Walled Garden History

There is a garden hidden by trees not far from the Victorian house sitting over the bubbling river Meden. It has a wall three times the height of a man surrounding its five acres and once it provided constant fresh food for the family living in the big house and for their staff which, with the Garden, Stables and household servants numbered as many as eighty. Its walls were raised at the time that John Carr of York was building a new mansion for the second Duke of Kingston, to replace his great house burned down in 1745.  The new garden was deliberately placed half a mile away from the mansion so that the noise of work beginning at dawn would not disturb the family.

From the hothouses with tropical exotics at the top reaching down the gentle slope to the 50 varieties of apple in the orchard at the bottom it was an intensely productive piece of land. Because of the evolved use of compost made from the garden waste and plenty of farmyard manure from the Home Farm over the river, the soil was fertile and hand tilled to produce outstanding vegetables, fruit and flowers.

In an article from The Gardener’s Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette in 1870 they describe the Garden as housing pears, plums, cherries, gooseberries, red currants, cabbages, cauliflowers, beets, cucumbers, strawberries, melons, figs, grapes, peaches, apricots just to name a few.  The Head Gardener was required to deliver fresh fruit, vegetables and cut flowers every day that the family was in residence; fresh cut flowers to the Church every week (except during Lent) and fresh vegetables to the Agent.  Each meal time, the Head Gardener’s wife would ring a bell, which hung up high on the rear wall of her yard, to call in the staff for their food.

Thoresby was at the cutting edge with their gardening techniques, one of the glasshouses was built with a hot rear wall which helped to grow and extend the season of the soft fruit.  This helped to create a Thoresby pineapple!  The Hot Wall had hot air flowing through it from a coal boiler in the cellar which was ducted in lateral zig-zags within the hollowed out wall.  This helped to warm the brickwork and sustain the fruit.

Wartime Thoresby

It ran sumptuously for six generations until in 1914 that world came to an abrupt end, the male staff enlisted, the family reduced its consumption sharply and most of the beds were fallowed. The gardens recovered somewhat from the Armistice to 1926 when the 4th Lord Manvers died. His son was thought mad and locked up in Roehampton Asylum (now a rehab centre for celebrities, known as the Priory) and the estate was managed by the Master in Lunacy, (now, the Court of Protection) The gardens fell into decline with much reduced demand from the house and few staff to supply. In the second Great War the whole estate was requisitioned by the Army and was quartered by a succession of regiments including Guards Armoured training in tanks across the precious landscape.

Following the War

Lord Manvers made an attempt to resuscitate the gardens on a small scale in the immediate years after the house was returned to the family, with very limited compensation for the damage done to his inheritance. They were abandoned finally on his death in 1955 and the Game Department moved into the abandoned glass and hot houses and used them for rearing pheasants for the famous shoot, but that too was closed in 1984 and thereafter a small portion was used as a propagation site for Garden Centres.

Walled Garden today

Now, with Echium World finding natural advantage from the high, sun facing walls, ambitious plans to revive and rebuild the Gardens are poised on the verge of a new era, with public access, the outhouses rebuilt and re purposed and a revival of the activity and energy which has filled the site for 250 years.

Thoresby is working to restore the Walled Garden to its former glory for all to see.

If you are interested in being part of our historic restoration of the Walled Garden, either in the form of works or a future use within the garden then please contact Ben Perry on 01623 822301 or ben.perry@thoresby.com