The Amazing Longleat Hedge Maze

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During the 18th century in Britain, when landscape gardener Lancelot “Capability” Brown replaced formal gardens with natural-looking features, hedge mazes flourished, but with the growth of industrialization and the leisure industry in the 19th ce

During the 18th century in Britain, when landscape gardener Lancelot “Capability” Brown replaced formal gardens with natural-looking features, hedge mazes flourished, but with the growth of industrialization and the leisure industry in the 19th century, mazes became less elitist.

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Near the towns of Warminster in Wiltshire and Frome in Somerset is Longleat, an English country house, currently the seat of the Marquesses of Bath. It is known for its Elizabethan country house, maze, landscaped parkland and safari park.

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The house was built in 1580 by Sir John Thynne, designed by Robert Smythson, and landscaped by Capability Brown. The exterior retains its fine Tudor façade, the interior was altered to follow the changing state of comfort and fashion. The great hall boasts of its Tudor hammer beam roof and carved fireplace, but the rest of the furnishings are Victorian. The interior decoration is in luxurious Italian style, modeled after estates in Venice and Genoa. There are fabulous Flemish tapestries, and a collection of fine period furniture. Paintings dating as far back as the 16th century hang in on lavishly decorated walls. The original long gallery has been converted into a saloon, and family portraits in the great hall trace the Thynne family back to Tudor times.

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The erotic murals by Alexander Thynne, the 7th Marquess of Bath, a direct descendant who now currently occupies the house, are on display in the West Wing. He is also a great lover of mazes, and has added the hedge maze, as well as three other smaller garden mazes: the Lunar Labyrinth, the Sun Maze, King Arthur's maze, and the Love Labyrinth on the Longleat property.

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One of the many attractions which surround the house of Longleat is the world’s longest hedge maze, and also the largest of several mazes on the property. Mazes were popular forms of amusement for kings and princes; they were found only at the wealthiest palaces throughout Europe. In 1975, designer Greg Bright created the Longleat Hedge Maze. It’s made of more than 16,000 English Yews, and covers an area of around 1.48 acres with a total pathway length of 1.69 miles. It is also three-dimensional having six wooden bridges that offer tantalizing glimpses towards the elusive centre of the maze. It is a full scale maze, with several dead end and multiple paths that surrounds a central tower. The average time taken to reach the center is 90 minutes.

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The Longleat Hedge Maze will forever appeal to everyone’s sense of playfulness whatever the age to explore and discover. Visitors will surely enjoy the puzzle, mystery and over-all experience in figuring out a way to reach the center and to safely return back to where they started.

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