The Deer Garden

The Deer Garden
Mount Edgcumbe House

By: Geoff Rhodes
Added: 16 December 2017

The year 2015 marked the 500th anniversary of the imparking of the deer at Mount Edgcumbe:

On June 30 1515 King Henry VIII (by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Lord of Ireland) issued the following licence:

‘For Sir Peter Eggegcombe (Sir Piers Edgcumbe). License to impark lands in Weststonehouse and Cremele, Devon, and Cuthele, Cornw., and to enclose and fortify his manor of Estonehouse, Devon.’

The present herd of fallow deer are descendants of the original herd, and your Committee felt that this special anniversary should be marked by a permanent memorial. What form this might take was the subject of much discussion at FOMECP Committee meetings, but eventually it was decided to create a new garden close to the Barrow Centre, and to commission statues of deer to grace it. Whilst many of the Committee submitted ideas, it was Vice Chairman Neil Rugg who took on the task of collating these, and keeping the Committee informed of designs and costs. We wanted a permanent memorial, and we wanted it to be sourced locally if at all possible.

Commissioning Mark Stevens, our resident blacksmith, to create two sculptures - a buck and a doe - for us, and asking Lee Stenning, our head gardener, to plan and landscape the area, meant that we were able to achieve both aims.

Lee’s task was not made easy by the site itself, which is under dense tree cover but he opted to use ferns and grasses, which will thrive under shady conditions, with some camellia hedging at the lower end. Work commenced with site clearance, and with the help of two Austrian work placement students a new wall was built and the site cleared and planted. It is not intended that visitors should be able to walk through this garden: but the sloping site means that it is fully visible from the path. We’re looking forward to seeing the ferns and grasses fill out, and the tree ferns will be a real feature of the site. Lee has done a great job for us.

You may have seen a recent example of Mark’s work on TV local news or in situ: he was the creator of the striking poppy memorial placed outside Truro Cathedral this year. His design for the deer statues took him up into the Deer Park, where he studied their shape and movement to ensure that his work would reflect their form and character. We had admired the willow and driftwood sculptures by artists such as Heather Jansch: but these are not long lasting and we wanted permanence.

Mark has used stainless steel, and the way he has worked this has produced two extraordinarily lifelike sculptures. We anticipate that as the garden develops, their positioning amongst the ferns (which was the subject of much discussion and involved moving them around until the best effect was achieved) will serve to make them even more realistic.

The final touch was to place an information board by the gate, so that visitors could gain a clear understanding of the garden and its purpose. 500 years of the Deer Park deserved to be commemorated. We had, at one time, been doubtful that the work could be completed during the anniversary year - but in the event this was managed just in time, and the opening date of 8 December meant that the garden and the sculptures could be seen and enjoyed by visitors to the ever popular Christmas Fair over the weekend of 12 and 13 December.

Tuesday 8 December was cold and sunny but windy, and by mid-day a considerable gathering of Friends, visitors and Park staff were present to see Robert, Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, unveil the Information Board. Mark did the same for the deer, and their appearance was marked with enthusiastic applause.

The Earl commented that deer were taken by his family from Mount Edgcumbe to New Zealand during the 18th century, where they became the foundation herd for the fallow deer thriving there today. May this new garden prove as popular as the ones in the lower park!