You probably know the walled garden, tucked away as it is at the north end of Preston Park. You’ll know that it is a very special place, full of gorgeous plants. It is lovingly cared for throughout the year by George Harris who is helped by Clare Hughes.
But did you know that the site itself – the original church and surrounding buildings – has a history going back more than 1000 years? The walled garden is first recorded in an image dated 1617. You can see that the layout is more-or-less how it is today, a parterre style which was popular in the 1500’s.
The walls to the south, east and north of the garden date from the 16th century and are listed.
The current gardens were designed by the Stanfords, who owned and resided at Preston Manor. They also had a villa in Madeira and were very interested in plants. They arranged for plants to be brought over from Madeira and replanted in the walled garden. Which is why the garden has a vaguely exotic feel and is home to some interesting and unusual plants and shrubs.
When the garden was bequeathed by the Stanfords to Brighton Corporation (as it then was) in 1933 it was with the stipulation that the garden should not be altered from how it was when the last Stanford – Ellen – died. Since then care has been taken to ensure that any plants introduced to the garden are historically accurate. It has been said that the ‘ebullient, informal planting . . . is distinctly Edwardian. .’
The garden used to be a bit bigger than you see it today, with more lily ponds. The London to Brighton road was widened in the 1882 and 1972 which meant that the western wall was rebuilt to accommodate the new road.
About 20 years’ ago the garden was awarded Heritage Lottery funding. It was repaired and restored, and the role of chief gardener established.
On Saturday 22 June you’ll be very welcome to take a closer look at the garden and speak to the volunteers who, every Tuesday morning, work alongside George to help care for this wonderful space.
Thanks to Sue Shepherd for this post