The kitchen garden, Knightshayes Court, Devon
Step back in time and immerse yourself in Knightshayes’ two-and-a-half-acre walled kitchen garden with fairytale turrets, specialising in varieties of produce grown in Victorian times. It offers a unique chance to see a vast collection of crops which are now almost extinct – including 102 varieties of heritage tomatoes.
The garden has not always been so green and full of beautiful, delicious things. What you see today is the result of many layers of history and hard work.
The kitchen garden was finished in 1876, and was designed by Burges, at the same time as the house. The influence of Burges can be spotted from the turrets and the style of the walls, like a castle.
Sadly, the garden declined following the First World War, as most young men went off to fight, leaving a skeleton team. By the Second World Wars numbers had declined yet further, though the garden was still used to help produce supplies when the main house was used as a hospital during both world wars. Wider commercial availability of fruit and vegetables also meant the garden ceased to be cost effective, as more and more produce was brought into the estate.
In the 1970’s, the garden had grown over and been abandoned due it becoming too expensive to run. The garden was put to bed for over 40 years and used as grazing and even an over flow carpark.
In 1999, a project was undertaken to restore the kitchen garden to its former glory and by 2003 it was fully productive again. We are now continuing our fundraising for its ongoing restoration, which is looking to rebuild one of the original Victorian glass houses.
Spirit of the Victorians
The kitchen garden at Knightshayes was built during the peak of the Victorian obsession with productive gardens. Consider by many to be a high art, the vegetable and fruit growing that took place within these walls would have showcased the latest growing techniques.
Today, our garden team aim to work in the spirit of the Victorians, embracing innovation and new varieties whilst still looking to preserve our vegetable growing history. To do this, we use many heritage seeds, which include 146 different tomatoes!
Unusually for a restored garden, all the produce grown at Knightshayes is harvested and used. Despite its ornamental presentation, it’s actually an exemplary working kitchen garden and the fruit and vegetables grown feature every week on our Stables Café menu.
We also supply the local Pannier Market in Tiverton for around seven months of the year. Visitors can even serve up a taste of Knightshayes at home by popping to our stall at the top of the kitchen garden to see what freshly picked seasonal produce is for sale.
Thriving garden community
As the kitchen garden is a large scale, productive and organically cultivated garden, it takes the dedication of a strong team of staff and volunteers to keep it thriving. Kitchen gardeners Bev, Sam and Lucy enjoy the camaraderie of working with our large team of enthusiastic volunteers and always welcome new recruits. You will see the team out in the garden so do say hello and feel free to ask any questions you may have.
Plenty to see
Whichever month you visit, there’s plenty to see. From our abundance of rhubarb, to the plentiful pumpkins for Hallowe’en and the families of chicken and ducks, there’s always something to spot.