Gertrude Walrond: Fashioning Killerton

Gertrude and Charles, 12th Bt, pose for a photograph © Acland family

Gertrude and Charles, 12th Bt, pose for a photograph

Gertrude’s family were close neighbours of the Aclands. She and Charles married in 1879 and settled at Sprydon until he became the 12th baronet in 1898. Gertrude and Charles thought Killerton very old-fashioned and unsuitable, and made dramatic changes.

Grand ideas

Heating, lighting and sanitation at Killerton were all 60 years or more out of date. Charles and Gertrude wanted to live in comfort and entertain in style. 

Gertrude wanted a large drawing room opening onto a living hall with a grand staircase, so that guests could gather around a cheery fire before dinner and admire the ladies walking down the staircase in their finery. 

Charles wanted a billiard room where the men could retire to smoke and talk in comfort – their only option at this point was to go outside to the old garden orangery. 

These stately ideas transformed Killerton into the house it is today.

Gertrude’s formal garden

Gertrude loved gardens, and had already made her mark at Holnicote, another Acland property. She now turned her attention to Killerton. 

Gertrude’s fondness for roses inspired the creation of a rose terrace near the house, with more than 100 varieties of roses.

A new herbaceous border, divided by colour, was planted alongside the rose terrace. The colour arrangement imitated work by Gertrude’s favourite garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll.

Wilder areas

Gertrude also had overgrown plants at the top of the garden cleared out, and a glade of rhododendrons – ‘Lady Gertrude’s Glade’ – planted among John Veitch’s old Giant Redwood trees. 

A rock garden replaced an old fern garden in the abandoned quarry behind the Bear’s Hut.

Elsewhere, drifts of cyclamen and daffodils were seeded in the grass. Veitch's nursery continued to use Killerton as a trial ground, planting magnolias, azaleas and other exotic new plants around the garden. 

The alterations were much admired by more than 800 guests in 1905, when the Aclands held a garden party for their silver wedding anniversary.