain about
the choice of Nesfield for this position, stating to Lord Lincoln
in February 1844: "He perhaps favours too much the formal
or what he calls the 'geometrical' arrangement, which to a certain
extent, with so noble a piece of ground may be desirable. But I
trust he has too much good sense to carry it too far".
Nesfield and Hooker certainly had differences where design confronted
taxonomy. Nesfield felt his creativity was stifled by Hooker's insistence
on grouping trees by their botanical relationships, not by size,
colour and form. Hooker, for his part, said that highly ornamental
parterres were not consistent with the nature of the Arboretum.
Hooker would have preferred to replace Nesfield, but Burton championed
Nesfield's cause, and by a series of manoeuvres, the Board of Woods
and Forests permitted Burton himself to retain Nesfield.
By autumn 1845 Nesfield's plan for the entire Gardens included
the Broad Walk, lined with deodar cedars interspersed with flower
beds; the Pond to the east of the Palm House, which had new parterres
either side of it; the Pinetum and enlarged Arboretum; and new walks,
vistas and paths.
The vistas and avenues are Nesfield's indelible signature on today's
Kew. He created a classic 'Patte d'Oie' or 'goose foot' pattern
radiating from the western door of the Palm House. Syon Vista was
a wide gravel-laid walk stretching 3,937ft (1,200m) towards the
Thames; Pagoda Vista was a handsome grassed walk some 2,800ft (850m)
long; while the third, short, vista fanned from the northwest corner
of the Palm House and focused on a single Cedar of Lebanon towards
the site of the present Brentford Gate.
These vistas and the parterres demonstrated the importance of Burton's
Palm House to Kew and although many of the original formal beds
have long since vanished, the impact of the grand plan remains to
Back to: 1841-1885:
The flowering of Kew