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Mazes and Labyriths, by W. H. Matthews, [1922], at

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THE Hampton Court maze (Fig. 110) was constructed in 1690 and in all probability displaced an older maze, a relic of Wolsey's time. The maze is situated close to the Bushy Park entrance. Defoe speaks of it as a "labrynth," and tells us that the "Wilderness," of which it forms part, replaced the old orchard of the palace.

It is of no great complexity, but, as may be seen from Fig. 111, is of a neat and symmetrical pattern, with quite sufficient of the puzzle about it to sustain interest and to cause amusement but without a needless and tedious excess of intricacy. The area occupied by it is rather more than a quarter of an acre—not a great amount of space, but enough to accommodate about half a mile of total pathway. The longest side of the maze measures 222 ft.

Various diagrams of the maze have been published, some of them very incorrect and therefore misleading. Our sketch was made on the spot and represents at any rate the present (1922) disposition of the paths and hedges. The gate almost opposite the entrance should normally be closed. It is for the purpose of affording the gardener or attendant direct access to the "goal" and its approaches, or occasionally for facilitating the release of impatient visitors; if left open it spoils the fun. The goal is provided with two bench seats, each shaded by a leafy tree.


Fig. 110. Maze at Hampton Court. [<i>Photo: G. F. Green</i>]
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Fig. 110. Maze at Hampton Court. [Photo: G. F. Green]

Fig. 113. ''The Little Maze.'' [<i>Photo: G. F. Green</i>]
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Fig. 113. ''The Little Maze.'' [Photo: G. F. Green]


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The hedge was at first composed entirely of hornbeam, but, like most of its kind, it has required renewal at various points from time to time, and this has not always been carried out with the appropriate material. The result, as may be seen in our photograph, is a patchwork of privet, hornbeam, yew, holly, hawthorn and sycamore. It is nevertheless questionable whether the lack of uniformity in this respect causes any grief to the bulk of its visitors. The maze is as popular as ever, and in the financial year 1919-20 brought in a revenue of nearly

FIG. 111.—Maze at Hampton Court. Plan. (W. H. M.)
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FIG. 111.—Maze at Hampton Court. Plan. (W. H. M.)

[paragraph continues] £775, which exceeded the estimate of the Office of Works by £325!

Long may it remain! It may be a sad sight to the "high-brows" of horticulture, but to the unsophisticated many it is a never-failing source of innocent merriment. Those who incline to deplore the perpetuation of these "topiary toys" should spend an hour or two in the Hampton Court maze on a sunny holiday and witness the undiluted delight which it affords to scores and hundreds of children, not to mention a fair sprinkling of their elders.

The circular Troy-town or "Plan-de-Troy," formed of tall espaliers, which formerly co-existed with the present maze (see Fig. 112), has long been replaced by a sunken rockery, the path of which, however, is of a very

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meandering character and has earned from visitors the title of "The Little Maze" (Fig. 113). A topiary work of similar title, "The Siege of Troy," was one of William's pet horticultural adornments at Kensington Palace. It is

FIG. 112.—Hampton Court. The ''Wilderness,'' with Maze and ''Plan-de-Troy,'' in Eighteenth Century. (Engraving by J. Rocque, 1736.)
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FIG. 112.—Hampton Court. The ''Wilderness,'' with Maze and ''Plan-de-Troy,'' in Eighteenth Century. (Engraving by J. Rocque, 1736.)

said to have been a verdant representation of military defence works, cut yew and variegated holly being "taught," as Walpole says, "to imitate the lines, angles, bastions, scarps and counter-scarps of regular fortifications."

The rather curious unicursal maze of three meanders shown in Fig. 114 is usually, e.g., in the "Encyclopaedia


Fig. 116. Maze Design by Batty Langley (from <i>New Principles of Gardening</i>, 1728).
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Fig. 116. Maze Design by Batty Langley (from New Principles of Gardening, 1728).

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Fig. 115. Maze Design by Batty Langley. (from New Principles of Gardening, 1728)
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Fig. 115. Maze Design by Batty Langley. (from New Principles of Gardening, 1728)


[paragraph continues] Britannica," attributed to London and Wise, and certainly it appears in a book which was issued by them in 1706 under the title of "The Solitary Gardiner" (subsequently published by Joseph Carpenter as "The Retir’d Gardner"), but this work is mainly a translation from an earlier French book, "Le Jardinier Solitaire," by Louis Liger of Auxerre, in which also the figure appears. Various other horticultural writers of the period make use of the same design.

