A delight for those creating a House, rather than merely taking over what others have done previously, is the opportunity to indulge their own fancies and fantasies. Patrick and Judith Phillips are no exception. Visitors can enjoy:
- The famous two dimensional brick-paved Maze.
- The simplest, but perhaps thereby the most impressive, Camera Obscura.
- The immensely tall pillared Ancient Yews which Patrick Phillips clipped to shape. And not quite as ancient yews from which Judith Phillips has created from scratch her Pied Piper Topiary
- The re-instated Icehouse, again fully functional.
- The huge Sculpted Cedar Tree.
- The Yew Castle gradually taking a recognizable shape.
- Baron Munchausen’s Galleon an interesting film prop now performing as an eyecatcher and the large scale model of the last Mississippi Paddle steamer.
- Painted walls, Ceilings and Floors.
- The Crocodile and, less obviously, other animals hid about.
- Wherever a visitor turns he (or she) may find something created by the Phillips, from the massive to the minute. More about some of these appear below.
The Maze is neither a hedge nor three dimensional. It is two dimensional - as early mazes were. In brick, the design is both unicursal and forms a puzzle. The Maze won a prestigious award for ‘Heritage in the Making’. The laying required all Judith Phillips’s mathematical and artistic genius to get the cutting angles for the bricks right. It is based upon a Tudor Rose and incorporates various Tudor symbols. It was laid in 1985 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry Tudor. It is more challenging as a puzzle than might at first appear.
The Kentwell Camera Obscura is as simple as one can be. An old Gazebo on the corner of the Moat has had its windows boarded over and two holes drilled through to give two views (focused by a lens) - one of the Walled Garden and the other of the Back Bridge. Yet the clarity of the image is what astounds.
Some of the Yews are several hundred years old. Now most are cut to (generally geometric) shape, with cones and globes predominating. The Golden Yew Bank on the Moat is particularly striking. Most recent planting is cut more simply. Although Judith Phillips has created the striking Pied Piper Topiary along one hedge. There's also her Snail, Bowl of Fruit and Clouds to find.
Strange to think that up to less than about 100 years ago, every big house (and many smaller) had its own Icehouse (to act as a fridge or freezer). The advent of gas and (later) electricity meant that icehouses had had their day and very few now survive intact. The Kentwell Icehouse is a big one and has been completely re-instated. It just wants ice to be fully operational again.
The Sculpted Tree
The Hurricane of 1987 followed by the Great Storms of January 1990 severely damaged Kentwell's finest and biggest Cedar. Rather than fell what remained, the Phillips commisioned Colin Wilbourne, an outstanding sculptor in many materials, to carve it. The theme is The Tower of Babel, a metaphor which remains relevant today: man's ambition still exceeds his capacity and he still seems unable to communicate, well or peaceably, with his neighbour.
The Yew Castle
Patrick Phillips always wanted to own a castle. To satisfy his ambition he decided to grow one in Yew. Planted in 1995 it may take 50 years to come to its full intended height. It will have a central donjon or keep (intended to grow to 35 feet high) and a curtain wall (intended to grow to 12 ft plus crenenallations). A 'secret' tunnel will run the full length of the curtain wall.
Baron Munchausen's Galleon
This wondrous vessel was designed by Terry Gillian for the film the Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Patrick Phillips thought it would make a striking garden sculpture floating on the Moat - if he could get it to float (it was designed to be the - rather exotic - basket for a balloon). Floating seems to have defeated it and it spends more time now on dry land.
The Idlewild was the last of the Mississippi Paddle steamers. An Englishmen worked on it in the 1930s and spent 20 years making a large scale model of it. The notion intrigued Patrick Phillips so it sits, incongruously, at the moment out of the water.
Painted Walls, Ceilings and Floors
The Phillips have commissioned a number of Murals over the last 25 years. Some on the ceiling like The Four Seasons in the Parlour based upon Pieter Breughel's paintings. Some on walls like the series in the Undercroft Tearoom or the Pompeian Murals in the State Bathroom - all the work of Paul Dufficey, and some on furniture like the Great Round Table and the Chinese Screen painted for them in China. Finally the Byzantine styled Mosaic Floorcloth in the State Bathroom painted by Sophie Sarin.