Use Places & People to search over 6,600 parks and gardens in the UK and 2,100 biographies of people associated with them. Image location: Bedgebury National Pinetum

Learn about the rich heritage of parks and gardens in Topics.
Image location: Powis Castle

Follow News & Events, updated regularly with the latest information affecting historic parks and gardens. Image location: Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Visit the Schools for ideas and activities to encourage the interest of children and young people in their local parks. Image location: Trentham

Join us as a volunteer and Research & Record historic parks and gardens in your area.
Image location: Cirencester Abbey

View the Illustrated Glossary which provides definitions and accompanying images for terms and concepts associated with historic parks and gardens. Image location: Pannett Park

Janie Burford: treading in Charles Hamilton's footsteps

Article Index

  1. Janie Burford: treading in Charles Hamilton's footsteps
  2. Early career
  3. Beginning at Painshill
  4. Restoration begins
  5. Fundraising and opening to the public
  6. Leaving Painshill
  7. Sources and further reading
  8. All Pages

It was a summer afternoon in the late 1970s when Janie Burford clambered over a fence into Painshill Park to explore the mysterious wilderness beyond.

Janie was at the time studying for a postgraduate diploma in landscape architecture at Thames Polytechnic, where she had attended a series of lectures on Painshill, one of the foremost ‘classical' landscapes of the 18th century.

Created by Charles Hamilton between 1738 and 1773, Painshill had been relatively well maintained by successive owners through the 19th and early 20th centuries, but had fallen prey to neglect since the end of the Second World War.

In 1948 the estate had been divided up and sold off in lots to pay taxes. The main part of the ornamental landscape around the lake was developed for commercial forestry, disappearing beneath a blanket of conifers.

Photograph of the Gothic Temple, Painshill, before restoration. Copyright Painshill Park Trust.The Gothic Temple, before restoration Janie's opportunity to explore the park arose through a friend, whose mother was resident in part of Painshill House. Together, the pair began to push their way through thick, tangled undergrowth, and trees so crowded they cut out the light.

‘It was a dark, dense jungle. Despite knowing a little of the history, I simply couldn't believe anything would have survived, or that we would find any evidence of Hamilton's masterpiece.' Janie recalls.

Stumbling around the site, the pair came across the ghostly remains of garden buildings such as the Gothic Temple and the Grotto. Deep in the woodland and scrub of what Janie later realised had been the large open space of the Amphitheatre, they found the broken base of a large, empty statue plinth, choked with tree growth. This, they later discovered was where the John Cheere sculpture, the Rape of the Sabines, had once stood.

‘It was one of those life-changing moments. It was an incredible experience, and it became embedded in my mind,' says Janie wonderingly.