This section is from the book "A History Of Gardening In England", by Alicia Amherst. Also available from Amazon: A History Of Gardening In England.
" Then we went to the garden glorious Like to a place, of pleasure most solacious : With Flora painted and wrought curiously In divers knottes of marveylous greatnes Rampande lyons, stode by wonderfly Made all of herbes, with dulset swetenes With many dragons, of marveylous likenes Of diuers floures, made full craftely By Flora couloured, with colours sundrye".
The following are some of the flowers that were cultivated in these knottes, or in the borders, in Tudor times, that are mentioned by contemporary writers:—-Acanthus, asphodel, auricula, bachelor's buttons, amaranthe, or "blites," cornflowers or "bottles," cowslips, daffodils, daisies, "French broome," gilliflowers (3 varieties), hollyhock, iris, jasmine, lavender, lilies lily of the valley, marigold, narcissus (yellow and white), pansies or heartsease, peony, periwinkle, poppy, primrose, rocket, roses, rosemary, snapdragon, stock gilliflowers, sweet william, wall-flowers, winter-cherry, violet, and besides these, other sweet smelling herbs, such as mint and marjoram.
Having now gone through some of the principal features of a Tudor garden, the railed beds, knottes, the mount, arbours, and galleries, let us consider further, not only what gardens were made, but what happened to the old gardens in existence during the first part of this per10d. We have seen, in an earlier chapter, something of the position held by the monastery gardens throughout the land. Now we have reached the years of the Reformation, and so far as this great movement affected gardens, we must glance at its progress. The work of the visitation and then the suppression of the monasteries was begun in 1534. The greater ones were first attacked, and the lesser ones followed. The work was carried on rapidly; in the northern district in 1536, eighty-eight monasteries were reported on in a fortnight ;* 202 were suppressed or surrendered between 1538-40. At the time of the Dissolution there were over seven hundred religious houses scattered all over the kingdom. We cannot say that each of these possessed a garden, as some were in towns, in spaces too confined, and some Orders did not devote any of their attention to agriculture. The Benedictines and Cistercians predominated in numbers, and they were, for the most part, large landowners, farmers of their own land, and skilled in horticulture. But of the gardens which surrounded Fountaines, Jervaulx, or Netley, Glastonbury, St. Albans, or Whitby, and many another fine abbey and stately priory, nothing remains. In some instances there is mention made of the gardens by the officers of the Crown, who made the visitations and appropriated everything of value. At Oxford, they regretted that the Austin Friars had felled all their trees, but the Franciscans had "good lands, woods, and a pretty garden." The Cistercians of Waverley were very poor at the time, and the Abbot was granted leave "to survey his husbandry whereupon consisteth the wealth of his monastery." Few traces of old monastery gardens are left. At Westminster there was a fine garden, celebrated for its damson trees, and a garden by the Infirmary, where the sick monks could take the air. Part of this remains in the garden belonging to the College, but some portion of it was built over at the beginning of the last century, when the new College buildings were erected. When Elizabeth came to the throne, she sent for Abbot Feckenham, who had been reinstated in the Abbey of Westminster during Mary's reign. He was planting elms in his garden when he received the summons, and finished his work before he would attend on the Queen. The Abbot ended his days in captivity, and his abbey was soon after transformed into a College, but some of his elm trees, or their successors, remain to this day.
* The Historie of Graunde Amoure and la bell Pucell, called the Pastime of Pleasure. By Stephen Hawes. Ed. 1554.
That which has most often survived destruction, to find a place in a modern garden, on the site of some old cloister, is the fish-pond, although, strictly speaking, it did not always form part of a monastery garden. But it was found useful, and has frequently been spared even by the landscape gardener, who would rather alter than destroy it. At Cirencester, the present parish church is a fine building, but the abbey church beside it, in times past, was so infinitely larger, as quite to eclipse it. Yet now the abbey church and adjoining buildings have so completely disappeared, that almost the only trace of monastic times, in the grounds of the house, built on the same spot, is a small piece of water, the remains of the old fish-ponds. At Hurley-on-Thames the monks' fish stews are still in existence, while at Bisham Abbey, only a mile distant, the garden is surrounded on three sides by a moat, also a relic of monkish days. At Hackness, in Yorkshire, the monks' ponds have been transformed into the present lake, but at Newstead Abbey, Nottingham, the monks' stew, overshadowed by old yews, is untouched, and the eagle pond (see illustration, page 29) there, is also undoubtedly a relic of the Black Friars, a brass eagle lectern having been found in its depths, full of valuable deeds relating to the monastery, there hidden by the friars at the time of their dissolution. At Hatton Grange, in Shropshire, on the site of a cell, Buildwas Abbey, the ponds also remain as originally made by the monks. There are four pools, still bearing their old names—the Abbot's, Purgatory, Hell, and the Bath Pools. They are in sequence, separated by broad dams of earth, and are dug deep into the ground, with steep banks. Thus although the original gardens have vanished, the monastery lands were granted to the great families of the day, and since they passed into secular hands, stately houses have been built, and beautiful gardens, though of a totally different character, have been made, and now adorn what once were the precincts of the old abbeys and priories. Woburn, Welbeck, Burghley, Syon, Battle, Beaulieu, Ramsey, Audley End, and many others, are among the number.
* Gasquet, Henry VIII. and Eng. Mon.