The story of Hare Hill
In the late 18th century, William Hibbert purchased an area of land from the Leicester family and created Hare Hill as his country estate.
To create a grand setting for his new home, which he built close to Birtles Hall, the home of his brother Robert Hibbert, William landscaped the parkland. William and his family divided their time between their house in Clapham Common and Hare Hill. He died in London in 1844, and Hare Hill passed to his son William Tetlow Hibbert.
In the 1879 Francis Dicken Brocklehurst bought Hare Hill and embarked on an extension to the house and also created a wooded garden, with a traditional Victorian walled kitchen garden at the centre, which was completed around 1902.
In March 1904, the last owner of Hare Hill – Colonel Charles Brocklehurst – was born, along with his twin brother Patrick. Charles divided his time between Cheshire and his house in London, where he worked for Christie's Auction House as a silver expert and later partner. He was an army infantry officer in World War Two and after the war worked in the North West and Midland areas for the National Trust.
Both the Brocklehurst twins were keen horsemen, with Patrick joining the Royal Scot's Greys, a mounted regiment. Tragedy struck the family in 1930 when Patrick took part in an Army steeplechase at Tidworth.
The development of the garden
By the 1960s, following the deaths of his parents, Charles was spending increasing amounts of time at Hare Hill. He had developed a keen interest in horticulture, and through his influential circle of friends in London he had made contact with plantsman James Russell.
Together they planned to improve and restore the overgrown and neglected garden at Hare Hill. With the help of gardener Mr. Hatch, they embarked on major clearance and planting of species shrubs and trees, including many varieties of rhododendron, holly and azalea.
" You wanted pairs of plants, and all-white flowered"
There was no work on the dilapidated walled garden until the final years of Charles’ life; a letter from Russell dating from 1975 states “The wall garden itself… and here there are 23 panels to be filled along the walls … you wanted pairs of plants, and all-white flowered.” To complement his white borders, and in memory of his brother, Charles commissioned the two impressive equestrian sculptures by Christopher Hobbs that grace the walled garden today.
The National Trust takes over
Charles never married, and having no heirs, decided to leave the entire Hare Hill estate to the National Trust on his death in 1977. In accordance with his wishes the house was sold, and is now privately owned.
The National Trust developed the garden in sympathy with Charles Brocklehurst’s plans: planting more species rhododendrons in the woodland, commissioning the elegant metal pergola in the walled garden, and underplanting the equestrian sculptures with delicate pale pink shrub roses. In recent years, many of the original rhododendrons have been decimated by disease caused by Phytophthora , and those along with some of the most vigorous rhododendron Ponticum have been removed. Today, work to interpret Charles Brocklehurst's original vision continues in the walled garden, the wooded garden and the park.