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Cherokees at Wilton House and garden, 1762

Those of you who know me personally may be surprised that I haven't blogged much about Wilton, being that it usually looms large in my garden history conversations.

The first garden history essay I ever wrote was about the seventeenth century gardens at Wilton House, it became my first publication in the field and my latest article, just out in the current issue of Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, revisits Wilton and its designer once again. I can hardly bear to pass through Salisbury on the train without stopping, drawn back to the landscape where Philip Sidney wrote his Arcadia and his sister Mary welcomed that man Shakespeare, where Isaac de Caus made a fountain of three rainbows and carried out Inigo Jones' noble remodeling scheme, and where in 1736 Robert Morris and the 9th Earl, the architect earl, made the Palladian Bridge that remains the best feature of the park, its other glories being long since gone.

I know Wilton's history rather well. So I was surprised to discover a new bit of information via my own home-town and its wonderful Gilcrease Museum, home to the world's most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West, including those of Native Americans.

It seems that in 1762, three Cherokees visited the gardens of Wilton House.

They were Stalking Turkey, Pouting Pidgeon and Mankiller, and they had come to London to discuss the prospects for a lasting peace with King George III in the company of one Lt. Henry Timberlake, whose memoirs provide the only account of the visit. They had their portraits painted by Reynolds and Parsons (the portraits are at the Gilcrease), visited the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall and Ranelagh, and received a whirlwind tour about the country, with Wilton House as one of the stops. Timberlake's account is sparse:

We stopped at Exeter, where the Indians were shewed the cathedral, but, contrary to my expectation, were as little struck as if they had been natives of the place.
They were much better pleased the next day with Lord Pembroke's seat at Wilton, till they saw the state of Hercules with his club uplifted, which they thought so dreadful that they begged immediately to be gone.

The Hercules would have been the impressive specimen above, a 'colossal' which is engraved in James Kennedy's 1768 Description of the Antiquities and Curiosities in Wilton House. According to James it was in the Great Hall at the time, not the garden, but the Cherokee guests would most certainly have been taken there as all visitors were, something in the manner of the 1776 engraving below.

Next time I am at Wilton, crossing the Palladian bridge, I'll imagine them there.

[Lithograph of the three Cherokees, 1762, From the collection of Gilcrease Museum, GM 3576.429]

If you're in the area of the Gilcrease, an exhibit about the delegation runs through the end of the year.
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Hermes said...

That is fascinating - I don't live too far away and must go and have a look.

Tara Dillard said...

Loved every word.

Off topic, do you know anything about the 2 week garden trip thru England John Adams & Thomas Jefferson took?

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

Ivy Lane said...

I love your blog! So very interesting. Getting ready to get my garden gear on toil in the soil!!! Have a GREAT weekend!

Mother Nature said...

The Palladian Bridge is the most glorious feature of any garden I've seen.

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