The story of Hare Hill
In the late 18th century, William Hibbert purchased Hare Hill, a country estate in Cheshire, and built a small hunting lodge.
To create a grand setting for his new home - and no doubt to impress his visitors from London - he landscaped the park, and built an ornamental lake. Hibbert eventually moved to London, where he died in 1844. Around this time, the Brocklehurst family bought the Hare Hill estate, and embarked on a major extension to the lodge, which became Hare Hill Hall. They also decided to create a woodland garden, with a traditional Victorian walled kitchen garden at the centre, which was completed around 1902.
In 1905, 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 pursued his interest in fine china and art collections. He was also an army infantry officer in World War Two; it’s assumed both brothers were keen horsemen, as Patrick was tragically killed in a riding accident in 1930.
The development of the garden
Charles’ parents died in the 1960s, and he returned to his inherited home, 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"
Oddly, 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 woodland and the park.