Welcome from your new editor to the latest edition of our Newsletter. As usual it consists of a range of articles related to gardens and gardening matters. Our Historic Gardener describes a Roman method of growing vines whilst I review travels to gardens at home and further afield to Italy. We have an update on our educational grants. Two contributors request assistance from members about two under-researched types of garden in Northamptonshire, and there is some interesting updates on the Victorian garden at Towcester featured in our last newsletter. Overall, then, a wide range of interest, which I hope you will enjoy.
In this issue: War Memorial Parks – Growing Vines using a Roman Pot – Education Update – Adrian’s Travels – Walled Kitchen Garden Project – Elm Lodge, Towcester , an Update – Wicksteed Park EH Register listing – Association of Gardens Trust
WAR MEMORIAL PARKS
War memorials made after the First World War took many different forms including Village Halls and Community Buildings as well as the familiar Crosses and Memorials in and near Churches. One form of Memorial was the creation of a Park or Garden. Some of these have become well known such as the one at Tring in Hertfordshire and English Heritage has recently published an information leaflet about them. However, no one is sure that any list of them all is complete and consequently our own Northamptonshire Gardens Trust would like to compile a full list for the county.
One example is to be found in Thrapston. A short way out of the centre along the old road to Huntingdon is to be found Thrapston Peace Memorial Park. The site was purchased by the Town Council in 1920 as a memorial to those who fell in the First World War. Before that the site was known as Kiln Close because there had previously been Lime Kilns on the site. The park is relatively small but as it is on sloping ground it does provide attractive views over Thrapston and its Church, and out into the surrounding countryside. It is mainly park type grassland with specimen trees and a children’s play area along one side. It is completely informal and a very pleasant place to go for a stroll or sit down. There is also a rather curious Millennium Peace Stone.
After the Second World War Thrapston created another site as a memorial – this time in the form of Playing Fields. As there are also walks, both around former gravel pits and along former railway lines, the town is a good place to spend a morning or afternoon exploring.
This is one example of a Memorial Park in our County. There must be others and we would like to compile an accurate list. Therefore, if you know of any in your area would you please tell us. It is local knowledge like this which is one of the Trust’s main assets.
David Bond (David@dbond.me.uk)
GROWING VINES USING A ROMAN POT
I met Chris Lydamore at Piddington Roman Villa during the Excavation Open Day where I was presenting a Roman Gardening display. He had made a few roman flowerpots based on the one found at Fishbourne. He gave me some pots on the condition that I grew a vine in a pot and wrote up the result.
I carried out the propagation at The Prebendal Manor, Nassington, Northamptonshire, where I have created a medieval garden. In the small vineyard that I planted, the grapevines are trained up poles in the same manner as the Romans are known to have grown them.
The Roman pot has a hole in the base and more holes around the lower part, just above the base. This allows for good drainage, especially if the pot is left to stand on the ground.
A method for growing a new vine was described by Marcus Cato in his book, ‘On Agriculture.’ (Cato and Varro, Loeb Classical Library, 2006, pp 69 and 113). Cato describes how to propagate fruit trees and vines by using either baskets or pots with holes in the bottom. The branch is pushed through the bottom and the container filled with soil. The container can be on the ground or on a pole next to the mother plant.
I went down to the mixed coppice that I had planted at Prebendal Manor to provide wood for the manor, where I cut some willow withies. Pliny said that you should grow coppiced willows to produce poles to support the vines and even states how much land you need for a specific number of vines. The willow also supplies withies to tie the vines to the poles. Once they have dried the withies can be stored, but must be soaked in water until they become flexible again before they can be used.
I had propagated vines using this method before after reading how the Victorian gardeners trained a vine stem through the bottom of a pot to make a new plant. The plant would be allowed to produce a bunch of grapes and the pot and plant would be placed on the table in front of the diner, who would have their own grapevine to eat from during the meal. I discovered that even outside you could easily produce a fruiting plant in one year.
