Peto Garden at Iford Manor
Peto Garden at Iford Manor
Peto Gardens are an award-winning Grade I early 20th century hillside garden set beside the historic house of Ilford Manor, beside the River Frome. Statuary, colonnades, formal terraces and a cloister set the tone for this beautiful Italianate garden, with its grand views out over the Wiltshire countryside.
History
Harold Peto was an architect by profession; a successful advocate of Arts and Crafts style. He lived at Iford Manor, on the outskirts of Bradford-on-Avon, from 1899 until his death in 1933. Throughout that 34 year period Peto developed an extraordinary garden to express his love of Italy and all things Italian, yet making it all blend in skilfully with the very English countryside surroundings.

Peto travelled extensively in Italy and throughout Europe, and brought back a large collection of statuary and other art objects which he used to decorate his gardens. In creating his garden he drew on the writing of William Robinson and the influential garden designs of Gertrude Jekyll, but created something entirely unique and very much his own.

If you come to Iford Manor expecting a traditional English garden, you won't quite know what to make of what you see. For here the plants are almost secondary to the structural design, with statues, pools, walks, and cypress trees creating a Mediterranean feel, and the flowers merely used to accentuate the Italianate structures.

Some of the structures Peto created are a loggia, a Great Terrace flanked by colonnades, and a lily pool. One of the most striking parts of the garden are the Cloisters, a courtyard bounded by an arcade. Peto dubbed this area his 'Haunt of Ancient Peace', and used it to display some of his most prized art objects. There are several terraces built into the hillside above the main garden, and you will find a pavilion called the Casita, or little house.

Iford Manor house dates to the late 15th century. Around 1730 a neo-classical facade was added to the medieval building, and later that same century hanging woodlands were planted on the hillside above the house. Because of the sloping site, terraces form an essential part of the gardens, a fact which Peto used to his advantage to create wonderful vistas and viewpoints. Many of the original plants remain, including scented day lily and Martagon lilies.

The gardens are home to an annual arts festival, which uses the Cloisters and Casita for performances of jazz, opera and other musical events. The Peto Garden at Iford Manor received the prestigious Christies Garden of the Year award in 1998.