Saturday, April 15, 2017

From Garden to the Cliffs: Changes Part II

If you read Part I, then you know we left off at the Gardener's Cottage. Obviously, if you have a gardener's cottage, then there must have been a gardener, and if there be a gardener, there must be a garden in the story somewhere.

The gardener was one Robert Salisbury and Joseph Shipley had brought him from England to design his gardens and tend them on his new American retirement estate of Rockwood.

Salisbury is something of a mystery man in the Rockwood history, but we can surmise he must have
been a very good gardener given that Joseph moved him and his family to the estate and even had the cottage designed and built for him. Beyond the fact that Salisbury was a gardener, we know little. We don't even know if Salisbury gardened at Joseph's rented estate in England; although it would not be a bad assumption that he did. He may have influenced the overall Rockwood landscaping, but we don't know if that is a fact. Much evidence shows that Joseph himself did much of the design. Joseph Shipley tended to bring a lot of his favorite things to America. He even had trees uprooted and transported for replanting here. He collected exotic trees from all about, which makes Rockwood very interesting indeed. Whether Salisbury had any influence over the landscaping we don't know. We do know Salisbury continued working at Rockwood even after Joseph Shipley went under the dirt.

I couldn't replicate the photo of the Formal Garden because it was an arial shot taken in 1950.
The Kitchen Garden at the top next to the Carriage House is today the Rose Garden. The larger patch shown to the left of the Carriage House has changed a lot since 1950. Much is taken up by a little cluster of trees that appear as if one giant tree. These form a canap├ęs over much of the plot and you can walk under the branches like going through a cave. Weddings are often performed on this plot and the bride come to the ceremony from out of these trees.

To the back of the Kitchen Garden and facing the Carriage House are the Potting Sheds and Boiler
Room. The picture of the sheds on the right was taken about 1900. There are two sheds with an entry into the garden between them.  Back in Shipley's time the one was a cold house for vegetables and the other contained a boiler and piping to make it a hothouse for the exotic plants that Shipley grew. In Joseph's time the garden was for growing vegetables, but starting in 1910, the Bringhurst Family converted it to a formal flower garden.

The current county gardeners still use the sheds for potting and for storing their equipment. The boiler is gone.

There are paths looping the gardens and the formal garden is surrounded by rose bushes. The garden is quite beautiful when in full bloom.

There is a stone wall blocking it off from the main grounds. Back in Shipley's day British custom dictate that garden's be hidden from view to the general public. Only invited guests of the family were invited to enjoy them.

On one end of the Mansion is a Conservatory, shown jutting out from the right side of the mansion. This is the rear of the mansion, by the way, taken from the rear lawn, which is protected by the ha-ha. Again, Shipley modeled the Conservatory on the one on the home he rented in England.

Both home were designed by the English architect, George Williams. The estate in England, near Liverpool, I believe, was named Wnycote.

The Conservatory if more promenade in this 1851 photograph of the rear of Wyncote on the left.

You can see how strikingly similar the two Neo Gothic Houses were to each other. They were so much alike I mistook the old photo of Wyncote for Rockwood when I posted the pictures on Facebook, where I pointed out that the tower behind the Mansion no longer existed at Rockwood. Of course not, there was never a tower at Rockwood.

Posing in the Conservatory around 1895 are George Kennedy Smith and Edward Bringhurst III, dressed as sailors. I could not go inside to snap pictures, so the photo on the left was taken through the window that the two boys had their backs toward.

There are shelves full of plants today just as there was in the 1895 photo, which blocked my getting the same view through the windows by the side of the mansion.

As mentioned earlier, Joseph Shipley liked his exotic plants and he had a hot-water heating system piped through the Conservatory to store these plants over the cold Delaware winters. In the summer the plants were carried out and planted in the garden. Seems like a lot of work to me.

Shipley didn't do the heavy lifting himself. He may have liked gardens, but he suffered from gout. As a well-to-do merchant banker in England he indulged in a lot of rich foods and thus he developed the "rich man's disease."

He still liked to indulge himself in some pleasures the common man couldn't, such as eating free fruit for Christmas when the snow was atop the grounds.

