Restoration of an 18th-century green amphitheatre

Restoration of an 18th-century green amphitheatre

A view of the Amphitheatre, Painshill. The sculpture of the 'Rape of the Sabine Woman' is in the foreground. In the background is the Gothic Temple. Photograph copyright: Jerry Harpur. A view of the Amphitheatre, Painshill Park. The sculpture of the Rape of the Sabine Woman is in the foreground. In the background is the Gothic Temple. Photograph copyright: Jerry Harpur.

Feature

The Amphitheatre.

Site

Painshill Park, Surrey.

Issue 1

The Amphitheatre had become overgrown and there was a lack of evidence of the original planting.

Background

The Amphitheatre was known to have existed in Charles Hamilton's time, but it was not known whether he designed the feature himself, or whether it was still there at the end of his time at Painshill. The site had become completely overgrown by the 1980s, and no evidence of the original planting remained.

Solution

A new plan for the Amphitheatre was drawn up by historic planting consultant Mark Laird, based on a layout created in 1737 by Lord Petre for the Duke of Norfolk at his Worksop estate in Nottinghamshire. Tall pines were fronted by viburnum and holly, with groundcover of periwinkle and rock roses.

The green Amphitheatre is now the first area of formal planting on the tour of the garden at Painshill. It is planted with evergreen trees and shrubs in six tiered rows in a manner typical of the early to mid-18th century.

Issue 2

The original focal point of area (statue) lost.

Background

A copy by John Cheere of Giambologna's sculpture, Rape of the Sabine Woman (1581-82), originally stood at the centre of the Amphitheatre. The base remained, but the statue had been vandalised and then sold for its lead content in 1952.

Solution

More than 40 years later a new interpretation of the Rape of the Sabine Woman was commissioned from the sculptor Ivor Abrahams was put in its place in September 1993. The new sculpture was cast in bronze and waxed to give the appearance of lead.