Saturday July 28th
The charming gardens at Sion Hill Hall are laid out over 5 acres and perfectly compliment the splendid neo-Georgian architecture of the Edwardian house. After many years of neglect – some areas even grazed by sheep – the now inspiring gardens have been restored and transformed by Michael Mallaby to include an impressive variety of sweeping lawns, landscaped vistas and pathways.
The south front garden displays a formal parterre based on the designs at Chateau de Marly with Baroque statues, clipped hornbeam and yew trees, pink flowering horse chestnut and box hedging. The lawns lead to The Long Walk originally laid out in the 1850’s for Lady Louisa Lascelles, daughter of The 4th Earl of Mansfield, which are now restored to exhibit a delightful double herbaceous border. Here seating can be found for you to rest and absorb the tranquil surroundings. The Long Walk joins the meandering path of The Lower Walk a woodland style garden lightly shaded by mature trees which follows the route of the River Wiske, where Osiers once harvested willow for making baskets. At the end of the walk an intriguing door leads to The Lower Kitchen Garden. An area which is meticulously maintained in a traditional manner to harvest fruit, vegetables, and flowers. Returning towards the house, to the east, lies The Centenary Garden created in 2013 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the completion of the house in 1913. This garden fills with the fragrance of pink perfumed roses, amongst the cherry trees and striking blue delphinium.
The Gardens have been intricately designed and created by multi RHS award-winning landscape architect Alistair Baldwin, along with rose expert Michael Marriott from David Austin Roses and Wynyard Hall’s own dedicated team of gardeners.
From the moment they were first developed in 1822, The Gardens have offered a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. They were originally created by William Sawrey Gilpin who crafted gently curved flowerbeds, raised terrace walks, irregularly shaped shrubberies, and winding paths to form beautiful shapes within the landscape.
Durham historian William Fordyce in 1857 describes the landscape, ‘From the mansion, a broad terraced walk conducts to the gardens, which cover many acres of ground. The front or flower garden is flanked with glass houses, containing rare and exotic flowers and fruits. A broad gravel walk, arched over with roses, leads to the orchard and the dairy – a pretty rustic building. Sloping down towards the lake, extensive pleasure-grounds are intersected with numerous gravel drives and grass rides several miles in extent.
A significant time in the history of The Gardens was during Theresa, Lady Londonderry’s title. Pioneering for her time Theresa re-developed The Gardens in 1912. Along with the re-development Theresa create a garden album which records in great detail the series of gardens she transformed…Beyond the Ratisbon Gates, the Italian Garden produced a stunning effect. A series of carpet beds, densely packed with brightly coloured tender plants and muted foliage provided a superb show. According to Theresa, ‘to sit on the seat under the oak on the rising ground and to look at the brilliant colours displayed in this garden is most satisfying to the eye.’
Theresa also created a series of ornamental gardens, including a rose garden, a lily garden, a thyme walk and a herbaceous broad walk, 270 yards long, bounded by a high yew hedge. In contrast to the formal gardens, the wild garden presented a range of shrubs, plants and bulbs in a natural setting, with grass paths, known as ‘the garden river’. The final words of her journal demonstrate Theresa’s love of this area. ‘Wild garden, grow! To me your paths are memories and every flower a friend.’ The Gardens were not only created for appearance, they had a purpose, which was to sustain the great house.
The area now known as the Walled Garden, the site for Sir John Hall’s Rose Garden, was originally, the kitchen garden. The Head Gardener’s cottage stands in the corner. A bell hanging at a central point high up on the wall adjoining his house marked the gardeners’ day. Beds edged with box hedges were used for the cultivation of apple trees and vegetables. Pears, apricots, peaches and cherries were trained on the walls. Soft fruits, including vines, peaches and figs were grown in glasshouses.
At the turn of the 20th century, visitors flocked to the gardens, which were open to the public three days a week for a considerable part of the year however closed shortly before the war. In 1987, as well as embarking on major restoration work in the house, Sir John Hall turned his attention to the grounds. Consultants suggested the restoration of the Walled Garden and Italianate Gardens, plans which are now coming to fruition, thanks to the determination and vision of Sir John and his family.
The Walled Garden itself, dates back to 1822. It was originally created by William Sawrey Gilpin, who crafted gently curved flowerbeds, raised terrace walks, irregularly shaped shrubberies, and winding paths to form beautiful shapes within the landscape. It provided a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, forming a beautiful visitor attraction until it closed shortly before the war. The restoration and opening of the Walled Garden in 2015, saw this legacy reinstated, as part of Sir John Hall’s personal ambition to create the most exquisite rose garden in the UK.