The Ancient ‘Cloud’ hedge Of Brampton Bryan

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It’s 300 yards long too, so one can only imagine how much time and effort it takes to keep this yew hedge looking so fine. It surrounds the grounds of Brampton Bryan Hall, and its next-door predecessor, the ruined Brampton Bryan Castle. It and the whole village are remnants of the feudal past, the manorial Harley family having been in continuous residence here for 700 years. I have not been able to find out when the form of this hedge was first conceived, or who thought of doing it. Or, indeed, who has the job of trimming it.

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The village is in Herefordshire, but close to the borders of Wales and Shropshire. There is mention of a castle here in Domesday (1086) and of building work in the 13th century. Doubtless it played its part during the Norman domination of Britain. Four centuries later, during the Civil War it was subjected to two sieges by Royalist forces.

During the first attack of 1642 that lasted several weeks, the castle was held for the Roundhead cause by Lady Brilliana Harley (there’s a name to conjure with) along with a band of locals and 50 soldiers. Her husband, Sir Robert, statesman and member of the Long Parliament which sat throughout both Civil War periods, had left her ‘to man the fort’ while he was in London attending to parliamentary business.

There was something of a truce during 1643, but by this time Brilliana was ailing and she died of pneumonia in October 1643. In the following spring there was a second siege. This time the Royalist forces arrived with mines and more powerful artillery, and so had their way. The castle was sacked and burned, the three Harley children taken off to be imprisoned in Shrewsbury. But not long afterwards the Royalist cause was lost, and Sir Robert was paid the equivalent of £1 million in compensation for the destruction of his home.

Looking around the peaceful little village today, and at that apparently all-enduring hedge, it is hard to envisage the place as a battle ground. These days we have entered the Age of Quaint & Picturesque. Which reminds me, the hall grounds were used in scenes from the Merchant Ivory film of E M Forster’s Howard’s End.

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The parish church stands in front of the castle gatehouse, and my photo of the latter was taken looking over the churchyard wall. Built in the 1660s, it is one of only six churches built in England during the Commonwealth period. Timbers from the castle’s great hall were re-purposed here.

Time Square #16

53 thoughts on “The Ancient ‘Cloud’ hedge Of Brampton Bryan

    1. I think its something to do with borderlands. They attract all sorts of notions and creations. As to clipping, I think it’s maybe just a matter of cutting off any sprouting bits, which sounds a bit obvious but a v. pernickety job..

  1. Absolutely gorgeous scenery. But it truly reminds me of many Midsommer Murders I’ve watched. It’s the kind of tranquil setting that calls out for some heinous death to spice things up and a gallant, misunderstood detective to puzzle clues out until the culprit is caught.

  2. What a wonderful place. I felt like I was stepping back in time when I looked at your photos and read the history. It is hard to imagine such a peaceful place was once a battlefield.

    1. It is definitely a slumbering sort of place these days. At least that’s how it seems whenever we pass by, which admittedly is often. Most of the cottages belong to the Harley estate and have sky blue front doors and window frames.

  3. Fascinating history, a fabulous name and a beautiful hedge. Wonderful Tish, thank you.

    I wonder if the shape was first formed by frost damage. I’m sure I read of a similar hedge that’s shape was first created by the weather and the family liked it so much they kept it growing that way. Could beautiful garden myth though!

      1. Ah I found details on the one I was thinking of – Audley End in Saffron Walden. Apparently they were unable to prune it for years and during this period heavy snowfall damaged many sections. When they had the resources to prune again they had to be innovative because of the damage caused by the snow breakages and the random extensive growth. And the weird cloud like shapes were the result. So wasn’t frost but weather did play a part!

  4. I have driven through this village a few times, but do not recollect the hedge! I suppose my mind was on the road, which as the driver, I suppose it should be. I’m now wondering whether my OH is related to this branch of the Harleys! We have a running joke that we own the village of Harley and also the Harley stone in the Quarry. Seems to have been a few of them about 🙂

  5. What a fabulous hedge and interesting history! Can’t wait to stay in front of this beauty, This. Brampton Bryan and Aardvark Books are on our map, thank you! 🙂

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