The beautiful Grade 1 listed Farringford was the home of renowned Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson from 1856 until his death in 1892. In this secluded spot, Alfred and Emily Tennyson found a retreat from the clamour of London life and viewed the tranquility and intimacy of their remote island home as the perfect place to raise their two sons. The Gothic house and gardens have recently undergone extensive restoration and have re-opened to the public as an historic home, decorated in a style that reflects Tennysons' tastes, interests and lifestyle. Farringford also features in the new Literary Heroes Trail.
Farringford is a local landmark that lies west of Freshwater Bay, occupying a level position overlooking land to the north and east towards Afton Down. Tennyson Down lies on its south side, running west to the Needles. The Tennyson Monument at 147 metres above sea level sits at the highest point on the down.
Farringford is unique on the Island in its style of architecture and its exterior form. It was designed as a large country villa, based on a Georgian plan and Georgian structural principles, but with superficial cosmetic Gothic features, such as castellated parapets, Gothic arched windows, a flattened arched veranda, a Gothic porch and internal Gothic ornamentation to doors and cornices. It was constructed using buff-coloured brick in Flemish bond with a slate roof, and rests on a mixed stone foundation.
The extensive grounds afford beautiful views of both the house, Freshwater Bay and Tennyson Down The walled kitchen garden contains traditional plants, fruits and vegetables and was a place Tennyson loved to walk and sit with his family and guests. All the Tennysons were keen gardeners, constantly planting shrubs, raking up leaves, gravelling paths and laying hedges. According to acquaintances, Tennyson had such a love of the natural world that he couldn't even bear for flowers to be picked on his grounds!
Inspiration for the colourful new planting scheme came from the many descriptions of the garden provided in Emily Tennyson's journal, and from the striking watercolours painted by family friend Helen Allingham.
Plants include oriental poppies; poet's laurel (Danae racemosa); 'King Arthur', 'Galahad' and 'Guinevere' varieties of delphinium; and tobacco plants (Nicotiana sylvestris), which were said to be over seven feet high in Tennyson's day. Fruit and vegetables are also being grown in keeping with the practical use of the garden to provide food for family meals. Apple and quince trees have been planted, accompanied by a working greenhouse cultivating traditional shrubs and flowers.
In the walled garden you will also find Watts' Sunndial crafted for the Tennysons by the sculptor Mary Seton Watts, wife of the celebrated Victorian painter and close family friend George Frederic Watts. The garden is a work-in-progress, and it is hoped visitors will return in future years to see how it develops with each new phase of planting.
In front of the house, you'll find the remains of Garibaldi's Tree, a Wellingtonia tree planted by the famous Italian military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi when visiting Farringford in 1864. Elsewhere in the grounds, you can enjoy a walk round the re-created historic parkland, which is currently home to hundreds of sheep. Head through the copse behind the house and you'll find a replica of Tennyson's bridge which he used as an escape route to the Down when unwanted visitotrs arrived! You may also be lucky enough to catch sight of the red squirrels that have made Farringford their home.
Farringford address: Bedbury Lane, Freshwater PO40 9PD