April 2016 A to Z Challenge. I’m participating by writing about history.
C is for Culpeper Garden at Leeds Castle.
Leeds Castle is located in Maidstone, Kent, England. It was a Norman stronghold in the 11th and 12th centuries, a royal palace in the 13th through 15th, and a Tudor palace in the 16th century. It was also owned by my family at one point. The Culpepers (my mother’s family) owned the castle before the English civil war in the early 1600s. They lost it due to being on the wrong side of the war. If you’re not familiar with the outcome of the war, the king was beheaded and the royalist Culpepers fled to the new colonies to escape the same fate.
In the mid-1600s, the royal family was returned to the throne, and the Culpepers got their house back!!
What is now called the Culpeper garden was originally a kitchen garden and nothing more, but in 1980, a designer transformed it into a cottage garden. It has an informal layout with low box hedges bordering Roses, Lupines, and Poppies. It is said to be named after herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, who is a distant cousin of mine. Nicholas transcribed the pharmacopoeia from Latin to English “so that all men may prescribe for themselves.” He ended up dying in the war mentioned above, but as far as I know, he never lived in the castle. It is still nice that they honored the family hundreds of years later by naming something after them.
The final Culpeper owner of Leeds was Catherine Culpeper. She married Thomas Fairfax in 1690 and the property then transferred into the Fairfax family. Below are photos of Catherine and Thomas. Since their grandfathers were bitter enemies during the war, I’ve always wondered if the families condoned the marriage, if Catherine was being rebellious by marrying the enemy, or if the Fairfaxes were simply out to take everything from the Culpepers. I’m currently writing a story about it called “The Culpepper-Fairfax Scandal.” I’m not set on the end yet, so we’ll see where the characters take me and which scenario plays out. At some point in the story, I need to include a stroll through the garden.
This is fascinating on a number of levels. I’m interested in Culpepper’s herbal; I love this era of story; and the castle & gardens are so lovely!!
Their website now has videos. It looks like they shot them with a drone. A helicopter shot would have been ridiculously expensive. https://www.leeds-castle.com/home
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An astonishing castle! And an interesting garden. My mother had a copy of the original 1650s edition of Nicholas Culpeper’s herbal – found by my great uncle somewhere in London and brought out to New Zealand by him in the 1920s. Oldest book I’ve ever handled.
Thanks for stopping by, Matthew. Did you look inside the book. I’m wondering if it was even readable, with the old English and strange spelling back then.
The book was fragile but I have looked through some of the text – readable, broadly, in the same sort of way Shakespeare is. A sign, I guess, of the way language has changed. Curiously, eighteenth century stuff I’ve read is a lot closer to modern English, though time-wise it’s closer to Culpepper’s era.
I think spelling started becoming standardized about that time. Maybe that’s why it seemed closer to modern.
Interesting – Franklin Keith Culpepper, retired law enforcement pilot, son of Curtis Culpepper, grandson of John & Lila Culpepper
Well, hi cousin! Thank you for stopping by!!