History of our Gardens
We’ve re-created a stunning 18th century walled garden behind our conservatory tearoom. To research what plants would have been growing in a Lancashire garden of this age, we delved into the riveting diaries of Elizabeth Shackleton, who described in detail the planting of her nearby garden at Pasture House, Barrowford in 1775. We’ve even restored our original potting shed, which contains a display of typical garden implements and growing techniques through the seasons.
Although no plans at the original garden survived, it was decided that the walled garden should be restored to how it might have appeared when first made in the 1780s. The line of the garden walls was a good starting point and a severe drought in 1983 revealed the approximate position of the pathways and thus the shape of the beds, which would have been as a geometric design. Thorough research indicated which plants were available during the late 18th century and these were obtained from specialist sources.
The garden stands on alluvial deposits from the nearby Pendle water. This gives well drained and relatively fertile soil, with reserves of moisture at depth for deep rooted plants. The bank behind the house marks the edge of the old flood plain and gives some natural shelter. The mature trees on this bank, which make the garden today rather shady, would not have been there originally. A spring rising up hill was culverted into the garden and fills a small dipping pool. The overflow goes into the river. This arrangement is still working, providing a handy supply of water.
Pendle Water as a Resource for the Garden
This nearby river, which is now confined between high banks, would originally have meandered over the valley bottom. In good weather, silt and sand would have been quietly deposited. In times of flood, much larger material, up to building stone size, would have been tossed about and left in chaotic heaps by the retreating waters. Many years later, these deposits provided important materials for the garden, stones for walls and cobbles for paths. The remainder would be riddled to provide gravel for paths and sand for the mortar. One or more wells sunk conveniently near the house would have provided a supply of water filtered through the river gravels.
It is hard to know how much of the vast range of plants mentioned in books
and catalogues was to be found in ordinary gardens. One view is that
catalogues give a better guide, since the nurseryman would hardly persist
in stocking and listing a plant unless they were purchasers for it. Better
still our diaries of those with a keen interest in gardening, even if they did not
do the garden work themselves. One such, widely quoted, is that of
Gilbert White, parson and naturalist of Selborne in Hampshire. He frequently
visited his brother at Lambeth, then a leafy suburb of London, and brought
home plants and the latest methods. At Park Hill, we are fortunate in having
found a diarist much closer to hand than Gilbert White.
A Local Garden Diary by Elizabeth Shackleton (née Parker)
Elizabeth Parker was born in 1726 and, after her marriage in 1754, lived at Alkincoats Hall in Colne, two miles north east of Parkhill. She was widowed in 1760 and began to keep diaries in 1764. In 1765 she married John Shackleton, and in 1778, when Elizabeth‘s eldest son came of age, they moved to Pasture House a fine Georgian farmhouse one mile north west of Park Hill. The diaries provide a vivid insight into daily life and, of particular interest,
entries relating to the building and stocking of the new walled garden, where the
walls share the same unusual construction as those at Parkhill and so help us
to date the latter. The diaries cover the period from 1764 to 1781.
They relate to a prosperous family and describe the establishment of a walled
garden adjacent to the new house, similar to the one at Park Hill. Included
are references to planting and cropping, as well as bought-in food crops, and
gifts of fruit and vegetables given and received. There are references to the
purchase of seeds and plants, and some clues as to the exact amount of labour
In October 1779, Mrs Shackleton found herself a husband, the builder and the
Barrowford Schoolmaster measuring the garden wall at Pasture House.
The Schoolmaster’s numeracy and his independence had been brought to bear
in assessing the cost of the project. Oliver Goldsmith’s open “the deserted village”
(1771) describes the abilities of such a man:
The village all declared how much he knew; ‘Twas certain he could write and cipher too; Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage, and e’en the story ran that he could gauge...
Could a similar assessment to the one at Pasture House have taken place at Park Hill?
Extracts from the diary
In September 1777, three months before the move to Pasture House, professional advice was obtained about siting a garden at the new house:
Stanley (head gardener at the big house of Gisburne Park) came here this afternoon to look where the new garden was to be placed. Paid him 6/-d for his trouble...
Next July (1778):
James and Shaw came and the lad to get stones at the Delfs (quarry) for the garden wall.
In September 1778:
The Mason John Hartley laid the foundation and this day began to build the garden wall. God prosper, give fortune and to use it - hope it will do well.
