Visiting The Charleston Garden
Charleston’s walled garden was created by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant following designs by Roger Fry. Together they transformed vegetable plots and hen runs, essential to the household during the First World War, into a quintessential painters’ garden, mixing Mediterranean influences with cottage garden planting. Part of the garden’s sense of luxuriance and surprise comes from the variety of sculpture it contains. Classical forms sit side by side with life size works by Quentin Bell, mosaic pavements and tile-edged pools. [photograph (c) Harpur on behalf of Charleston Trust]
“Of all the gardens open to the public that I’ve visited, none has less pretension or more charm that this; its complexities and subtleties reveal themselves slowly, and there is real magic that can be breathed deep.”
Monty Don, 2015
Visiting the Charleston Garden
Entry to the Charleston Garden is included with any ticket for the House. Garden only tickets do not need to be booked in advance and can be purchased in our shop on the day of your visit.
The Garden opens one hour before the House.
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Learn more about the history of the Garden
Features of the Charleston Garden
“…the garden here was not a gentleman’s garden or a gardener’s garden, it was always an artist’s garden.” Angelica Garnett
- Cast of Venus – In the walled garden by the box hedge is a cast of Venus, originally by Giovanni da Bologna, 16th century.
- Tiled Pond – Lined with ceramic tiles, placed so that their reflection is seen in the water. The original tiles were decorated by Vanessa Bell c.1930 and then replaced with copies by Quentin Bell. By the pond is a small torso carved in stone by John Skeaping, 1930s
- Piazza – Inspired by their visits to Italy, the Piazza was laid out by Quentin Bell in 1946/7, to enjoy the last of the evening sun. All the artists collaborated with the panels made from shards of crockery and terracotta. The spouting head and pond were added by Quentin Bell in 1958. The cast of the torso with Hydrangea was once whole and was ingeniously converted by Duncan Grant into a planter.
- Pomona – At the end of the orchard path, this sculpture was constructed from concrete by Quentin Bell in 1954. The apples in her basket are made from glazed terracotta.
- Spink – Made in 1930 by Quentin Bell, it was inspired by the brickwork sculptures at Vallombrosa.
- The wall heads – Surmounting the garden wall is a row of casts of antique heads originally collected from art schools by Duncan Grant and then replaced over the years.
- Urns – Either side of the garden gate, these are casts of the originals made by Quentin Bell in 1956
- Levitating Lady – By the pond, her horizontal form reflected in the water, lies the Levitating Lady made by Quentin Bell in 1973. He was subconsciously inspired by a magic show he saw as a child.
- Female Figure – On the far side of the pond stands a life size female figure made by Quentin Bell in 1954.
- Folly Garden – Originally known as Grant’s Folly, this is an enclosed courtyard garden next to the Studio. Beside the square pond stands Duncan Grant’s only sculpture, a male nude c. 1968.
Some favourite plants of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant featured in the garden include Wallflower Persian Carpet, Tulip Apeldoorn, Narcissus poeticus, Snake’s head fritillary, Aconitum Napellus, Sweet Peas, Rosa gallica’ Papaver orientalis, Zinnia, Red-hot poker plant, Iris sibirica, Lilium candidum, Dahlia, Globe artichoke, Sunflower, Nasturtium, Cosmos, Asters and Anemone japonica.