The American Garden at Powderham: "Delightful Retreat in the Plantation"

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William Beckford
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Historic Preservation and Conservation
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Flemer, Rebecca Wilkinson

This thesis explores the history of the American Garden at Powderham in Devon, England. The seven-acre space was created, abandoned, and replanted over the course of over two-hundred years yet manages to convey remarkable integrity and sense of place. In the process of discovering who created the garden, this study aims to bring a deeper understanding of how and why American gardens, and Powderham’s in particular, were constructed in the late Georgian period. Because the Powderham American Garden has changed significantly over the past 200 years, the garden is not as it appeared in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Developing a site analysis based on historic maps, household invoices and inventories, correspondence, diaries and accounts of family members and visitors, artwork, books at Powderham, and treatises of contemporary horticulturists generates context for understanding the garden’s likely historic appearance and use. Other British eighteenth-century American gardens offer comparables for Powderham’s garden. This evolving contextualized understanding elucidates the garden’s meaning and leads to ideas about its interpretation and presentation to a visiting public today. The Georgian garden was designed for movement – meant to be experienced in motion and sequence. As the narration progresses through the garden, this paper will explore the structures, plants, views, spatial organization, and circulation in order to address the central question of this thesis: Who and what forces created the American Garden, and how does the garden convey a broader understanding of and relationship to culture and society in the late Georgian era?

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Suggested Citation: Flemer, Rebecca Wilkinson (2018). The American Garden at Powderham: "Delightful Retreat in the Plantation" (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
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