The Petwood’s original Edwardian gardens were designed by Harold Ainsworth Peto FRIBA (1854 – 1933) a British architect, landscape architect and garden designer, who worked in Britain and Provence. Well known today for the abundance and beauty of its rhododendrons, (much used as a backdrop to the many weddings held here,) little survives of Peto’s garden, so a little imagination is needed to appreciate its former Arts and Crafts appeal.
Harold Peto was the son of a prosperous Lowestoft builder, engineer and railway-contractor. Somerleyton Hall, where Harold spent his boyhood, had been rebuilt in the 1840s in Neo-Renaissance style, and may have had an influence on subsequent choice of career. After the failure of his father’s business, Harold studied at Harrow School, but left at seventeen to be apprenticed to a joiner, before training as an architect, first in Lowestoft then in London.
In 1876 Peto went into partnership with architect Ernest George and together they designed houses in Kensington and Chelsea, as well as country houses. In 1883 Peto became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, but ill health compelled him to leave London. During these years he kept diaries recording his travels to Italy, America, Spain and Greece.
When the partnership ended, Harold based himself in Kent (1892–1895) and afterwards at Landford House near Salisbury (1896–1899). More travel – to Egypt, Italy, Germany and France, and in 1898 he made a round-the-world tour including Japan.
In 1899 he purchased and moved to Iford Manor in Wiltshire, where he re-designed and expanded the garden, trying out new ideas and incorporating artefacts collected during his travels. The garden at Iford illustrates his Arts and crafts approach to architecture and garden design. Most of Peto’s major commissions were executed between 1900 and 1914 mainly in the South of England. Peto was commissioned to redesign the Petwood grounds when the first owner of the building, Lady Weigall, was in residence.
There is now a plan to restore the extensive Hotel gardens to their former glory, using funds to be raised by selling land to build new homes. It’s been a long haul, but last February a revised outline planning application was approved by East Lindsey District Council’s Planning Committee.
After the recent positive planning decision Emma Brealey commented: “We just want to see this beautiful Edwardian garden restored and I think its fitting that it will happen in the centenary year. Hopefully people will come to visit the gardens and while they are here they will spend in the local shops. It will help make Woodhall Spa and East Lindsey more of a tourist destination.” She also said she expected the garden project to take over a year to finish and that they were aiming for a completion date of May 2015.
The new proposals feature eight houses located among existing mature trees on derelict land off Monument Road, with a ninth home positioned nearby to the north east. They have been designed to fit in with the architectural style of Woodhall Spa, including the Grade II-listed hotel itself.
More pictures of Peto’s gardens on Flickriver