This is one of the most magnificent gardens in England, yet one of the least well known. Unlike 'Capability' Brown's natural landscape styling, favoured during the late 18th century, Wrest Park's formal gardens provide a fascinating history of gardening styles, laid out over 150 years and inspired by the great gardens of Versailles in France.
Wrest Park was the home of the De Grey family - whoseserried monuments fill the nearby De Grey Mausoleum -from the 13th century until 1917. The gardens are celebrated for their rare survival of a formal early 18th-century layout of wooded walks and canals, centred on the architectural highlight of the pavilion designed by Thomas Archer in 1709-11. Subsequent generations added garden buildings such as the Bath House and the Chinese Pavilion, valuing the special atmosphere of the established garden even when more fashionable landscapers would have swept it away.
The old manor house was demolished when the present house was completed by 1839. This was designed by Thomas, Earl de Grey, an enthusiast for 18th-century French architecture. It is set further north than the site of the old house, and new formal gardens were laid out between the mansion and the woodland garden. The Orangery, Italian Garden and Parterre with magnificent lead statues date from the 1830s.
Visitors can find out more from the display, introducing the three personalities who made Wrest what it is today: the duke and his formal gardens, his granddaughter Jemima's inheritance and the architect earl's expansion.
Don't miss the St George's Day event, one of the largest in the country.
Please note: No photography or stiletto heels in the house.