In the spring just as the buds were beginning to form, I found a strongly growing vine with some long stems. Using my Roman style pruning knife, I partly cut beneath a node as this encourages rooting. I put a small piece of twig in the cut to keep it open. The vine will grow roots whether you make the cut or not, but it does speed up the rooting process. I pushed the stem through one of the side holes in the pot and positioned the stem until I could keep the pot close to the plant and its post.
Prebendal Manor has a mole problem, and on this occasion it was beneficial as it meant that I had some friable soil from the molehills. Incidentally, Pliny also records a method to kill your moles. Take a whole nut, drill through the shell and remove the kernel. Make a mixture of resin and sulphur and put it into the shell. Light the mix and place the nut in the mole run. The sulphur dioxide will spread through the tunnels and either kill the moles or drive them away.
Having filled the pot with soil I tied it to the post using a willow withy. The method of tying is easy; place the withy behind the post, place the vine in front of it. Cross the withy ends close to the vine, being careful not to damage it and then twist the withy ends together to make a tight twist. Push one end over the top or through a gap and trim the ends. The tie will stay in place for over a year and is less likely to break than a string. During the Roman period a textile string would have been costly and time consuming to produce. The withies are free. Pliny also suggests using willow bark if you are keeping the withies to make baskets.
Near Boroughbridge and not far from Ripon in Yorkshire is Newby Hall. It was built on the Newby estate in the 1680s by Sir Edward Blackett. Later the estate was bought by the Weddell family and the house was enlarged and improved in the style of Christopher Wren by William Weddell following his Grand Tour in 1765-66. Much impressed, he returned with 19 chests of classical sculptures and other trophies. He had also purchased a superb set of Gobelin tapestries.
He commissioned John Carr to build a statue gallery with a wonderful rotunda roof to display his collection to full advantage. In 1767 Robert Adam completed the new rooms, incorporating his usual fantastically decorated walls and ceilings. I have seen quite a number of Adam’s works, but I found this house the most breathtaking of all. Visiting it is a must.
Outside the gardens are also superb. In 1960, Robert Compton ( I think he was also known as Robin) inherited the property and he and his wife Jane set about improving the gardens. As I remember it, for those who are members of NCCPG. (now known as Plant Heritage), Robin was, for many years their President, but he sadly died in 2009. His son, Richard, now owns the property and with his wife, Lucinda, has continued to build up their superb garden, making it a garden of 25 acres for all the family to visit.
The main feature is the lawn, 300 yards long, sweeping down to the river Ure. This is lined with the most wonderfully wide herbaceous borders against a backcloth of formal hedging. These borders were in full glory, quite perfect, when I saw them in two separate years in July and August. Along the river at the end are a miniature railway, a cafe and an interesting art gallery which houses various changing exhibitions.
Apart from all these, one can walk in park and woodland areas, which are extensive. There are two compartmental formal gardens, one an autumn garden and the other of roses with a bonus known as Sylvia’s garden. This is a white garden with touches of pink and mauve with lovely fragrances in the air.
For those who delight in rock plants, they are tucked away through a grove of trees and well worth the division.
I recommend Newby to you, but you will need the best part of a day to visit it. I consider it is expensive to visit, but where isn’t these days, and if you belong to the HHA it would be useful
Various special events take place each year, so it may be worth enquiring beforehand to check what you should attend, or avoid! The plant sales area, Gilbeys, had some interesting different plants to take home.
Tel: 01423 322583 [opt 3] www.Newbyhall.com, Postcode HG4 5AJ. Dogs in the park only!
RIPLEY CASTLE AND GARDENS
Not that far from Newby Hall in the centre of the old village of Ripley is the ancient and castellated historic Ripley Castle. It commands a superb position, looking down over a curve in the river Nidd. This is the 700 year old home of the Ingilby family, which is an interesting stronghold, in complete contrast to the 18th century beauty of Newby.
One can walk along a terrace and down into the river valley or continue along to the walled kitchen garden. This has a well-planted herbaceous border full of colour. There is a hothouse, not long restored, and well stocked. One of their specialities is a vegetable garden stocked with unusual varieties and a small orchard.
