Chiswick was a new and revolutionary kind of garden. At the beginning of the 18th century, it was fashionable to have formal gardens, which were laid out in carefully planned geometric shapes. Lord Burlington bucked that trend, with more natural-looking stretches of water and groves, opening out into sweeping lawns which created vistas, or picturesque views. These more informal gardens gave birth to the English landscape movement and were widely copied across England, including Stourhead in Wiltshire and Stowe in Buckinghamshire.
Terraces like the one you’re now walking along weren’t particularly new in garden design, but Lord Burlington set a precedent by planting his with ‘… all manner of sweet shrubs, roses and honeysuckles.’ From this terrace, visitors had spectacular views across the meadows.
At its height the garden estate would have been more extensive than today. Part of the land was leased to the London Horticultural Society (later the Royal Horticultural Society) for an experimental garden open to the public. Today, many landmarks in Chiswick are reminders of what was once there, such as a nearby cul-de-sac known as Horticultural Place.
Many artists came to paint Chiswick including Flemish artist Andreas Rysbrack who made a series of paintings that recorded the garden’s transformation from formal arrangement to largely informal and picturesque. It was the artist and designer William Kent who was instrumental in helping Lord Burlington realize his vision for his new garden.