A few days later, five masons but working on the garden wall, and early in November:
Jack fetched him to go for slates for the garden house, and the other cart with Peter and Richard Nutter... went for stones to top the garden wall.
In December 1778:
John Hartley came to put tops on the garden wall.
John Hartley and his men flagging the little garden house.
This was probably a privy at the far end of the garden but there may have been a summer house also, because in February 1779:
Story bought the Garden Petit Maison sash window - very nice.
Work continued in March (1779):
Began to gravel the walks in the garden and before the front of the house.
In May 1779 Mr Shackleton was:
...setting a place round with bricks in the garden, where he intends to grow cucumbers.
This was the basis for hot bed, to support glazed frames. We know these were in use, because in April 1781 there was:
A glazier doing the hot bed frames.
Garden frames very similar to those of the present day, were widely used in the 17th century, as were glass cloche and other types of framed hand light shaped for different purposes.
Cultivation in the garden began back before the physical arrangements were complete. Back in July 1778 we read:
Richard and the gardener spread lime. Isaac and Billy Stansfield filled and lead manure.
In the autumn of 1778 has substantial purchases of choice fruit trees were made. On 6th of October 1778:
Tate the gardener here - Mr Shackleton bespoke fruit trees of him - cherrys, pears of sorts, plums ditto and 20 larches.
A month later (6th of November 1778):
Tate the gardener came and set fruit trees in the garden, viz under the long south brick wall, a white Mogul Precoras Detorous Greengage, and May Duke Cherry, a Violet Orlean, an Orlean and a Greengage Orlean - to the House side, the west wall, one Targonell Pear, one ditto, Swan Egg, hope they will flourish, bear and do very well.
These names can be traced in contemporary books and catalogues, but need some punctuation and interpretation for the modern reader:
A white Mogul plum White Bonham Magnum
Precoras Detorus plum Precoce de Tours
Greengage plum Greengage
A May Duke Cherry cherry May Duke
Violet Orlean plum Orlean
Greengage Orlean plum Orleans Greengage
Targonell Pear pear Jargonelle
Swan Egg Pear pear Swan Egg
Swan egg is a small hardy pear, but the others originate in France and are named after Tours and Orleans, towns in the Loire Valley. In Lancashire, with favoured south and west aspects, the trees had as good a chance as anywhere in the area.
The next day on 7th of October 1778, there was surprising development. Elizabeth ordered ornamental shrubs from as far away as Pontefract in South Yorkshire. Pontefract was home to the famous nursery of William and John Perfect, and most of the plants ordered can be traced in a surviving copy of their priced catalogue for 1777.
Shrub Catalogue entry Price each
Moss Provence Rose 2/-
Blush Hundred Leaved Rose 1/-
Provence Rose 4d
Trumpet Honeysuckle Virginian or Carolina 1/-
White Jasmine 3d
Double Sweet Briar 1/-
Double Blossom Myrtle in several sorts 2/6
In February 1779:
Gardener came to prepare ground in the new garden to sow peas and beans.
A few days later, 25th February 1779:
Gardener planted strawberries, gooseberries, currans, and all sorts and rose trees, the former from Alkincoats.
So, some established bushes one moved from the old garden.
Kester Sutcliffe came to work... plant the hedge at the back of the field full of all sorts of trees to be a screen to the house four rows deep.
This shelterbelt, as it would be termed today, has quite disappeared. There is no mention of planting apples, probably because they would not have been in the walled garden, but standard trees widely spread in an orchard. In the spring after the wall garden was completed:
John Hartley came to begin to make ready for building the new walls about the orchard...
but we hear no more of this project. In December 1779 Elizabeth‘s eldest son Tom:
... Sent of his good pears and 8 of his good rich nonpareils.
“Nonpareils” is the only apple variety mentioned by name in the diaries.
William Hargreaves of Roughlee, not far away, was a close family friend who had bought gifts and plants for the garden and sometimes plant them as well.
In April 1779:
WM came and brought me full variegated Hollings, one Auricula root, one Pritillana ditto one July (Gilli) Flower etc., he set them in the garden.
Today these are called hollies, Fritillaria (probably Crown Imperial) and Wallflowers. William also bought a house plant, a double white myrtle, that became a great favourite of Mrs Shackleton‘s.