"A Labyrinth" says the text, "is a Place cut into

FIG. 114.—Labyrinth Design by L. Liger (<i>circ.</i> 1700).
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FIG. 114.—Labyrinth Design by L. Liger (circ. 1700).

several Windings, set off with Horn-beam, to divide them from one another . . . The most valuable Labyrinths are always those that wind most, as that of Versailles, the contrivance of which has been wonderfully lik’d by all that have seen it" (chacun à son goût!). "The Palisades, of which Labyrinths ought to be compos’d, should be ten, twelve, or fifteen foot high; some there are that are no higher than one can lean on, but those are not the finest. The Walls of a Labyrinth ought to be kept roll’d, and the Horn-beams in them shear’d, in the shape of Half-moons."

As for the allurements of the much-winding labyrinths

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of the Versailles type the reader will no doubt form his own opinion. Their popularity at that time is demonstrated by the great number of designs of this nature which we find in such books as, for example, those of Batty Langley, a few of whose plans we reproduce (Figs. 115 and 116).

An example of the "block" type of labyrinth was that at Trinity College, Oxford, of which a view is seen in an early eighteenth-century engraving (Fig. 117), from the "Oxonia depicta" of W. Williams. It was destroyed in 1813. Similar arrangements appear in several of the engravings of country seats, e.g., those of Belvoir Castle, Boughton, and Exton Park, in J. Kip's "Britannia Illustrata," 1724. In this work also appear mazes of the more familiar type, as, for example, in the engravings of Badminton and Wrest Park (Fig. 118).

The idea of Batty Langley and of the Versailles artist seems to have been not so much that of puzzling the visitor as of providing an entertaining and diversified promenade, but with many maze-architects the object was to provide as much bewilderment as the space available permitted. This is frankly avowed by Stephen Switzer in his somewhat tedious "Ichnographia Rustica," published in 1742. He gives the design shown in Fig. 119, and describes it as "a labyrinth of single hedges or banks, after the ancient manner."

He speaks of the object of a labyrinth as being to provide "an intricate and difficult Labour to find out the Centre, and to be (as the Vulgar commonly like it for) so intricate, as to lose one's self therein, and to meet with as great a Number of Stops therein and Disappointments as possible; I thought the best way to accomplish it was to make a dubious Choice of which way to take at the very Entrance and Beginning it self, in order to find out the Centre, at which we are to end at B. into a little Arbour cradled over; for which Reason there is in the very first coming in, in the Centre, where the Grass-Plot


Fig 117. Gardens of Trinity College, Oxford, with Labyrinth. (W. Williams, 1732).
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Fig 117. Gardens of Trinity College, Oxford, with Labyrinth. (W. Williams, 1732).

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Fig. 118. Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, with two Mazes. (J. Kip, 1720)
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Fig. 118. Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, with two Mazes. (J. Kip, 1720)


and Statue are design’d at A. six different Entrances whereof there is but one that leads to the centre and that is attended with some difficulties and a great many stops."

He might have added, ". . . like unto my own literary style."

A labyrinth of a most fantastic character is said to have occupied a large area in the palace garden of the Prince of Anhalt, in Germany. It was allegorical and was intended to typify the course of human life. It was

FIG. 119.—Maze Design by S. Switzer (1742).
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FIG. 119.—Maze Design by S. Switzer (1742).

composed not only of hedges, but of rocks and trees, streams and caverns, and tortuous deeply cut paths, which were for the most part covered in, with very scanty illumination. At every other turn the visitor was pulled up by some puzzling or terrifying allegory, or some didactic inscription after the manner of those which adorn the rocks at Tilly Whim, on the Dorset coast. By way of compensation he was refreshed here and there by the sight of a choice example of the sculptor's art, or a flowery dell, or some verdurous presentation of the architect's idea of Elysium. As in the case of Versailles, expense seems to have been no obstacle.

