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History of Snowshill's garden

A black and white garden plan from a notebook detailing Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire from 1951
Garden plan of Snowshill Manor from 1951 | © National Trust

The garden at Snowshill was designed by Charles Wade and his friend, prominent Arts and Crafts architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott. Find out how the garden was designed and how these friends transformed and set out new planting schemes. Discover how a miniature Cornish fishing village became part of the plans.

Creating 'a garden of interest' at Snowshill

Charles Wade purchased Snowshill in 1919. When he arrived, he found the area around the manor house was little more than a muddy farmyard. Despite its appearance Wade noted he could see that ‘here indeed was a happy chance to create a garden of interest.’

A visionary garden

Wade had developed his ideas for a garden long before he came to Snowshill. In his personal notebooks and an unpublished manuscript, elements that were later installed here at Snowshill are evident. Wade used his own skills as an artist and architect to introduce his vision and ideas for a garden in his early manuscript, Country Cottage and its Garden.

Baillie Scott a distinguished architect

Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott was a distinguished Arts and Crafts architect. Charles Wade first met Baillie Scott whilst working on Hampstead Garden Suburb between 1907 and 1911.

A farmyard transformation

In spring of 1920 Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott designed the initial plan for the garden. He sent it to Wade, together with a letter explaining his design. With the help of a local builder, William Hodge, Wade then set about transforming the former farmyard into an Arts and Crafts garden.

The Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement was a reaction to Victorian mass industrialisation. It wished to revive traditional craftsmanship and restore simplicity and honesty to design, including that of the garden. The garden became an extension of the house it surrounded.

Garden rooms

An Arts and Crafts garden includes garden rooms, topiary and overflowing borders. Terraces and walkways provided the structure around the changing planted areas.

A view of the Well Court and the Sancta Maria Byre, with a shrine to the Virgin Mary mounted on the gable, at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire
Well Court and the Sancta Maria at Snowshill Manor | © National Trust Images / James Dobson

Features in the garden

These features were included by Baillie Scott in his plan for Snowshill. The design and subsequent work included garden rooms, walkways and a pond.

A Venetian wellhead

At Baillie Scott’s suggestion Wade also put a Venetian stone wellhead he had collected into Well Court: ‘Should like to get your stone cistern from the workshop and put it in the middle of the lower garden’, he had recorded.

Sancta Maria Byre

Initial work in the garden focussed on the hard landscaping. The creation of terraces, stone walls, sunken pool and paths follow Baillie Scott’s basic design. The Dovecote and cow byres were also repaired, with one of the cow byres becoming Wade’s outdoor dining room for entertaining his friends.

Wade named this the Sancta Maria Byre and positioned a small religious statue above the door. Work was completed in 1922 allowing Wade to fill the garden with planting and further artistic features.

The houses and buildings in Wolf's Cove model village at Snowshill Manor and Garden, Gloucestershire
Wolf's Cove model village at Snowshill Manor | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

A village in miniature

Wade started the village in 1907 when he was living in Hampstead and had just qualified as an architect. When he came to Snowshill in 1919 he brought the models with him. By the late 1920s he had started to create the model village based on a typical Cornish fishing village; he called it Wolf’s Cove.

The model buildings included a pub, houses and fisherman’s cottages set. Wade later added the road, canal and railway. Weather and age had deteriorated the model village over time.

A team have recently excavated and reconstructed the village and the harbour based on documents and archaeological evidence. We’ll continue fundraising to support further work in the future.

Research and influences

Charles Wade loved the garden and his notebooks are full of the beauty of nature to be found in his garden and the surrounding countryside. The notebooks also contains a bibliography of Wade’s research and influences. This included Arts and Crafts architects Baillie Scott and Sir Edwin Lutyens. These notebooks remain within the collection and are stored in museum conditions for research purposes.

A visitor leans in to get a closer look at a collection item inside Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

Discover more at Snowshill

Find out when Snowshill is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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Alongside friend and fellow architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, Wade set out to design a garden which reflected the theatre and form of the manor. The garden is an extension of the house, a series of outdoor rooms.

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With a sense of fun and theatre, Charles Wade took great pleasure in turning his home into a stage for his collection of varied and sometimes unusual finds.

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Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.

Furnishings inside Charles Wade's bedroom in the Priest's House at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

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Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Snowshill on the National Trust Collections website.