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Bringing the Kitchen Garden to life at Kingston Lacy

Red and yellow flowers in long borders, a wheelbarrow in the centre and a thatched summerhouse in the background
The cut flower borders in the Kitchen Garden | © National Trust/Nick Ashby

The Kitchen Garden at Kingston Lacy was once renowned for its elegance and horticultural opulence. It was built in 1876 at a cost of £2,740 (about £180,000 today), and cultivated the best fruit, vegetables and flowers for use in the house. Inspired by its former glory, we’re restoring this once-thriving part of the garden.

Bringing the Kitchen Garden to life

The Kitchen Garden at Kingston Lacy reached peak production in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It showcased the latest in garden technology, with heated glasshouses where the family grew fruits, vegetables and herbs alongside exotic flowers.

By the 1960s the Kitchen Garden had fallen into decline. When the National Trust acquired Kingston Lacy in 1982, it was completely overgrown. Some of the original features, such as the ornamental show houses, had been lost and others were beyond repair.

The work we’ve done so far

We’ve been working hard to bring Walter Bankes’ dream Victorian Kitchen Garden back to life, restoring the flower garden to its original design and providing a sense of how the remaining buildings would have been used.

Historic path networks have been reinstated, thatched summerhouses recreated and borders replanted to create a colourful and vibrant space.

Restoring the Vinery

The vinery, part of a U-shaped range of glasshouses originally constructed in 1879, had fallen into disrepair and been taken down. We rebuilt it with a new timber frame, using fixtures and fittings from the original glasshouse.

It now houses some of the historic vines alongside citrus fruit and fan-trained peaches.

The Melon House

Melons were just one of the exotic fruits grown at Kingston Lacy. In 2022 the gardeners grew melons in the melon house for the first time in half a century. They used methods unchanged since the Victorian era to grow an old heritage variety of melon, Blenheim Orange, which was a favourite of Victorian gardeners.

The apple arch

In the growing seasons of 1908-09 the gardeners planted 71 varieties of apple tree, 52 varieties of pear and 19 varieties of plum. In 2022 a new orchard was planted around a 100m long arch that will be covered with roses as well as espaliered fruit trees, using historic varieties.

Play area

The Kitchen Garden was much loved by the Bankes children, who visited to beg an apple or pear from the head gardener. Now, there's a new play area for children, and a kiosk serving hot and cold drinks and light snacks.

Restoration of the gates

The ornate iron gates were made by the same West Midlands ironworks firm that manufactured anchors for the Titanic. The gates are being carefully restored using traditional craftsmanship, and will be repainted the same grey-green colour originally chosen by Henrietta Bankes in 1912.

The interior of a heated glass house displaying potted orange trees, geraniums and bird of paradise flowers at Kingston Lacy
Oranges in the glass house at Kingston Lacy | © National Trust / Chris Cooper

The future of the Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden is now supplying produce to Kingston Lacy’s Stables café: butternut squash and pumpkins went into tagine and soups, apples into the famed Dorset Apple cake and salads and herbs grown throughout the winter were used for garnish.

The garden team plans to increase the produce supplied to the café, and any surplus will be on sale in the Kitchen Garden. Look out for more home-grown produce over time.

It's thanks to you

It’s thanks to generous donations that we’re able to bring the garden back to life at Kingston Lacy. As a conservation charity, we rely on donations to fund the work we do for future generations.

Peacock butterfly in the garden at Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire


Everyone needs nature, now more than ever. Donate today and you could help people and nature to thrive at the places we care for.

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