Their woodland walks are full of thousands of spring flowering bulbs, according to their enthusiastic lady gardener with whom I got chatting to. So, overall, another interesting place worth visiting.
Tel:01423 770152 www. ripleycastle.co.uk Member of HHA
It must have been ten years ago or more that, while wandering around Chelsea, we espied in the distance a hat of definite distinction. A closer examination showed that it belonged to Suzzana Walton, the widow of William, who was publicising her garden in Ischia, a small island in the bay of Naples. We dutifully bought a signed copy of her guide, the reading of which led us to promise a visit as soon as possible. In the event this turned out to be another ten years, even if it was well worth the wait.
So there we were travelling on the boat to Ischia on a Saturday morning in June. A bit silly really when you consider that this was a key time for holidaymakers to travel to the island with very large suitcases. But we survived and on arrival took a taxi for the universal 20euros to the top of the garden. Suzanna was Argentinian and this very soon showed in the sharp and exotic way that tropicality ruled in this micro climate in the hills above the beach. We walked down slowly and the photos show us why -lotus flowers, orchids, water rills and even gleaming green frogs.
Suzanna and William are now long gone, but at least their memory lives on in this beautiful, living garden.
WALLED KITCHEN GARDEN PROJECT
Do you know of a Walled Kitchen Garden in Your Area? The walled kitchen gardens of Northamptonshire are a neglected area of research. As a member of both the Northamptonshire Gardens Trust and Northamptonshire Industrial Archaeology Group, I have decided to research these gardens both as they were originally created and as they are today. Typically the gardens will have belonged to large “country houses”, Halls, Manor Houses, Vicarages and other similarly large properties. In some cases the walled kitchen gardens have been used for housing development, others have swimming pools, tennis courts and some may even still be used for horticultural purposes of some sort. Whatever their current use, in many cases they still have at least some original features remaining, such as their distinctive high walls, which indicate their original purpose.
Through this short note I am asking NGT members to contact me if they know of a walled kitchen garden in their area of Northamptonshire – either existing, derelict or ‘lost’.
As an initial and ongoing part of my research I would like to create an online gazetteer of as many walled kitchen gardens as possible. If you have any information, please send me an email to,
UNEXPECTED PUBLICITY FOR ONE OF NORTHAMPTONSHIRE’S ICONIC BUILDINGS
I was surprised to see an image I instantly recognised in the September 2014 Issue of MOJO magazine. Thomas Tresham’s Triangular Lodge was featured in an advertisement for a CD by the band Temples.
According to Wikipedia, Temples are an English rock band formed in Kettering in 2012 by singer-guitarist James Edward Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Edward James Walmsley, both born in Kettering. They have received considerable press attention during their short existence and have been cited by Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher as the best new band in Britain.
They have recently completed a US tour and commence a UK tour in November.
COPY OF THE REGISTER FOR WICKSTEED PARK FROM THE ENGLISH HERITAGE REGISTER OF PARKS AND GARDENS OF SPECIAL HISTORIC INTEREST
Wicksteed Park GD3398 Grade II Designated 26/4/2001
An early C20 public amusement or leisure park laid out for Charles Wicksteed and opened in 1921, with formal elements set in an informal amusement park dominated by a large lake. It was the first such park in the United Kingdom, in which Wicksteed installed substantial amounts of play equipment supplied from his own factory.
In 1876 Charles Wicksteed (1847‑1931) founded an engineering company in Kettering, Charles Wicksteed and Company, which prospered such that Wicksteed became a wealthy businessman. In 1913 he bought a parcel of agricultural land south-east of Kettering and formed the Wicksteed Village Trust. His intention was to provide a model village for the working classes at below-average rents, offering generous gardens and a large open public space for recreation. A 1914 plan exists of the proposed Barton Seagrave Garden Suburb Estate, prepared by the local architects Gotch and Saunders, showing a substantial lake flanked by housing and a park and playing fields. Following the First World War public housing became the responsibility of local authorities, so Wicksteed chose instead to concentrate on the creation of the park for public use. The park was to provide a free playground and sports facilities for family enjoyment, funded by other facilities within the park, such as refreshments and outdoor features, for which a small charge was made.
