Ickworth’s Walled Garden
The Walled Garden has had many different identities since it was first created. From 18th century leisure gardens to 20th century working kitchen gardens, it’s always been central to life at Ickworth.
The 1st Earl’s ‘springe’ garden
The Walled Garden began its life in 1701 as a pleasure garden. Its warm red brick walls sheltered family and guests as they strolled through its different ‘rooms’. Set on a 5 ½ acre site, the garden is one of the largest of its kind in East Anglia. Set close to the original Tudor house that preceded the Rotunda, the 1st Earl of Bristol enjoyed many a quiet hour in his ‘springe garden’. Relaxing in the classical summerhouse he gazed over sweeping lawns, the tranquil canal lake and out across his vast estate.
" …Where lavish Nature’s favourite Blessings flow, and all the seasons all their Sweets bestow… "
Delights and delicacies
By the time the Earl Bishop’s new Italianate mansion began to take shape, walled gardens had fallen out of fashion. Ickworth’s did not disappear, as many others did, but gained a new purpose. Where once dainty flowers grew, the soil was ploughed and filled with crops. A small army of gardeners kept Ickworth’s family, guests, and servants fed with fresh produce. The beautiful cut-flower borders filled the house with exquisite bouquets. Delicate glass hothouses protected exotic fruits from the changeable English climate. Foreign pineapples, nectarines, peaches, and figs grown in the heart of Suffolk left no doubt about the Hervey’s wealth and status. In the 1900s, Mr Coster, the Head Gardener, telephoned the cook each morning to choose what fruit and flowers would grace the dining table, and ensure they matched the colour of the dinner service.
In 2009 The National Trust team made an amazing discovery. Lost and forgotten, the Head Gardener’s notebook had kept its secrets for decades. During a spring clean it was found tucked behind a cabinet. Now its pages are open once again. The notes in this little book will pave the way for a dynamic new phase of the Walled Garden’s life. It outlines fruit lists from the late 1870s and the 1920s with rough planting plans which give us an intriguing glimpse into history of the Walled Garden and the opportunity to recreate the original planting plans.
Modern day National Trust gardeners are now following in his footsteps. Using this fascinating insight, Ickworth’s Walled Garden will be returned to its early twentieth century appearance and restored to full working order. Heritage fruit and vegetables will grow in the garden, just as they once did in its heyday at the height of country house entertaining. Its produce already fills the plates in the West Wing café, though nowadays it doesn’t arrive in a cart pulled by Kitty, the Suffolk Punch. In the seasons to come, you will see the sunken hothouses rebuilt and once more filled with fruits. Espaliered pear, apple, and quince trees will trail along the walls and line pathways that will transport you to a vibrant, growing experience of a bygone era.