During the Middle Ages, garden labyrinths became associated with love. They were the perfect place for secret assignations.
According to legend Henry II built a labyrinth in his garden at Woodstock to hide his mistress Rosamund from the jealous Eleanor of Aquitaine.
By the 17th century, hedge mazes and/or labyrinths were a feature of nobles' formal gardens as well as of communal gardens. Hedges could completely conceal a person, be waist high and display statues within their twisted depths, or merely be turf mazes, lines drawn with raised chunks of turf.
Church mazes never were popular in England, but turf mazes up to 80 feet in diameter can still be found in or just outside villages across the countryside. Generally the path is cut about six inches into the ground. Turf mazes in the UK have survived at Wing, Hilton, Alkborough and Saffron Walden.
Mazes in Scandinavia were constructed from stone. They may have been constructed by fishing communities to trap malevolent trolls or deadly winds.
In 17th century France, King Louis XIV had a labyrinth constructed as part of the gardens at Versailles. The maze included 39 groups of statuary representing Aesop's fables. They were plumbed with hydraulics so the characters emit a stream of water, representing speech.
Hedge mazes are hard to maintain, and by the late 18th century, most were being destroyed or allowed to become overgrown. Perhaps the most famous remaining maze is the Hampton Court maze in England. It only occupies a quarter of an acre, but is very popular because of its long history on the site.
Hedge mazes are perfect for parties, enabling guests to mix and mingle, to have fun and get exercise in nature. Recent mazes similar to hedge mazes have been constructed of corn stalks in the United States in the fall.