The rose garden at Morden Hall Park

Archive photo of gardeners in Morden Hall Park's Rose Garden

For almost a hundred years the rose garden at Morden Hall Park has delighted summer visitors with a profusion of colour. Gilliat Hatfeild's garden is now gradually being restored to something closer to its 1920s appearance.

Gilliat Hatfeild's pride and joy

Thought to be the only major alteration which Gilliat Edward Hatfeild made to his father’s Deer Park, the two and a half acre Rose garden was created around 1921. It is believed that Morden Hall rose garden represents a very unusual example of an inter-war period rose garden, featuring a design well ahead of its time.

Historical images show that the garden was laid out in 48 irregular rectangle and circular beds of standard and climbing roses on poles. The garden is in two halves, separated by a small stream and originally connected by rose-covered rustic bridges.

Local children were regularly invited to parties in the rose garden. Some who visited the estate as children remembered the rose garden as a favourite spot of Gilliat Edward Hatfeild’s. They recall that that he was often seen deadheading the roses on a summers evening and kept his basket, secateurs and gloves secreted in a hollow tree on the lawn.

A special place in history

Interestingly there is a historical link between roses and the snuff industry that financed the estate for so many years. Though the roses from the garden at Morden Hall Park were unlikely to have been used for this purpose since the Snuff Mill at Morden Hall Park closed in 1922, roses were, and still are, used to scent snuff.

It is possible that the stream was there in Saxon times and used to define the boundaries between the parishes of Mitcham and Morden. An old cast iron boundary marker can still be seen under the large London plane tree just outside the garden.

One of several noteworthy trees in the rose garden, the Taxus Baccata Var. Dovastonia or Westfelton Yew is of immense size and is probably many centuries old.

A volunteer pruning a rose in Morden Hall Park's rose garden
A volunteer pruning a rose in Morden Hall Park's rose garden
A volunteer pruning a rose in Morden Hall Park's rose garden

Old varieties, modern techniques

There are no historical records of the original rose varieties used in Mr Hatfeild's garden. All that remains are two old labels dentifying the varieties ‘Mrs AR Waddell’ and ‘Caroline Testout’.

Between 1997 and 1999 the rose beds and the roses were replaced, and as there are no historical records, old varieties of rose were chosen for their colour and hardiness.

In 2013, we reviewed the restoration plans for our rose garden. Now roses are chosen each year to reflect the historical time but which are also tough and reliable, among them some heritage varieties.

‘Standard’ roses have been reintroduced and in 2017, thanks to support from Wimbledon National Trust Association, a rustic pergola was added to give more of a sense of what the original garden was like. We currently have around 1,600 individual roses in the garden and surrounding beds and about 40 different varieties.

We add well-rotted manure to all rose beds every spring. We also use mycorrhizal fungi when we plant the roses. These are beneficial fungi which create a symbiotic relationship and ultimately make for a healthier, happier plant.