Just behind the Carriage House is a Fruit Cellar. Extending eight to ten feet below ground, it acted as a natural refrigerator for storing fruits and vegetables beyond their growing season. Remember winter temperatures in Northern Delaware will go as low as a Frigidaire or even a freezer.

This is another old photo that distorted distant, like the one of the Scenic Vista in Part I. The Fruit Cellar looks longer than my photo. I also could not get the same angle.

I didn't have snow on the roof either, this not being the season for snow and the temperature that morning was around 60 degrees. I don't know what the white stuff is in my photo, but it isn't snow.

The old photo of the Fruit cellar was taken about 1920.

There is a sign showing three kind of random scenes about the landscape. One is a man using two horses to mow what they refer to as the North Lawn. This is a large patch of ground to the front of the mansion. The photo is from about 1895 and the man is unidentified. I would imagine he was a workman for the Bringhurst Family.

I tried to take this shot from approximately where the man was mowing. There are more trees and bushes now. It is on this lawn that the Holiday Open House festivities official open during the first weekend of December. Choir stand here to sing Christmas songs and the County Executive reads the "Night Before Christmas" beneath that tall evergreen.

They light the giant Christmas Tree on Friday evening and this is the tree that's used. The strings of lights are still hanging down it. The use to light another tree next to this one, but during one of our summer storms about two years ago it fell over.

There is also a random picture of Anna Webb Bringhurst standing between a rock formation on the
North Lawn. This was taken about 1884. At this point Joseph was dead and the property was owned by his sisters, Sarah and Hannah. In 1891 they put it up to auction and Joseph's niece, Sarah Shipley Bringhurst purchased it. She had been the one urging him to buy the place way back in 1851. She turned the property over to her son, Edward Bringhurst, Jr., somewhere at this time.

It is interesting because Joseph Shipley and Sarah Bringhurst would argue about the many rocks on the property. She felt they should be gotten rid of, but he loved their look and insisted they remain.

It took me a bit of searching, but I did finally find the rocks that Anna Webb Bringhurst posed between. There is a small garden to their front and some different bushes and trees backing up the scene, but I'm certain I was posing where she had stood 122 years earlier. I did not have a parasol to twirl; however.

I did have my walking stick.

My legs weren't covered by a long gown, either.

This brings us to the cliffs and the conclusion of this journey to the past. The cliffs are to the right as you drive or walk up the driveway from the park entrances up the hill toward the mansion.

This photo is of Mary Bringhurst standing at the top of these cliffs in 1900.

She must have come up a path behind the rocks on which she poses because I doubt she scaled the cliffs in that outfit for this purpose. Now I realize she was a healthy and hardy person, who loved to be 100, but I wouldn't have attempted the climb when I was younger without ALS.

There is a windy trail up behind those cliffs. Today it is paved over, but my guess is it follows some trail that existed back in the estates history so the owners could go to the highest point and look at the view. The cliff is steeper than the picture would indicate. Today there is a gazebo at the highest point where one can sit and look out over the grounds.

But with all the underbrush it is difficult to look at the 1900 photo and determine the exact location.

I went up the trail, then off on a dirt path that runs directly behind the cliffs, which may be the remainsof the original means of going up there. My guess is these may be the rock outcropping where Mary stood so long ago.

These rocks are relatively flat. Even I managed to walk onto them despite my imperfect balance and unsteady gait these days.

I bet Miss Bringhurst was not one bit hesitant to such rock standing.

A couple notes on the last post:

I did not get a photo outside the original entrance to the estate last week, but I did yesterday. This site hasn't changed greatly, except I think it had tall, wooden gates then. All Joseph Shipley's visitors would have come in here and checked in at the Lodge with the Gatekeeper. Pulling past this checkpoint they would see the mansion sitting up upon the hill.

The information sign here called this little building, "The Lodge", but I noticed this morning that the identifying marker to the front of its door calls it "The Porter's Lodge".

This is certainly more correct. Calling it The Lodge sounds like guest may have stayed there, but it was really the home of Shipley's Gatekeeper or Porter.

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