The mid-19th-century Gardens of Brodsworth Hall in South Yorkshire are striking. House and grounds are a perfect complement of Italianate green architecture and are linked by formal terraces with three staircases decorated by marble urns and recumbent — probably Italian — greyhounds acquired by the Italian sculptor Chevalier G. M. Casentini.
If this all feels rather unlikely in Yorkshire, that is because it reflects the taste of one man, Charles Sabine Augustus Thellusson, who came into an extraordinary inheritance in 1858 and devoted much of it to creating the hall and its gardens in his own personal style.
‘Today, he would be an oligarch,’ says Michael Klemperer, senior gardens advisor for the North and Midlands regions at English Heritage (EH), which now looks after house and gardens. ‘The money he received from the will was £700,000, which, with interest, equates to £140 million today.’ With the cash came the estate that had belonged to his great-grandfather Peter Thellusson, a Swiss financier, who had moved to London in 1760 and built up a fortune as a merchant and banker.
Charles Thellusson was an avid traveller, sailor and photographer. ‘He was a big, robust Victorian gentleman, a patrician walrus,’ notes Dr Klemperer, who sees Brodsworth as representing a transition between Continental styles and the Victorian era. ‘It is a garden that is interesting on a number of levels,’ he adds, citing influences as varied as Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) and Blackpool pier.