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At H.M. Records Office is preserved in "Survey No. 72" a rather pathetic document headed "A Survey of the Manor of Wymbledon alias Wimbleton, with the Rights, Members and Appurtenances thereof, lying and being in the Countie of Surrey, late Parcell of the Possessions of Henrietta Maria, the Relict and late Queene of Charles Stuart, late King of England, made and taken . . . in the Moneth of November 1649." A transcript of the document was communicated to "Archaeologia" in 1792 by John Caley, F.A.S., the following portion being worth noting in connection with our present subject:

". . . On the South syde of the sayd turfed tarras there are planted one great maze, and one wilderness, which being severed with one gravelled Alley, in or near to the midle of the sayd turfed tarras, sets forth the maze to lie towards the east, and the wilderness towards the west; the maze consists of young trees, wood and sprayes of a good growth and height, cutt into severall meanders, circles, semicircles, wyndings and intricate turnings, the walks or intervalls whereof are all grass plotts; this maze, as it is now ordered, adds very much to the worth of the upper levell . . . which maze and wilderness over and besides the trees thereof, which are hereafter valewed amongst the other trees of the sayd upper garden and the materialls of the sayd two shadowe or summer houses, wee valew to bee worth £90.0.0."

Whether the maze referred to was afterwards destroyed is not clear, but possibly it was preserved and was identical with that mentioned by the writer of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" article as having formerly existed at Wimbledon House, the seat of Earl Spencer, which was conjectured to have been laid out by Brown in the eighteenth century. ("Capability" Brown, we may note, was no lover of mazes, though his official residence at Hampton Court adjoined the maze.)

There are records of various other old mazes in the

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immediate vicinity of London, apart from the "tea-garden" mazes of the last century. Pepys in 1666 speaks of "several labyrinths" in the gardens of Lord Brooke at Hackney, and Evelyn in 1700 mentions mazes at Marden, Surrey. Sutton Court also contained a fine example.

There was one in Tothill (or Tuttle) Fields, Westminster, in the seventeenth century, and perhaps earlier, for it is mentioned with familiarity in a play written by John Cooke in 1614, "Greene's Tu Quoque; or the Cittie Gallant; a Play of Much Humour," wherein one of the characters challenges another to a duel:

Staines. I accept it; the meeting place?
Spendall. Beyond the Maze in Tuttle.

The maze was renovated or remade in 1672, as shown by an entry in the Churchwardens' Accounts of St. Margaret, Westminster:

"Item, to Mr. William Brewer, for making a maze in Tuttlefields . . . . . . £2.0.0."

It was well known to John Aubrey, the antiquary and naturalist whose reference to turf mazes we have already quoted. In his "Remaines," 1686-7, he says:

"There is a maze at this day in Tuthill Fields, Westminster, & much frequented in summer-time in fair afternoons."

According to Mr. J. E. Smith's "Parochial Memorials of St. John the Baptist, Westminster," Tothill Fields were at one time known as "Tuttle-in-the-Maze."

In the large view of London and Westminster en-graved by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) there is shown in the middle of Tothill Fields a clump of trees surrounding a sort of shelter, like a band-stand, but no sort of labyrinthine design is visible.

Another London maze mentioned by Aubrey, and one which has left its remembrance in the present-day nomenclature of the locality (Maze Pond), is that of Southwark.

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[paragraph continues] "At Southwarke," says Aubrey, "was a Maze which is converted into Buildings bearing that name."

In another place he says, "On the south side of Tooleystreet a little westward from Burnaby-street is a Street called the MAES or MAZE, Eastward from the Borough (another name for Labyrinth). I believe we received these Mazes from our Danish Ancestors. . . ." This latter observation is one which seems to have been entirely overlooked by subsequent archaeologists and antiquaries, but its significance will be seen when we come to consider the subject of "stone labyrinths."

It is clear from the last phrase, that in this case Aubrey had in mind turf mazes rather than hedge mazes, and we are in doubt as to whether the Southwark maze was of the former or the latter species.

The Abbot of Battle had a residence there after the dissolution of the monasteries, and it has been stated that he had a maze in his garden, or, alternatively, that his garden paths were laid out in such an intricate manner as to suggest the name. But there are records of the name being applied to the locality before the dissolution of the monasteries, and it is quite possible that there was once a turf maze in the neighbourhood, perhaps before the abbot's time. According to a footnote in Strickland's "Lives of the Queens of England," the maze in Southwark once formed part of the garden of the Princess Mary Tudor, but the authority for this statement is not quoted.

Maze Hill, Greenwich, is said to derive its name from the former existence of a maze, traces of which are claimed to have been found near the entrance to Morden College, Blackheath. The name was formerly spelt Maize Hill and at one time Mease or Meaze Hill. We shall have a word to say about place-names towards the end of this book, but we may remark in passing that inferences as to the past existence of an object based solely upon a current homonymous place-name are obviously unsound.

Next: Chapter XVI. The Topiary Labyrinth, or Hedge Maze (continued)