In 1917 the first playground equipment was installed, designed and built by Wicksteed’s engineering company. A 12ha lake, fed by the Ise Brook, was constructed by 1921, the year that the park was officially opened. In 1922 work began on a Pavilion and Theatre building towards the centre of the park, these being completed in 1923, followed by the adjacent Rose Garden, laid out in 1924. A water chute, bandstand, and fountain were built in 1926. In 1928 Wicksteed bought Barton Seagrave Hall for £6000.
Some housing was built around the western edge of the park by the Trust, including in 1921 prefabricated concrete bungalows in Paradise Lane, the earliest buildings of this construction type. Further prefabricated concrete bungalows were built in 1930, on the eastern boundary close to the lake. A model railway track was built around the edge of the lake in 1931. Following Wicksteed’s death that year the park continued in the hands of the Trustees, and further features were added, particularly play equipment and facilities for recreational activities. After the Second World War the park was used as an example by Professor Holford during the planning of the New Towns, to show that a town could create parks and playgrounds which, after the initial outlay, could be run at no cost to the rate payers (The Wicksteed Story).
The park continues in public use, owned by Wicksteed Village Trust (2001).
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
Wicksteed Park lies at the south-east edge of Kettering, on the west edge of Barton Seagrave village. The c 45ha site is bounded to the north by the A6003 Barton Road, to the west by C20 housing, including the 1920s Paradise Lane, and to the south by land laid out as a miniature golf course and agricultural land. The southern part of the east boundary is marked by the River Ise, beyond which lies open agricultural land. The northern part of the east boundary is marked by a track, beyond which lies Castle Field, containing the earthwork remains of moats, fishponds, and the shrunken medieval village (scheduled ancient monument). The land is elevated in the western section of the site, with a gentle slope running south-east from the Pavilion and Rose Garden down towards the lake in the Ise valley below.
The setting is partly urban, with the remains of Barton Seagrave Hall’s landscape park and gardens adjacent to the north-east. The landscape of the Hall was laid out in the late C18 and early C19 with advice from Humphry Repton (1752‑1818). A Red Book dated April 1794 details his suggestions for the site (British Library). The land which Wicksteed Park occupies was until 1913 part of the Barton Seagrave Hall estate.
Views extend beyond the park north-east towards Barton Seagrave Hall and its park and gardens. Further views extend east and south-east across the site and beyond to distant agricultural land and woodland. All these views are particularly prominent from the Pavilion and Rose Garden.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The principal approach is from the town to the north-west, via Barton Road. A gateway gives access at the centre of the north boundary, from which a drive extends south to the south-east front of the Pavilion, overlooking the Rose Garden to the south-east. From here the drive continues south-west to a car park at the south-west side of the Pavilion.
A further entrance to the park lies at the junction of the A509 Pytchley Road with Barton Road, 500m north-west of the Pavilion. The entrance, set back off the road, is marked by a two-storey lodge to the south. Stone gate piers with ball finials, supporting wooden gates, flank the entrance, these in turn flanked by further, smaller piers in similar style on which are hung pedestrian gates. The gateway gives access to a c 350m long drive flanked by a broad beech avenue which leads south-east across the park parallel with the north boundary to join the main drive 150m north of the Pavilion. A large octagonal shelter with a pyramidal tiled roof supported by brick piers stands to the south of the avenue, c 150m north-west of the Pavilion. This approach was formerly the main entrance to the park from Kettering.
The Pavilion stands towards the centre of the park, overlooking the Rose Garden and beyond this the shallow slope leading down to the lake to the east. The Pavilion stands on the site of a building erected in the 1920s which was subsequently enlarged. The central block is of two storeys, with, on the north-west side, a clock tower rising above it. The Pavilion provides large reception rooms and a theatre for various types of gatherings. To the north-west of the Pavilion stand various other structures, including service buildings and a compound containing large items of leisure equipment.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS
Wicksteed Park was laid out as a landscaped public park in which amusements were provided for visitors. It is dominated by two major features: the formal Rose Garden to the south-east of the Pavilion, and the large informal lake adjacent to the east boundary, these being set within informal parkland containing recreation and amusement facilities.
