By Tony Overland and Pamela Holt
Friday 11th August Broomfield Hall
The Guild’s visit to Broomfield Hall was the first part of a wonderful weekend of gardens and historic buildings in the Matlock area organized by Jean and Rod Peach. Broomfield Hall Campus is part of Derby College, a further education establishment that provides a wide range of courses for some 26,000 people. Broomfield was the county’s agricultural college and in the recent past merged with Derby College to become a centre for the land-based industries.
We were met by Head Gardener Samantha Harvey (Kew 2008) and welcomed by the principal Eileen Swan who gave a brief résumé of the courses at the campus, she mentioned there was plenty of interest about the various options available, although sometimes there was less response for the horticultural courses.
Charles Edward Schwind bought the estate in 1870 and by 1880 he had the Hall erected, with Victorian Style gardens. The gardens were designed and laid out by William Barron (the inventor of the Barron tree transplanting machine) with, a walled garden, sunken garden, paths and extensive grounds.
On 1 March 1830 Barron was appointed Gardener to Charles Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Harrington, at Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire and instructed to create a new garden. He created what was to be the first garden in Britain to have ‘rooms’, each a theatrical set-piece dedicated to the themes of chivalry and love. The most striking were the Alhambra garden with its Moorish pavilion and the Mon Plaisir garden, with its bowers, topiary, statues and monkey puzzle trees. After five years of drainage and earth moving the Earl was impatient to have a more mature landscape. This may well have led Barron to design and build his large tree trans-planting machine; one of which remains at Kew to this day.
After the death of the Fifth Earl in 1851, Barron bought 40 acres for a nursery site; he quickly gained a reputation for plant sales, landscape gardening and the transplanting of large trees. There are 25 acres of Victorian gardens and woodlands at Broomfield Hall, we entered through an extensive nursery with plants for sale. Adjacent to this is a large area of glass for plant production and student training maintained by students and volunteers. The garden after a long period of neglect is now, with the skill and energy of Samantha Harvey and a large team of volunteers undergoing restoration. Key areas of the grounds have been reconstructed thanks to a £4,000 grant received last year from the Stanley Smith (UK) Horticultural Trust.
There are so many different areas like the impressive Long Border, now in the process of being planted. The Japanese garden is to be restored, and a new Rose Garden will be established. In fact, even today the influence of Barron’s design found at Elvaston Hall, can be seen in the series of enclosures throughout the grounds at Broomfield Hall. There is a Parterre Garden, where cool colours will be used to fill the beds. Further on there was an interesting array of different kinds of hedges, where the students can learn to prune. Also along the woodland walks can be seen specimen trees including Davidia involucrata and Nothofagus dombeyi. My particular favourite piece of design was a sheltered area of sub-tropical plantings featuring different Ricinus communis varieties, Canna indica, Tetrapanax papyrifer, Penesetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’, Musa basjoo and many Amaranthus varieties including ‘Hot Biscuits’
Overall our visit here was a most enjoyable prelude to an outstanding weekend of venues with some beautiful gardens and good company.
Saturday 12th August
A lovely sunny day greeted us as we parked opposite Haddon Hall near Bakewell and followed Jean Peach across the road to meet our guide Gail who conducted us through the private home and garden of Lord and Lady Edward Manners. Starting in the courtyard we learned that the origins of Haddon Hall go back 860 years with only two families; the Vernons and Manners living here. Prior to this William the Conqueror owned the property with mention in the Domesday Book. After 1640 the house was abandoned for the Duke of Rutland to make his ancestral home at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.
Although some walls are castellated, the house has never had military involvement which has helped retention of many original features. Moving into the oldest part the Chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas, we examined the fine wall murals and sculptures. Other wall paintings were uncovered by the 9th Duke in the 1920s following restoration of the house. Next, the medieval kitchens with original 13th century oven and chopping boards. Several 14th century dole cupboards where examined where surplus food was placed and beggars could insert their hand through a hole for sustenance.
In the Great Hall hangs a huge tapestry from 1480 gifted by Henry VIII for help at the battle of Boswell. The long table has an unattached top board which was turned over after meals allowing dogs to clear up leftovers-the origin of the phrase ‘tables turned’. The Tudor parlour with the Vernon crest and a fine boar carving is frequently used for private wedding services, the Great Chamber with its Italianate plasterwork frieze and Elizabethan Long Gallery were all visited. Here we learned of Bombay Glass created by Robert Smythe. The diamond-leaded panes appeared distorted but in fact deliberately made in wavy panels to scatter the light into the room. From here the party stepped out onto the terrace one of several which lead down to the River Wye below. The soil is limestone and very free draining with massive retaining terrace walls where a large collection of roses are sited.
