An aerial image of a parterre garden and Elizabethan country house
Historic photography Parks and Gardens

Do You Know Your Gloriette From Your Grotto?

These images will help you navigate through features found in historic gardens and landscapes.

Can you tell your gloriette from your grotto? Or your parterre from your platoon?

Fear not! These images from the Historic England Archive will help you navigate through a selection of features found in historic gardens and garden landscapes.

What is a grotto?

A grotto is an artificial cavern. A feature of ancient Roman gardens, grottos were revived during the Renaissance and again in the 18th century when the Picturesque ideal became popular.

A photograph of a grotto surrounded by trees and foliage.
The Grade II listed Grotto, Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire. © Rev Andrew Salmon. Source: Historic England Archive. IOE01/16270/20.

Grottos often include water features and decorative shell-work.

What is an umbrello?

An umbrello is an outdoor structure that provides shade above a seat. They are places where people can meet, view their garden surroundings and sometimes take tea.

A photograph of a umbrello surrounded by trees and foliage.
The Grade II* listed Garden House, Great Saxam Hall, Suffolk. © Historic England Archive. DP141278.

What is a pergola?

Pergolas are covered garden walks. They often have double rows of posts or columns supporting beams above. The posts and beams allow climbing plants to decorate the structure.

A photograph of a garden with a pergola on the right of the image.
The Grade II* listed Garden House at Great Saxam Hall in Suffolk. © Mr Paul Lyons. Source: Historic England Archive. DP141279.

What is a clairvoie?

A clairvoie, a term derived from the French language, refers to an opening that provides a clear view of a garden or landscape.

A photograph of a clairvoie which looks onto a formal garden that features a pond and a small staircase.
The Grade II* listed Hill Garden, Camden, Greater London. © Historic England Archive. AA072658.

This opening can take the form of grilles, fences, or gates and is often incorporated into garden walls and hedges.

The purpose of a clairvoie is to offer a glimpse of the natural beauty beyond while maintaining a sense of privacy and security.

What is an orangery?

An orangery is a garden building used for growing and wintering fruit and exotic plants. Its distinctive feature is a range of large windows on the south side to warm and light the interior.

A photograph of a yellow orangery building with a staircase leading up to it.
The Orangery, Wrest Park House and Gardens, Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire. © Historic England Archive. DP067787.

Early orangeries date from the second half of the 16th century. They gained wide popularity in the late 18th century.

What is a parterre?

A French word meaning ‘on the ground’, parterres are level garden spaces close to a house. They are laid out in decorative patterns of low, formal beds and can include flowers, herbs, hedges, lawns and paths.

An aerial view of a large manor house and formal gardens.
Grade II listed Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire. © Historic England Archive. DP156103.

Parterres gained popularity in England during the 17th century as a type of formal garden design. This trend experienced a revival in the 19th century, providing an elegant and sophisticated setting for socialising with guests.

The intricate patterns of the parterres, adorned with various colourful flowers, were a sight to behold and added to the overall charm of the garden.

What is a fernery?

A fernery is a free-standing garden building or conservatory attached to a house for housing and displaying collections of ferns.

A black and white photograph of a fernery featuring a marble bust of a woman on the left.
The Grade II* grounds of Thornton Manor, Wirral. Source: Historic England Archive. BL17558.

In the mid-19th century, Victorian Britain was gripped by ‘pteridomania’ or ‘fern fever’.

What is a ha-ha wall?

A ha-ha is a boundary feature in a garden that keeps out animals without obscuring a view. This is usually achieved using an earthwork ditch retained on one side by a vertical wall.

A photograph of a ha-ha wall surrounded by a field and foliage.
The Grade II listed Walled Gardens at Stockwood Park. © Historic England Archive. DP247697.

What is a crinkle-crankle wall?

A crinkle-crankle wall is a snake-like, curving or undulating wall. They may mark a boundary to a garden or enclose a kitchen garden.

A photograph of a crinkle crankle wall next to a path.
Crinkle crankle wall to houses at Scudamore Place, Ditchingham, Norfolk. © Historic England Archive. DP162740.

What is a rill?

A garden rill is a designed watercourse, usually in the form of a narrow, shallow canal. Rills can be used to connect different garden areas and can add intrigue to eyes and ears.

A photograph of a formal garden featuring a rill connecting the park over a stream.
The Grade II* listed rill garden, Shute House, Wiltshire. © Historic England Archive. DP248126.

What is a gloriette?

A gloriette is a garden building erected on an elevated site, generally with open sides that afford views over the surrounding garden or landscape.

An aerial photograph of Leeds Castle surrounded by water.
The Grade I listed Leeds Castle, Kent. © Historic England Archive. 24978/028.

The extravagant island gloriette at Leeds Castle in Kent allows for views over a castle moat to the landscape beyond.

What is a platoon?

Like a troop of soldiers lined up for inspection, a platoon, in garden terms, is a parallel rank of square or rectangular tree planting set in order alongside a drive or vista.

An aerial photograph of Holkham park with the sea in the distance.
Holkham Park, Holkham, Norfolk. © Historic England Archive. 29332/045.

This aerial image of Holkham Park in Norfolk shows a platoon flanking a section of the great south avenue that was planted at Holkham Hall in 1735.

What is a potager?

Potager is French for ‘kitchen garden’. Potagers are often ornamental in character and can be both aesthetically pleasing and practical.

A photograph of a kitchen garden with a brick house in the background.
The Kitchen Garden, Audley End House, Essex. © Marianne Majerus. Source: Historic England Archive. PLB/M070193.

Influenced by medieval monastic gardens, potagers were elaborately revived in the 16th and 17th centuries, no more so than at the Palace of Versailles for the court of Louis XIV.

What is an espalier?

Espalier describes an ancient practice that controls the growth of a plant, particularly fruit trees, by pruning and training it to grow on a wall or fence into a specific pattern.

A photograph of a row of trees growing as part of a espalier.
The Kitchen Garden, Audley End House, Essex. © Marianne Majerus. Source: Historic England Archive. PLB/M070202.

An espalier is decorative and provides the fruit tree with more light and warmth from the sun.

Further reading

4 comments on “Do You Know Your Gloriette From Your Grotto?

  1. Jill morris

    Every day is a school day, thank you for sharing such interesting information

  2. Claire Robinson

    Fascinating post, but – no gazebo? ;o)

  3. Michelle clare

    A great topic to entice the little grey cells

  4. Wow, these are so many new words, cool stuff

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: