The Walled Gardens
The Walled Garden is currently in an exciting new stage of its history as we are in the process of re-developing the planting beds with lush, colourful, textually rich planting, we aim to create a journey for the visitor to enjoy a stroll through beautiful planting and to learn about the horticultural discoveries of Middleton Hall’s famous past residents such as John Ray the ‘Father of English Botany’ who lived and worked at the Hall in the seventeenth century. John Ray is famous among botanists but little known to the wider world. His impact on the development of natural science, however, was great as he was the first person to describe and classify plants into a system that formed the foundations of natural science until DNA classification became possible.
The Walled Gardens were established by Thomas Willoughby, the first Baron of Middleton, in the early 1700s. Walls, constructed with bricks handmade on site, were built around the existing formal gardens. These gardens were used to grow the produce required to support those that lived here, the Willoughby family and its servants. In order to do this all year round hollow walls were constructed so that they could be heated and the growing season extended. The walls were built in 1718 and are among the oldest of their design in the country.
‘The walled garden was full of fruit trees, free standing and against
the walls and the beds full of vegetables. ’
Mrs E I March remembered the gardens as they were c1920.
Like Middleton Hall itself, the formal gardens were derelict in 1980 when the Middleton Hall Trust was formed. Yet they had been the inspiration of naturalists Sir Francis Willoughby and John Ray when Middleton was their seventeenth century home. Thanks to years of hard work and dedication by our team of volunteers the gardens have been lovingly restored and their history researched and documented.
The original produce growing function of the gardens has given way to the decorative delights of herbaceous borders. At the corner of the garden there is a restored two floor eighteenth century Grade II listed gazebo originally built for viewing the garden. The garden includes plants that John Ray would have known and studied and which were growing in the gardens during the 1600’s. The walled garden is an intimate space where one can sit and enjoy the surroundings. The re-development process which is taking place is a great opportunity for you to see the changes through the year in action and to discover the process of re-developing a garden in this historic location.
image: copyright Ian Thwaites Photography