The Orchard at Lyveden

Rows of trees in the Orchard.

Sir Thomas Tresham’s orchard was described as ‘one of the fairest orchards that is in England’ before its premature abandonment in 1605. Since 2000 we have set about restoring the orchard to its former glory by replanting many of the old varieties of fruit specified by Tresham himself.

Our orchard: from past to present

Sir Thomas Tresham's pleasure garden was never completed after he died in 1605, but aerial photos suggest that the orchard was planted.

Records show that Lady Tresham sold a large number of fruit trees to Robert Cecil (Secretary of State to King James I) in 1609, which were probably dug up from this orchard.

" 'I think no one can furnish you with more and better trees and of fitter growth than this ground.'"
- Lady Tresham to Robert Cecil, 1609.

In 2000 we began re-planting the orchard at Lyveden, taking inspiration from contemporary records and Tresham's letters to his workmen. We can see from these letters that Tresham planned to include apples, pears and damsons as well as a 'walk' of cherries and walnuts.

The orchard now features over 300 trees of 19 different varieties planted in formal avenues. Some of the species, such as the Winter Queening apple, were listed in Tresham's letters. Others were recorded locally in the early sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Tudor orchard: pleasure and profit

Orchards were the height of fashion in Tudor garden design. An orchard was the ideal setting for walks, picnics and relaxation, and money could be made from the bountiful supply of fruit.

Our orchard is home to 8 varieties of apples
Our orchard is home to 8 varieties of apples

Nature's medicine cabinet

In Tudor times, the rich served cooked fruit as an accompaniment to meat dishes, adding flavour and aiding the digestion of their rich, meat-heavy meals. This is something we still do today - roast pork and apple sauce anyone?

But this was only part of the picture. The orchard was also a medicine cabinet, offering cures for all manner of ailments, from stomach ache to infertility.

Fruit and folklore

Fruit had a deeper meaning too, featuring heavily in Christian symbolism and English folklore. For example, cherry trees were a Christian symbol of Paradise and pears were believed to bring good fortune to those who ate them.