Great Garden

The Great Garden at Theobalds was an arrangement of formal gardens where Sir William Cecil entertained Queen Elizabeth I with elaborate events.

A description from 1598 refers to its nine knot gardens, 70 feet square*, each with a white marble fountain in the middle. The fountain in the middle-most knot stood upon three stone steps and incorporated waterspouts in a number of concealed pipes which sprayed unsuspecting passers-by. The Great Garden also had three gravel walks, divided by thorn hedges interplanted with sycamore, lime and elm trees and a variety of fruit trees apple, pear, plus[sic] and cherry. Other features included a Banqueting House, a carved timber pergola and an obelisk and sundial made of alabaster. The Great Garden's formal layout was designed to be viewed from the roof walks and a canal enabled visitors to pass through the garden by boat.

Extracted 12/11/2021 from "Theobalds: An Elizabethan Prodigy House" (Tudor Times)

(*Another source states that the knot gardens were 1 square hectare in size.)

One walled section (one of the knot gardens) remains in Cedars Park today and serves as a field for all purposes, often used for picnics, sports, and public events.

The wall of the garden is made of Tudor red brick, and contains several bee boles - these are small niches designed to hold skeps, a type of man-made beehive. Skeps are believed to have originated in Ireland around 500, and their purpose is to shelter bees from rain, as the optimal conditions of a dry and warm climate inside the beehive can improve the quality and quantity of honey being produced. Harvested honey would have likely been served to Elizabeth I on her stays at Theobalds.

The wall, and its bee boles (although not in use today), are mostly still standing in Cedars Park today, but the structure is crumbling and a portion has completely collapsed, despite the wall being treated with soft lime mortar in recent years to protect it from weather damage.

It is probable that this is one of the only sites in the world where royal bee boles still stand.