Standen's Garden Revival
A five year restoration project at one of the country’s most important Arts and Crafts gardens has completed at Standen in West Sussex.
The house at Standen, with its breath-taking views over the High Weald and Weir Wood Reservoir, was designed for James Beale and his family in the late 19th century by leading Arts and Crafts architect Philip Webb. However it was James's wife Margaret who planned and designed Standen's 12 acre hillside garden which saw its heyday in the 1920s.
An accomplished gardener and plants-woman, Margaret Beale created a series of outdoor rooms including a scented rose garden – the Rosery – and a lime tree walk, along with more exotic areas with bamboo, ponds and lush foliage.
Over ten years ago, a group of volunteers discovered the Beale family swimming pond while clearing out some overgrown bamboo in part of the garden. Following extensive research, the garden revival project began in 2012 and is one of the biggest that we have undertaken in the National Trust.
" Over the years our discoveries have included lost walls, a rock garden and rare and unusual plants all overgrown by the vigorous modern planting that had masked the original beauty of Margaret Beale’s design. So we were lucky to have a wealth of archive material that has helped us research how it would have looked, ranging from family photographs, maps and receipts, to Margaret’s garden diaries which have enabled us to piece it together and bring the garden back to its best."
Among the garden features that have been restored are:
- The original swimming pond and rose garden growing Margaret Beale’s coveted China pink roses.
- A fine oak trellis rebuilt to the original design by Philip Webb. Trellis is a feature in one of Arts and Crafts designer William Morris’ wallpaper designs which is used in the house.
- Lime trees reinstated along Grandfather’s walk.
- 10,000 tulips including rare varieties
- The kitchen garden and the original espaliered apple trees.
- New views opened from the top terrace across to the Ashdown Forest.
- New Arts & Crafts inspired planting in the house courtyard.
- The medieval quarry face revealed alongside the drive, which inspired the Beales to build Standen in this location.
" I look back at photographs from before we started the restoration to remind myself of the remarkable changes the team of staff and volunteers has made since then. We have worked so hard to do justice to this lovely lost garden and make it shine again and I hope our visitors will enjoy discovering something new down every path and around each corner."
Highlights from the project
The reinstatement of the Kitchen Garden has seen the installation of large beds of fruits and vegetables, plus cages for delicate soft fruits. There are four particularly endearing Bramley apple espalier trees, planted when the house was built in the 1890s, which still provide a plentiful crop every autumn. Produce goes to the Barn Café and can be bought from a barrow. Bees have been re-introduced to the Orchard and the Kitchen Garden.
In the shop is the Standen Collection, a range of plants propagated at Standen in the recreation of Mrs Beale’s garden.
Progressing down the Farm Track, the summer house on the Croquet Lawn has been renovated and many of the invasive laurels have been removed from the bank and rhododendrons managed to reveal views of the house once more. Parties were often organised on the lawn, and friends of Helen Beale and young people from surrounding big houses would make up the guests.
The area to have seen the greatest transformation, just beyond the Croquet Lawn, is the Rosery. Formally the Bamboo Garden, it inspired the entire project with the discovery of steps and a retaining wall around the swimming pond. Originally this was the Beale’s rose garden. Mrs Beale was on a continual quest to try to find and successfully grow a China pink rose, meeting many of the challenges that the Trust faced today. Now with the formal rose garden, sun dial, sweeping oak trellis and reinstated swimming pond (which the Beale grandchildren used to swim in), it offers visitors a tranquil spot to admire her most loved China pink roses.
When James Beale became too frail to reach the upper areas of the garden, around 1910, Grandfather’s Walk was cut into the slope and a shaded path created by the planting of 13 Limes with a summerhouse to relax in at the end by the ha-ha. The limes have been replanted, repairs have been made to the stone walls and exuberant planting, loved by Mrs Beale, added round the base of the trees.
The oak trellis has been rebuilt by Standen’s volunteers, following Philip Webb’s original design, with old photographs for reference. The design reappears in the William Morris wallpaper designs. A new planting scheme follows Mrs Beale’s philosophy of experimenting with new plants, just as she would have done.
Over 10,000 tulips bloom on the terrace and around the garden in pots and borders during the Tulip Festival every April into May.
The Quarry Garden is a tranquil corner worth seeking out in the summer months as it offers a cool, shady retreat and an abundance of delicate, unusual plants that grow in the rock crevices and around about. The rock that was taken from here was used for the construction of the house and Mrs Beale made the most of the remaining area in conjunction with designers of the day, Backhouse & Sons.
Rock Top Walk
A completely new area of the garden has also been opened up as part of the Garden Revival. High up above the rocks, tucked behind the house, is Rock Top Walk. Formally this area was densely planted and over grown with cherry laurel. A meandering path through the trees takes you to viewing platforms on top of the rocks where you can look across to the views of the Weald and down onto the chimneys and stable yard for a different perspective on Standen. A contemporary artwork, Bothy, by Will Shannon has been commissioned, to continue to interpret the Arts and Crafts legacy.
As you drive into Standen the outcrop of Ardingly sandstone rocks are visible again, which inspired the Beale family to build the house here.
Goose Green has been kept rural to reflect its original farm yard purpose. New planting in the cottage garden, new wall supports for the pear trees and children’s games sets make it a charmingly welcoming space.