Wm set pinks and quantity of flowers up and down the garden. In June William had bought some bloody gilli flowers (dark red wallflowers) for Mrs Shackleton to set herself.
In October 1780:
The Gardener here leaving all my rose trees, sweet briar trees from the wall to places upon the borders. Put dung and proper stuff about them to keep them warm.
Presumably space on the wall was needed for growing fruit trees.
The small cottage garden to the front of the 17th century Park Hill is worth a visit. It was restored and planted in the memory of Dr Robert Chevassut, and it was opened on the 18th September 1984, by Mrs A. Chevassut, director of Harlow Carr. The wrought iron railings and gate have been re-introduced, based on the original design and leaded lights have been fitted to the 17th century mullion windows. (Funded by the David Knightly charitable trust).
Dr Robert Chevassut was the village doctor in Barrowford from 1924 until his retirement in 1974. On his death in 1976, his many friends subscribed towards the cost of the garden restoration.
Local schools are encouraged to visit its organic garden through the changing seasons and to carry out projects related to it. Experienced volunteers, such as our Friends Group, often assist and each year the Trust provides work experience for young people in the garden.
Photo Credit: Sarah Cockburn-Price. Taken at Heyroyd House
The Story of the Reconstruction of the Gardens
The Trust leased Park Hill from Pendle Borough Council in October 1977 and began to establish it as one of the first heritage centres in the country. The others were in York, Chester, and Faversham in Kent.
In the early days, focus was concentrated on the house and its rescue and restoration. The garden had become derelict and unkempt since the last tenants, Mr and Mrs Armistead, left in 1973. The once is high walls had partly collapsed and the small outbuildings at the foot of the garden looked beyond repair.
In the 1970s, gardens did not have the high-profile they have today and the future of this garden at that time seemed unclear.
Dame Jennifer Jenkins then chairman of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (now Historic England), visited Park Hill in 1979 and immediately stressed that we should not overlook the importance of a walled garden and said that its restoration was crucial to the understanding of a working farmhouse. Four years later, the restoration of the garden which was made possible through the introduction of Government assisted schemes to alleviate on employment. Under the scheme, graduate horticulturalists, Joanne Lewis and Catherine Fraser, were each recruited for one year.
When these schemes ended in 1987 many projects foundered, but Parkhill had the support of the newly formed Lancashire branch of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens. During these years, when the Trust had no funds to employ garden staff, voluntary members from the NCCPG continued the development of the gardens and day-to-day maintenance under the guidance of Mr Norman Warrington and Mr Norman Thompson.
For a period, the Trust has secured funding from Pendle Borough Council to employ a part-time gardener. The work was overseen on a voluntary basis by Mr John Tyldesley, formally the honorary curator of the garden museum at Harlow Carr who has made an immense contribution to the development of the garden. He has acquired the Trust’s collection of garden tools, researched and wrote the text for the Garden Museum.
The walled garden at Park Hill is an example of a smaller domestic garden on which until recently, there has been little research. It was therefore particularly important to discover a diary by a local lady, Elizabeth Shackleton, who, between 1764 and 1781, faithfully recorded the creation of her own garden only half a mile from Park Hill. Local historians painstakingly extracted the garden sections of her diary, which give an added depth of awareness and significance to Park Hill’s garden, which was formed at the same time. A garden which, in 1977 received little attention, has now been transformed to become one of the Heritage Centre’s major attractions.
The Origin of the Garden
Park Hill’s walled garden was made in the late 18th century, primarily as a kitchen garden, but also as an amenity for the house. Before the arrival of the modern arrangements for the disposal of household refuge and sewage many of the sights and smells of daily life were somewhat unpleasant. A productive garden adjacent to the house, containing beautiful and sweet-scented flowers, as well as fruit trees and vegetables, was a valuable asset. The house itself was extended and updated at about this time. Improvements in window design and glazing meant that, even in cold weather, the garden could be enjoyed through panes of crown glass set in sliding sash windows.
The Garden Walls
Walls round a garden serve primarily to exclude animal and human intruders as well as prying eyes, as well as providing shelter from the buffeting winds so common in the northern hills.
Temperatures are higher within the garden, particularly near walls facing the sun. These form an ideal support for tender fruit trees. Not only are day temperatures raised, but the walls act like large storage heaters, absorbing heat by day and releasing it at night, thus helping to avert frost damage.
