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A Brief History

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.

The first evidence of a garden at Wentworth comes from a 16th Century painting of Thomas Wentworth (d. 1587) but many of the details are lost to us until records begin to emerge just after the existing Woodhouse was completed in the 1730’s.  It is in the period from 1750 until 1786, when the gardens were formally reorganised into a kitchen garden, that the first references to seed, plant and tree suppliers occur.

Created under the supervision of renowned York architect John Carr, the kitchen gardens 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 the second  world  war, until the creation of the garden centre in 1976. A continuous programme of investment over the past 30 years by ourselves has seen the garden (which was initially 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.