Monday, August 04, 2008

Groombridge Place - home of Pride and Prejudice and the Draughtsman's Contract

It felt very weird going to Groombridge Place last week. It has played host to a couple of well known British films. It masqueraded as Longbourn (home of the Bennets) for the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and was also the star of The Draughtsman's Contract written and directed by Peter Greenaway. There's something very odd about seeing a garden which you've previously only seen on film - particularly when one of those films involved drawing the garden!
it is all really an elaboration of the film's original premise which is - should an artist draw what he sees or draw what he knows? Sight and knowledge are not at all the same thing. Seeing and believing. Just because you have eyes does not mean you can see. The eye is lazier than the brain. Because of such contradictions and inadequacies, the draughtsman is framed, and in both meanings of that phrase. And because of the film's ubiquitous optical-device, a frame on an easel, and because of the obsessive framings of the movie-camera itself in making the film, we are framed too.
Peter Greenaway - commenting on The Draughtsman's Contract
Back in the nineteenth century, Groombridge Place also featured in The Valley of Fear, a Sherlock Holmes mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who lived not far away in Crowborough.

In reality, Groombridge Place reminded me a little of Penhurst Place (see A hot summer's afternoon in a Kentish garden). in terms of the quality of the gardens and its overall presentation.

The gardens have the space and potential to be a major attraction but need a lot more thought given to their planting and presentation to lift them out of the 'ordinary' category. The only aspects of real note are the 12 drum Yews planted either side of the Apostle's Walk - and the house itself which is sadly not open to view.

The Apostle's Walk, Groombridge Place
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I sat at the top of the steps up to the Bowling Alley and looked down the Apostle's Walk to the side of the house and did a not very good sketch.

Yet again this is a garden where I came away with a feeling that nobody has ever sat on the benches in the garden to see whether they had a 'view' or not. Sadly most did not! Personally I'd have had a handout with thumbnails of the Draughtsman Contract drawings and then a map of all the locations and where they were drawn from - but then I like looking at maps!

The Place is run independently and seems to have given itself over to trying to attract lots of families with children - hence a rather expensive ticket price for a whole range of 'attractions' (the Enchanted Forest) which I had no interest in seeing.

One of the things I like about gardens is the peace and quiet - entertainment for adults if you like! When I'm visiting a garden what I'm particularly not interested in hearing is lots of small children all charging around said garden at top speed wanting to know where the (in this case) the maze and the dinosaurs are, especially when these are in a distant and separate part of the grounds!

I really don't know why they don't have a separate entrance for the gardens and reduce the price for those who only want to visit the gardens. As it is, given the way the ticket is priced for all the additional attractions, our outing last week will be the first and last time we will be visiting Groombridge Place! I shall stick to my copy of The Draughtsman's contract described in the IMDB as a "Rich, tart and amusing art-house thriller".



  1. Great blogs, beautiful artwork!

  2. I adore your blog; it's the next best thing to visiting these enchanting places in person. Your drawings are lovely, and I appreciate that you include so many informative links. Thank you for sharing your spoils with us armchair travelers!


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