Constructing the Garden
Walled gardens are usually rectangular, but at Park Hill the plan is irregular, because of the constraints of the site. The house itself forms the north east boundary. The long south east wall follows the track outside. The far south west wall has to accommodate the bank beyond and includes two small buildings. The north west wall is a modern reconstruction on original footings, its line also being constrained by the bank. Externally, the wall is built conventionally of coursed stone rubble, many of the stones being somewhat rounded and evidently brought from the river. At Stunstead House, Trawden, near Colne, the outer walls are built in dressed stone.
Through stone were incorporated at regular intervals to bind the inner and outer parts of the wall. Internally the walls are largely built of a new modular material: brick.
The south-east wall also incorporates some courses of brick laid end on (headers) to give additional bonding, but this feature is absent from the south east wall. All the walls have overhanging flagstone copings, with an overall height of about eight feet.
Walled gardens commonly included some buildings, either within the
boundary, or approached through doors in the boundary wall.
Park Hill had such a building, with two compartments at the bottom
of the garden, now forming the Garden Museum. The left-hand
entrance was probably the privy. It would have been far enough from
the house for the smell not to be too obtrusive, but approachable with
some shelter on the hard path. The right-hand section was until
recently a cart shed and may always have been so.
Middle-class gardens sometimes included a summer house for
informal meals and enjoyment of the garden at close quarters.
The main room might be supplemented behind one or two small
service rooms, following the layout of banqueting houses in grand
gardens from which the idea was derived. Another feature sometimes
found in gardens of the wealthy was a gazebo, a tower within or near
the garden, from which the surrounding parkland and countryside
could be admired. One survives in a modest 18th-century garden
Laying out the Garden
Ornamental gardens in the 17th century were formal in design, with intricately patterned beds edged with close clipped box or yew, containing flowering plants within. During the 18th century, many big house gardens were converted to a much more informal and naturalistic style, with streams and lakes, clumps of trees and grass areas, bringing the countryside right up to the house.
This way of gardening could hardly be applied to smaller places, so, particularly in town gardens, the formal parterre beds persisted. For this reason, in the Park Hill reconstruction, the area nearest the house is laid out in simple geometric beds, planted with aromatic herbs and spring bulbs. Under the walls, beds were always provided for fruit trees and climbing ornamentals, with adjacent parts giving access for training and pruning in front of the wall. The long south-east wall has a variety of medicinal herbs in use in the 18th century, while under the north-west wall is a variety of ornamental plants that benefit from the shelter.
Beyond the parterre there are two large beds of ornamentals, including old shrub roses and herbaceous plants. At the bottom of the garden are two similar beds containing soft fruit, with space to grow a variety of seasonal vegetables.
How do We Know What Went on in the 18th Century Garden?
No garden stays unchanged for 200 years or more. The grand gardens of big houses have sometimes been recorded in paintings and drawing drawings, and the state archives may contain plans and schedules of work and accounts and correspondence with landscape designers. For the smaller domestic gardens, it is not so easy. Books surviving from the 17th century onwards give useful clues. A famous one is entitled “Paradisi in Sole, Paradisus Terrestris”, produced in 1629 by London apothecary, John Parkinson. The Latin title, (roughly translatable as “Gardens in the Sunshine - Paradise on Earth“) is followed by a poem in French. Such a book was obviously only accessible to the well-educated, and in addition was printed in a large, handsome and expensive format. Within is practical advice for laying out beds and edging them, and then:
...to furnish the inward parts and beds with those fine flowers that (being strangers unto us, and giving the beauty and bravery of the colours so early before many of our owne bred flowers, the most to entice us to their delight) on most beseeming it: and mainly with Daffodils, Fritillaries, Jacinthes, Saffron flowers, very beautiful, delightful and pleasant… for that the most part of these outlandish flowers doe show for their beauty and colours so early in the yeare that they do seem to make a garden of delight even in the winter time, and so to give their flowers one after another, that all their bravery is not spent until that Gilliflowers, the pride of English gardens, to show themselves.
Such a passage transmits a sense of real joy in the garden, often linked at this time to a recovery of man’s innocence in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall.
During the 18th century, gardening books were more down to earth, providing practical and technical information. “Every Man his own Gardener” by John Abercrombie, published in 1767, provided plant lists. Here is an extract from the October section:
Planting all kinds of bulbous flowers, roots etc.
