Paradise (Almost) Lost
There was a time, not so long ago, when all was not so ‘rosy in the garden’.
The war years were especially cruel to many of Britain’s great gardens with Wentworth being no exception. Some survived, many were sadly lost, never to be reinstated when their existence was challenged as life changed forever following the war.
Wentworth clung on desperately by its very fingertips, gradually succumbing to the decades of neglect and decay. The garden slept. And then, a tiny chink of light appeared in the darkness.
A large part of Wentworth Garden Centre occupies the site of the great former kitchen garden and pleasure grounds complex of Wentworth Woodhouse built in the late 18th Century by the Fitzwilliam family.
Created under the supervision of renowned York architect John Carr, the kitchen garden’s principal role was to provide an abundance of fresh fruit, herbs, vegetables and cut flowers for the house throughout the year. Foundations for the 12 foot high perimeter walls were begun with the North and South facing walls being designated ‘hot’ walls (they once contained an ingenious system of heated flues). Glasshouses erected against these walls would have supplied the finest and most delicate fruits such as peaches, melons, grapes, pineapples and apricots, a major challenge for gardeners of the day.
By 1850 there were 36 gardeners (with ages ranging from 16-69) working under head gardener Joseph Henderson. It was during this period under the direction of Lady Maud Fitzwilliam (d.1967) wife of the 7th Earl, that the gardens took on the main outlines that still exist today with the addition of pools, cascades, lush planting schemes and the creation of a beautiful rock garden.
Inevitably, much of the cultivated area fell into disrepair after WWII where the gardens had to further endure a merciless open-cast mining assault led by Manny Shinwell in the late 1940’s which took place literally on the back door step of Wentworth Woodhouse.
The creation of the garden centre in 1976 was the garden’s salvation. A continuous programme of investment over the past four decades by ourselves has seen the garden, which upon our arrival was beyond derelict, restored to its former glory. We are committed to further restoration work and development of additional areas, bringing these little known, yet truly beautiful gardens back from the brink.