The Stumpery at Biddulph Grange

The oldest stumpery in the country and the inspiration for many more around the country, including the one in the woods of Highgrove, Prince Charles’ home in Gloucestershire.

Biddulph Grange’s stumpery consists of a sunken path bordered by upside-down oak tree roots amongst which grow a great variety of ferns, delicate plants and mosses.

All the stumps are from oak trees
Stumps from oak trees

The stumps are packed close together, interlacing each other and reaching up to three or four metres. The path wriggles along between them, up and down, and in some places the stumps merge overhead to form a tunnel. It is, in a sense, a rockery made of wood.

Pathways in the stumpery
Pathways in the stumpery

The stumpery was not meant to be a wooden work of art ornamented by a few small flowers and ferns, but as a scaffold for vigorously sprawling plants like cotoneaster and Virginia creeper which could haul themselves up into the surrounding trees. It was an early form of ‘wild gardening’.

A horticultural oddity

Stumperies have sometimes been described as Victorian horticultural oddities. They became features of 19th-century gardens, perhaps because of the popularity of ferns as garden plants at a time when hundreds of new species were introduced to Britain from around the world.

The stumpery at Biddulph Grange was designed in 1856 by James Bateman and the artist and gardener, Edward William Cooke. It was the first to be built anywhere and went on to be widely copied in many Victorian gardens and, more recently, in the woods of Highgrove, Prince Charles’ home in Gloucestershire.

Bateman's inspiration

Certainly the idea of using ancient oak stumps as the basis for a garden must have appealed to James Bateman's appreciation of the whole of the tree from roots to tips.

A prehistoric feel
A prehistoric feel to the stumpery