- Project Dates: From September 2012
- Project Leader: Oscar Aldred and Sam Turner
- Partners: National Trust
Since 2012 archaeologists in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology have been investigating the designed landscape around Rothley Lake within the Wallington estate that is managed by the National Trust.
Designed landscapes are a common feature around many great houses.
Many of those that were present during the 18th century were ‘improved’ by landscape designers and architects who created formal and symmetrical landscapes, but also so called Naturalized landscapes that accentuated the underlying ‘natural’ character of the landscape in a deliberately fashioned or ‘cultural’ manner.
The landscape designers and architects, especially those who were working during the 18th century, have had a great influence on shaping the modern perception of what constitutes the idea of landscape.
This is played out in terms of functional as well as natural landscapes, and through other dichotomies such as between wilderness and domesticated settings.
Therefore the study of these types of ‘contested’ landscapes brings opportunities to study the historic character of past and present landscapes.
One such landscape that contains these kinds of tensions and narratives lies within the National Trust managed estate at Wallington House, within a wooded area around Rothley Lake.
In 2012, Newcastle University was contacted by the National Trust to carry out small-scale research within a part of their estate at a locale called Rothley Lake.
Rothley was one of the elements in the Sir Walter Calverley Blackett period landscape improvements around Wallington in the late-18th century.
Although Rothley Lake was located several miles from Wallington House it was used as a pleasure ground, and was designed with the creation of two lakes, the planting of trees, and several walkways and other water features.
At present, the area is undergoing management, and through this process has revealed several features of great quality attributed to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s designs, one of the foremost landscape architects of his generation.
The collaboration between the National Trust at Wallington House and Newcastle University has led to a research project focused on surveying the remnant features of the designed landscape in an area of the wood.
Using a combination of desk-based map research and assessment of published histories of the estate, the area was examined on the ground.
This led to a survey of archaeological features focused on the north-western banks of the lake where there are remnants of a stone revetted serpentine path and extensive tree planting, such as several mature Scots Pine.
After an initial survey in 2012 with students and staff at Newcastle University, a small excavation was carried out with staff and a National Trust volunteer across the path in 2013 to examine its construction.
The collaboration is also leading to future research in Rothley Lake and on the influences that lay behind the practices of landscape architects such as Capability Brown.
Several reports of the research have also been written.