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International Year of Forests

(January 1st, 2011 - December 31st, 2013)

Andrew Varlamov

Palace Park

Andrew Varlamov

Priory Park

Gatchina, Russia

October 25, 2013, 11:17 UTC (15:17 local time)

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© 2013 Andrew Varlamov, All Rights Reserved.

Priory Park is landscape park located in Gatchina. Its total area is more than 154 hectares. The main area of ​​the park is occupied by forest. There are two lakes named the Black Lake and the Filkino Lake.

Till the end of XVIII century the area was called Small Menagerie (Maly Zverinets in Russian). The park took its current name after 1799 when Priory Palace was built by the architect Nikolay Aleksandrovich Lvov on the shore of the Black Lake. Simultaneously vast improvement works of the future park began (1798). Redevelopment was led by master gardener James Hackett. The Black Lake was deepened and cleaned, shore changed its form. Ground excavated during these studies was used to create several artificial islands and to elevate the western shore. The first walking paths were routed around the lake.

«James Hackett had come to Russia from Ireland during the reign of Catherine II when the Gatchina estate was owned by Count Grigory Orlov. For a large part of his life he laboured on the creation of the Gatchina parks and gardens. He died, a venerable old man, in 1833 at the age of ninety-six, bequeathing the sum of 3,000 roubles “for the assistance of the poor and orphans living chiefly in Gatchina”» - wrote Valentina Vladimirovna Fedorova in her article for Historical Magazine «Gatchina Over the Centuries».

The next time the park was redesigned in 1840-1850s. In 1845-1846 years the park was surrounded by a moat with a shaft on both sides, walking paths were laid out (its total length was more than 16 km). In 1854-1856 the banks of the Black Lake were strengthened and large number of trees was planted. In 1857 drainage of the park was conducted.

In 1880s five entry gates were built near entrances into the Priory Park.

Vanetina Fedorova wrote - «While the Palace Park was reserved, and scrupulously maintained, for the use of the Imperial family, the Priory Park was opened up to the people of Gatchina for their recreation. For this purpose new alleyways were laid in the park and lined with pines, firs and oaks. In spring and summer the park was full of the sound of birdsong and fragrant with flowers of the forest and meadow. The park’s principal lake, the Black Lake, was cleaned and deepened, the old bathing pavilion was transferred to the Wild, or Dark, Lake, and in its place a boating station was built. To improve the flow of water in the Dark Lake, two “earthen dams with a cast-iron reservoir” were made. Music and musicians often appeared in the park. With Alexander III’s permission the Priory palace was restored and became the accommodation of the singers of the Court chapel. In the evening a wind band would play in the park.

In a commemorative volume produced for the town’s centenary, it is noted that the Priory Park has become “one of the most pleasant corners of Gatchina, attracting large numbers of people for rest and recreation, who during the time of the White Nights do not leave this splendid park until long after midnight.”»

World War II caused considerable damage to the park: large number of trees were cut down and park area was covered with craters from explosions. Postwar restoration of the Priory Park begun only in 1970s.

Article for home reading :
Behind the scene : other panorama shooted this day
View of the Priory Palace from the shore of the Black Lake

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