An estate in miniature

The Conservatory and Rose Garden at Sunnycroft, Shropshire

Only five acres in size and bordered on three sides by housing the Sunnycroft garden contains every element of a country estate. The garden has pasture land that once contained cows. It has a vegetable garden, soft fruit garden, rose garden, glasshouses, dog kennels, pig sties, an apple store, an orchard, chickens...

Sunnycroft was designed to emulate the upper classes but on a middle class budget. The estate was never larger than ten acres but within those acres a whole estate developed.

The formal gardens

The Slaney and Lander families were not interested in investing lots of money into landscaping or developing rare plant collections. Instead, their gardens were a social activity, allowing them to enter plants in local garden competitions and entertain guests on the lawn.

Guests would be entertained on the main lawn
Slaneys entertaining on the main lawn
Guests would be entertained on the main lawn

The garden is compartmentalised into zones including a rose garden, herbaceuous border, rockery and large lawn. Vistas were cut short to maintain the illusion of a large garden. Paths double back to utilise space and provide the feel of a larger garden.

To design their gardens, the owners of Sunnycroft turned to society magazines and horticultural journals to discover the latest trends. Both Glasshouses appear as standard designs in adverts from the late Victorian period.

Geometric designs were combined with rustic elements in late Victorian/Edwardian gardens. These contrasting elements can be seen throughout the garden from the geometric rose garden to the rustic 'crazy paving'.

The working estate

The working estate had two functions. It increased the illusion of a country estate and it provided the family with produce for their own consumption and to sell. Sunnycroft was self-sufficient, supplying itself with everything it needed.

Pasture Land

The pasture land was once much larger. It included the allotments now outside the border of Sunnycroft. The pasture land held two cows, Molly and Isabella. These supplied milk and butter, with the excess sold.They would have been milked by the garage where the Daimler was kept.

Soft fruit garden and orchards

Sunnycroft has always included an orchard and soft fruit garden. Apples were stored in the Apple Store, now the Bookshop store, or in the Cellar. Other fruit would have been turned into jams or sold. At Wellington market, Joan Lander was known to cut an apple in half to get the correct weight! Inside the house there is still Joan Landers last batch of jam on the shelf in the Larder.


The estate contained three different livestock. Cows were kept on the pasture land, pigs were kept in pig sties by the stables and chickens were kept at the edge of the pasture land.

The pigs provided meat. They were killed once or twice a year and every element used. The Lander family particularly liked dining on trotters.

The hens provided eggs. They would be preserved in water glass for up to 6 months. Excess eggs would be sold on Wellington market. At one time Sunnycroft had approximately 70 hens in three hen runs.

Sunnycroft had approximately 70 chickens
Sunnycroft Chickens
Sunnycroft had approximately 70 chickens