Pity Poor Lady Luxborough
Prisoner, gardener and ghost of Barrells Hall.
Between Henley-on-Arden and Ullenhall in Warwickshire sits Barrells Hall, in its day famed for its gardens and the woman who created them.
It's the mid-1700s and Robert Knight returns from exile in France pardoned for his part in the murky depths of the South Sea Bubble.
Alas poor Bob, he doesn't last long and his son, the third Robert in a row and later the first Baron Luxborough, inherits the lot.
Bob III is an active lad:
He marries Henrietta St John (a so-so poet but mistress of letters); fathers kids with her; more with who knows how many others; accuses Hen of cheating on him; and banishes her to Barrells Hall.
All in the matter of a few years.
Each moment, from my dear away,
Is a long age of pain;
Fly swift, ye hours, be calm the day,
That brings my love again!
O haste and bring him to my arms;
Nor let us ever part:
My breast shall beat no more alarms,
When I secure his heart.
Henrietta Knight 1745
So Hen had Barrells, seven servants, £500 p.a. and for a while at least, no means to leave the estate. She wasn't even allowed to see her own children.
What's a girl to do but take up landscaping and design some of the most striking gardens in Warwickshire.
Vistas, avenues, ravines, ha-has (sunken walls) and giant urns abounded.
Garden and gardener attracted much attention from noted gentleman of the day. Which is both ironic and a two-fingered salute to Bob III.
Notable amongst Hen's chums (aka The Warwickshire Coterie) was the poet William Shenstone with whom she had a friendly garden rivalry and a prolific correspondence. They were leading lights in the local artistic and literary scene but Hen was still largely a prisoner.
From Rural Elegance
Awhile her magic strikes the novel eye,
Awhile the fairy forms delight;
And now aloof we seem to fly
On purple pinions through a purer sky,
Where all is wondrous, all is bright:
William Shenstone 1750
She died in March 1756 and was buried at Wootton Wawen.
Fifteen years later Bob III (now an Earl) decided to build a mausoleum in Hen's gardens and moved the whole family in.
Later the mausoleum fell into disrepair and everyone was moved out again, Hen to Ullenhall.
All of which must have been very annoying for Henrietta's ghost.
Long after her death, a slim figure, black hair in curls, blue silk dress with lace, could be seen wondering the Hall and lamenting the splendour of the long-lost gardens.