Garden Diary 11th June 2020

Walled Garden History

There is something special about working here in Colebrooke Walled Garden and it is hard to put your finger on what exactly it is. The people are definitely part of it, the job itself I really enjoy, but there’s something else that adds to everything and that is the history. The garden is nearly 200 years old, and the feeling of that legacy is not forgotten when you spend time here.

The main house was constructed in the 1820’s, then in 1837 the walled garden was completed along with the spectacular glasshouse located at the top of the garden. This greenhouse went on to receive the status of being a building of international significance and was given the top listing, even greater than the main house itself. It was built by Richard Turner who also constructed the glasshouses in The Botanic Gardens in Belfast and Dublin, and Kew Gardens famous Palm House but Colebrooke’s glasshouse predates all of these. Currently, it is in disrepair, but the dream would be to have it restored.

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The Gardens inception was at the time when Victorian kitchen gardens were taking off and all the big houses wanted to have a kitchen garden that was worth speaking about. At Colebrooke they definitely did their best to impress. The garden is located on a southern facing slope to receive the best of the sun throughout the day. It’s around 3 acres with a dividing wall in the middle to create 2 south facing walls which act as sun traps. The south and east facing walls are built from red brick which absorb heat, the north and west facing walls are built from stone to save cost.

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Apparently ten to fifteen gardeners would have worked within the garden and lived together in the bothy house attached to the top wall, a very cramped way to live! The Head Gardener would have lived in the rather beautiful stone building which is attached to the lower wall. The working conditions would have been hard with the gardeners working all the light hours of the day. With such cramped living conditions and long hours, the job might have sounded unpopular, but in fact it was the opposite and it is said that most workers felt a great pride to work in the walled garden and the ultimate success was to get a job within the glasshouse.

Times have definitely changed! These days, the staff are much fewer and work a lot less! Although I do think the pride is still there for all the people involved and so many years’ worth of memories are still felt and talked about today.

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