We marvelled that the head gardener Jane managed the grounds almost single handed, taking six months to prune all the climbing roses. One part-time gardener and three volunteers complete the workforce to cope with hedges, lawns, bowling green, cutting garden and topiary. Arne Maynard was called in to design the upper terrace which was suffering from rose sickness. The original Bowling Green now sports a knot garden and small lawn with formal clipped purple beech squares surrounding a pool.
At the conclusion of our tour [then] President Alan Stuttard presented our guide Gail with the book Kew Plant Hunters along with our thanks. We then wandered along the top terrace and thence to the delightful tea rooms where we took lunch before driving off to our next location.
Anita and Jeremy Butt greeted us in their idiosyncratic garden with a few words on its development. Anita had taught at Broomfield Hall prior to retirement and both are keen gardeners buying extra land to enlarge their garden and until quite recently. opened for the National Gardens Scheme. We were invited to explore and then return to the tables and chairs set out on the lawn for delicious tea and cake. Much of the garden is on a slope with a ravine below and running stream spanned by rustic bridges. Various quirky sculptures in wood and ceramic with a fascinating zip wire with suspended seats strung between some conifers were all tried out. Many fine trees were admired from Eucalyptus sps., Sorbus aria`Mitchelli`, Alnus glutinosa`Imperialis`, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Liriodendron tulipifera `Variegata`, to Liquidambar styraciflua and unusual plants like exotic Begonia, Fascicularia and Eucomis planted outside. Various shrub and herbaceous borders together with a fruit and vegetable area made for a fascinating afternoon.
That evening was a continuation of laughter and enjoyable chatter as members partook of an excellent buffet supper provided by our hosts Rod and Jean Peach on their terrace above Matlock.
Sunday 13th August
Another glorious day this time at Chatsworth where the gardener in charge of the walled gardens, Faye Tuffrey, took time to explain what we were seeing as she expertly guided us around. The garden staff of 24 include a florist team and two teams to cover ornamentals, production, glasshouses and flowers. There are three students (including an apprentice) from the Professional Gardeners Guild and Historic, Botanic and English Heritage. Separate staff manage the wider estate.
We learnt how William Cavendish married Bess of Hardwick in the 1550s, creating orchards, fish ponds and Queen Mary’s Bower, a viewing platform when Mary Queen of Scots came in 1570. The Duke of Devonshire redesigned the garden in 1699 much influenced by the Dutch. When Capability Brown was employed much of this was swept away creating the grass swards and cascade in 1720.
Joseph Paxton at 23 years of age arrived as Head Gardener in 1826 having been spotted at the RHS Chiswick garden by the 6th Duke. Many glasshouses were erected during his time in office from restoring the stone built Camellia house of 1697, the wall heated Paxtons Case, a house with sliding panels, the 340ft long Conservative wall with fruit trees to orchid and tropical houses. We were able to wander through some houses normally closed to the public and were warned not to touch the luscious Muscat of Alexandria grapes being raised for show. A special house was built to grow the Victoria Amazonica in 1801 which flowered ahead of the plant at Kew. The orchid house has three heat regimes to suit the various plants many of which were collected in India by John Gibson and named after Paxton and the Duke in the1890s. Between 1836-41 Joseph Paxton designed and built the Great Stove with ingenious guttering, ridge and furrow glazing and tunnels; one with a tramway to supply the coal to the underground boiler, another of nearly a furlong to take smoke and smuts up the hillside. With 52,287 square feet of glass and covering ¾ acre, this was then the largest free standing glasshouse in the world. World War1 took its toll on the gardens and plants due to lack of staff and coal to heat the glasshouses and by 1920 the decision was taken to demolish the Great Stove House.
We were horrified to learn that this was accomplished by was using dynamite! Today a yew maze occupies the former site. The current three-acre kitchen gardens were created from an area originally used for grazing horses. The vegetables, fruit and flowers are used in the house with any excess sold in the shops. At lunch time members were free to visit the house or explore the extensive gardens and grounds, rock garden, arboretum and water features.
A very full and enjoyable weekend made possible by the meticulous planning undertaken by Rod and Jean Peach. They are deservedly our first new members under the new rules of the Kew Guild.