This is now an eligible season to plant almost all sorts of bulbous and tuberous flower roots... Hyacinths and tulips for the general spring blooms may be planted... The beds should be highest in the middle and laid somewhat rounding: this form best throws off the wet and it looks better: the beds should be four feet broad.
When the beds are ready, choose a mild and dry day to put in the roots... Plant them in rows nine inches asunder, and not less than six inches in each row, by three or four inches deep: performing it either by dibble or drilling, or bedding in.
These are good instructions that will produce results. If they lack the poetry of Parkinson and strategic sense, they were targeted at a much broader audience of head gardeners and middle class householders.
Supplementing the plant lists of gardening books are rare survivals of gardening catalogues, in particular that of the famous nursery, Perfect’s of Pontefract, which may well have supplied a new garden near Park Hill in 1778. The catalogue for 1777 is one of the earliest plant lists with prices. It contains a surprising range of fruit forest trees and ornamental shrubs. Also available were seed lists, such as that of Stephen Garraway, of about 1770. These printed catalogues seem plain to us, but were expensive productions in their day, and often continued from year to year. Small local businesses might have had handwritten lists or none at all.
The garden at Park Hill was recreated in an 18th century style. The garden combines “…the useful with the sweet – the profitable with the pleasant…” an idea seldom seen today since kitchen gardens have become purely utilitarian and “mixed gardening” is no longer practical except in some gardens.
The family at Park Hill would have used the garden to grow a wide range of vegetables, particularly salads which reached the height of popularity during the 18th century. The garden would have provided an area for recreation for the family and to grow essential items for the household.
The mistress of the house acted as doctor, nurse, chemist and perfumier in the days before patent medicines and mass produced goods. She made mouthwashes, medicines, disinfectants, perfumes and cosmetics, as well as presiding over the kitchen. In the stillroom she prepared the ingredients taken from roots, skins, leaves and flowers in the garden, drying them and distilling them.
The plants grown in this garden are largely those which would have been found during the 18th century and include many popular 18th-century annuals, such as 10-week stocks, love lies bleeding, sweet peas and marigolds.
The parterre has been adapted from the earlier 1980s version to accommodate later conservatory (1993). Early in the year it is planted with spring bulbs and wallflowers followed by a wide variety of culinary herbs, including, French Sorrel, Rue, Thyme, Greek Oregano, Chives, Winter Savory, Lemon Balm, Rosemary and much more. A kitchen garden outside the Walled Garden produces herbs and some vegetables for our Tea Room.
The Flower Beds
The flower beds are two central beds and edged in box and planted with old-fashioned roses, small shrubs, and herbaceous plants. Old fashioned shrub roses such as the Red Rose of Lancaster have been planted. The petals of these were used to make rosewater and were also used in salads, along with daisies, cowslips, primroses, violets, and marigolds. The buds of the young shoots such as gooseberry, broom and rose were also eaten in salads.
Annuals are added to the borders and the centre is planted with pyramid box. These beds also contain nectar plants for bees such as borage, hyssop and bergamot. Honey provided the main sweetening agent, as sugar was not widely used. Beeswax was used for polish, in various medicines and for candles. Honey was also used as a base for various beverages, including mead,
Fruit and Vegetables
The garden contains some old varieties of vegetables, including lettuce which were widely cultivated in the 18th century; tomatoes were grown for ornament; called love apples they were not widely eaten until the late 19th century. A large range of salads was grown, including sorrel, chervil, lambs’ lettuce, purslane, and chicory. Runner beans what we were then grown for their scarlet flowers.
Fruit trees were trained into various shapes, the most common being fans and espaliers. The morello cherry was cultivated on the north wall, whilst apple, pears, and greengages occupied the others, as they required more warmth from the sun. The garden contains 18th century cultivars of pears. Soft fruit includes redcurrant and gooseberries, which were bottled, baked and made into wine.
The 18th century garden contained sense and colours which have been lost in the quest for larger or brighter flowers; in the case of vegetables and fruit, taste and variety have often been lost in the quest for uniformity of size and resistance to disease.
In the 18th century, professional nursery gardens were rare. People would have acquired new plants by exchange with friends and visitors and they would have saved seed each year from their plants, as well as propagating them from slips and cuttings.