The Gardeners' Bothy at Calke Abbey

Once the nerve centre of 6 acres of formal gardens, the bothy is an 18th-century garden store. The upper floor was used as a ripening room for apples and pears and possibly a dormitory for bachelor gardeners. Down below housed the mess room and the Head Gardeners' office as well as being used for storage of gardening implements and seeds.

Step back in time

Look through the door and find fascinating sight of old seed drawers, pots and all manner of strange gardening equipment. It is thought the walls were painted with a blue limewash as this colour detracted insects and pests, you will notice that the kitchens in the house also have a blue limewash. 

This area was the preserve of the gardeners and never visited by the family or their guests. It was from here that the garden business was run. You can see the Head Gardeners' office where wages would have been collected and the plans for the gardens created and stored. 

Garden tools

Look closely in the bothy and you will see plenty of garden tools which are familiar to the modern day gardener - but there are also plenty that look like very unusual contraptions.
Amongst the implements is an old seed fiddle – the forerunner of mechanical seed spreaders. You needed to be a dab hand to operate the drill. The operation of the ‘fiddle’ to spin the metal seed spreader required a skilled touch to get an even distribution of seeds.
Bell-shaped glass cloches were a feature of the time; see if you can spot them inside. In almost all cases the round glass carrying handle used to lift the cloche has been broken off. This damage has been done quite deliberately - we think the handles magnified the sun’s rays causing scorching to surrounding plants or shrubbery so the gardeners would knock them off to prevent damage to their plants.

Central heating in the gardens

As you explore the garden you will notice a network of pipes and various boilers. The purpose of these were to heat the different glass houses and buildings in the gardens. This allowed the gardens to produce some quite exotic fruits and plants like melons and cacti. The bothy had its own boiler which generated heat. The appliance known as a cockle stove.
It is located in a building next to the bothy, it is a very early hot air heating system designed by local industrialist William Strutt in1790 and installed at Calke in the 1820’s. It was used to heat the Orangery which sits directly behind the Gardeners' Bothy. Pity the poor gardener that had the job of keeping the boilers going through the winter nights!

Leaving their mark

Look closely at the stone window sills on the outside the bothy. You will see that the sills have been gently worn leaving what looks like scalloped edges on each sill. This is not wear and tear but where the gardeners would sharpen their tools against the sills. Years of sharpening have left their mark on the building.