Peto, Harold (1854-1933)

Harold Ainsworth Peto was born in 1854 and died in 1933, left a wonderful legacy in the Italian gardens that he created in England in the early years of this century; first and foremost at Iford Manor, but also Buscot Park Water Garden in Oxfordshire, the gardens at Wayford Manor in Somerset and Heale House near Salisbury, the pergola at West Dean, near Chichester, and also Ilnacullin in Ireland.

He was an architect, collector and connoisseur, born the eighth of 14 children of Sir Samuel Morton Peto. His father rose from being a small builder to become a Victorian millionaire through his building of the Houses of Parliament and Nelson’s Column. In 1846 he built Somerleyton Hall on the Suffolk coast. Here Harold was brought Up for the first ten years of his life, until his father lost his fortune and sold up. However, his mother’s resources enabled him to be educated at Harrow. Then, after experience with a building firm in Lowestoft, he qualified as an architect and in 1876 went into partnership with Sir Ernest George. In the 1880s their practice was one of the most fashionable and Lutyens was a pupil with them for a year.

Throughout his life Peto’s architecture was rooted in admiration of Renaissance Italy, where he travelled extensively, as well as elsewhere, and he also developed a growing interest in the link between house and garden.

In the 1890s, fed up with London, he parted company with Ernest George, with the proviso that he did not practice architecture in the UK for the next 15 years. He turned his attention to interior and garden design here and abroad.