History of the walled garden

The walled garden tulip border

With over two hundred years of history, the walled garden has some tales to share.

In the eighteenth century, William Parry faced a dilemma; his wife didn’t want to move to Herefordshire. Jane Parry liked life in the city, as she spent her time attending theatres and parties. To tempt his wife to the countryside, Parry promised to make huge improvements to the mansion and pleasure grounds. He soon set to work, with advice from the renowned landscape designer, Humphrey Repton. Through this partnership, the walled garden was created around 1815.

Choosing a site

Finding a home for the walled garden was a tricky task. The garden couldn’t be too close to the mansion, as it would spoil the view of the landscape. Yet, the garden still needed to be accessible to allow the gardeners to supply the kitchen. It is likely Repton recommended to put the walled garden at the east of the park and that the garden should have its own track that led off the main drive. Luckily for Mr Parry, his many improvements persuaded Jane to move. His wife stayed at the New Weir until his death in 1813.

Repton's engraving of The Weir 1799
Repton's engraving of The Weir 1799

Eight years after her husband’s death, Jane Parry sold the estate to John Griffiths. Fresh from his travels in India, Griffiths had made his fortune in the diamond trade. He hoped to start a family of his own at the New Weir. By 1832 Griffiths had six children. With such a large family, the walled garden and farm were responsible for feeding a full household. 

A Family Affair

After 46 comfortable years at the New Weir, Griffiths died in 1867. The estate passed to his
eldest son, John Harward Griffiths. The walled garden also experienced change. With the additions of a glasshouse and frames, the Griffiths family could grow new produce and extend their growing season. The repeal of The Glass Tax in 1845 and The Window Tax in 1851 finally made glasshouses affordable for the middle class.

John Harward eventually moved to Staffordshire with his wife, leaving The New Weir to be rented out for the next 40 years. For the Burneys, the estate offered a country retreat away from London. Arthur Burney had four children, three sons and one daughter. The youngest member of the family was Cecily. Inspired by her new home, she took many photos. It is thanks to Cecily we’re able to see the earliest known photos of the walled garden.

Cecily Burney was an ambulance driver in the Great War
Cecily Burney

 The New Weir couldn’t protect the Burney family from the unfolding war in Europe. Cecily
soon left for France. It is there she served as a volunteer ambulance driver. Cecily managed to survive the war, but suffered great loss. Her fiancé, brother and cousin were all killed during the conflict.

For over a century, the New Weir had belonged to the Griffiths family. In 1923, it found a new
owner in Roger Charlton Parr. Parr came from a wealthy family, who had founded their own
bank since 1788. He had money to spend on the walled garden. With the assistance of his
head gardener, William Boulter, Parr started the restoration of the walled garden. Roger Parr replaced the original glasshouse with a Foster and Pearson. He also used this leading glasshouse manufacturer at his other estate in Warrington, Grappenhall Heys. An expensive Beeston Boiler was installed to heat the glasshouse.

The Glory days

Known for being a generous boss, Parr built modern homes for his gardeners. For William Boulter, he rebuilt the gardener’s cottage. At the top of the estate, Parr built Weir Cottage One and Weir Cottage Two. His other gardeners Fred Davies and Reginald Weaver lived there. For Weaver, this felt like a real luxury, as it was a novelty to have a home with electricity. Parr had new ideas. He planted many fruit trees along the pathways and two hundred hollies around the garden.

The glory days ended abruptly with Parr’s death in 1958. Out of respect to Parr’s final wishes,
The National Trust allowed Victor Morris, his chauffeur, to stay at the mansion during his lifetime. Morris had little time for the walled garden. He instead spent his time fishing, driving and throwing lavish parties. During Parr’s time, there had been six gardeners to maintain both gardens. Morris hired only two part time gardeners, who struggled with the walled garden’s upkeep. The garden suffered over fifty years of neglect.

Restoration

In 2009 The National Trust aimed to return the garden back into a functioning kitchen garden.
Head gardener Ned Price and his team of staff and volunteers have since worked hard to restore the garden back to its former glory. To discover more about the project, take a peek at our gardener’s scrapbook in the glasshouse or tea tent.