The Tudor Labyrinth at Lyveden New Bield (GB)

The British Guardian has published on  November 6, 2010, an article about a possibly historical labyrinth on the grounds of Lyveden New Bield near Oundle, Northamptonshire.

A photo of the German Luftwaffe (air force) from 1944 shows 10 concentric circles in a moated meadow. Today everything has disappeared.
The spy photo was taken during the 2nd world war and is now part of the US National Archives, kept in Maryland (USA).
The photos were only studied closely when the National Trust ordered copies in the past six months. The grass rings are part of  a lost Tudor garden and marks possibly a labyrinth. Perhaps a recreation of the original planting is planned  (and with it probably also the labyrinth)?
English Heritage even awarded the site Grade I status as on one of the most important gardens in Europe.
The garden was created by Sir Thomas Tresham, famous gardener, recusant and architect who died in 1605 and left the garden and the house unfinished. The Treshams were staunch Catholics and many works of him traces in symbolic form his religious faith.
His son Francis is associated with the Gunpowder Plot from 1605.

In Google Earth the today’s area is very good to recognise. One sees the incomplete cruciform hunting lodge, roofless, and its moated garden.

The aerial, monochrome, photo shows clearly the grass rings with a diameter of  about 120 m. But whether it is really a labyrinth, is not to be recognised. The exact form is possibly described in one of the letters by Sir Thomas Tresham or is even outlined there, and now held in the British Library.

The National Trust has now mowed experimentally a labyrinth into the meadow. This labyrinth is to be seen on the aerial photo in the Guardian.
I have tried to reproduce the outline by following all the paths.
The labyrinth has four sectors, but the axes are out of square.
A specific feature is that the labyrinth is first completely surrounded. Then one approaches quite quickly the centre, and then to be led farther outwardly. However, finally, one arrives quickly the centre.
A short and direct way from (and to) the middle is added. So as with the labyrinth of the type Baltic wheel.
The whole path length amounts to at least 1979 m, to quite a nicely long distance.
It is a little bit unclear where exactly the entrance of the mown labyrinth should be. There would still be other possibilities than in my drawing. The outermost ring could be a sort of frame and then the entrance would be immediately on the right side of the direct way and the labyrinth would have only 9 circuits.

Outline of the Tudor labyrinth

Outline of the Tudor labyrinth

Here you can see, print or copy a drawing of the labyrinth as PDF file.

Note from November 16, 2015: Here is a small video from the BBC about the Lost Labyrinth

Related Links

2 thoughts on “The Tudor Labyrinth at Lyveden New Bield (GB)

  1. The picture shows the land surrounding Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire including an arrangement of ten concentric circles measuring 120 metres across which could have formed a labyrinth a popular garden feature of the time. A number of interpretations of this layout are possible including that of a labyrinth which was a popular feature of gardens of the 15th and 16th centuries.


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