The Rose Garden is divided into two terraces, the upper one lying alongside the south-east front of the Pavilion, from which it is separated by the drive. The upper terrace is laid to lawn enclosed by a perimeter path, with a central stone-edged flower bed (formerly a pond and fountain, 1926). At the centre of the south-east edge a stone-balustraded promontory, formerly the site of a bandstand, overlooks the lower terrace and lake beyond. Paths lead south-east along the outer sides of the upper terrace, giving access to the lower terrace on which is laid out the Rose Garden. The area is laid out with geometric panels of lawn divided by gravel paths, at the centre of which is a circular sunken feature with a central stone monument. The borders within this feature were formerly laid out with rose beds which now (2001) contain seasonal bedding. At the corners of the lower terrace lie shrub beds planted with tall evergreens. The lawns are edged with dome-shaped clipped evergreens. At the centre of the south-east edge stands a stone memorial to Charles Wicksteed’s dog, Jerry, which disappeared in 1928. The terrace is bounded by clipped yew hedges, beyond which views extend over the park to the countryside beyond.
The path on the north-east side of the Rose Garden continues south-east to the north end of the lake, being carried over the lake by a hump-backed bridge. From here it continues eastwards, giving access to features on the east side of the lake and the line of prefabricated, semi-detached Lakeside Bungalows. To the north and east the Bungalows are enclosed by woodland. An early C20, two-storey brick water chute building stands close by, between the lake and the Bungalows. The northern tip of the lake contains two islands and is used for boating. The remainder of the lake, also used for boating, contains several islands and is largely enclosed by the model railway (1931), and bounded to the east by a narrow strip of trees. The River Ise enters the site from Barton Seagrave park at the north-east corner of the Wicksteed Park, feeding the lake, alongside the east edge of which it runs before leaving at the south-east corner of the park.
The remains of several formal ponds lie on the west bank of the lake, including two circular former lily ponds (OS 1938) and a semicircular paddling pool, now (2001) a sand pit. Close by to the south-west stands a large open shelter, in similar style to that south of the north-west drive. South of the shelter lies the c 0.5ha oval model yacht pond (early C20), now (2001) drained. To the west of this lies the oval former cycle track or velodrome (1930), now enclosing large items of leisure equipment.
The rest of the park is laid to lawn and planted with scattered clumps of trees and singles. Formerly tennis courts were laid out in the north-west corner (OS 1938). A miniature golf course lies to the south-west of the park (outside the area here registered).
The Wicksteed Story, exhibition text and illustrations, Wicksteed Park, (2000)
L Brandon-Jones and N Dayton, 2nd Draft Management Plan for lake restoration project Wicksteed Village Trust Estate (2001)
S Brown, Wicksteed Park, Historic Appraisal, (March 2001) [copy on EH file]
Gotch and Saunders, Barton Seagrave Garden Suburb Estate, 1914 (Wicksteed Village Trust)
OS 6″ to 1 mile: 3rd edition revised 1938
H Repton, Red Book for Barton Seagrave, 1794 (British Library exported MSS, RP100)
NORTHAMPTONSHIRE GARDENS TRUST
Organisation of the Trust
Following the last Annual General Meeting, the following officers have been appointed:-
President: Susie Pasley-Tyler
Chairman: David Bond
Vice Chairman: Gwen Tobin
Treasurer, company secretary: Rod Conlon
Membership: Norma Pearson
Secretary: Jenny Burt
Events: Jenny Burt
Catering manager: Isabel Gillett
Newsletter editors: Adrian Smith and Rod Conlon
Conservation: Michael Brown and all the members of the Management Council.
We endeavour to keep good relationships with local authorities and owners and to watch out for any threats to the historic designed landscapes. Tell us if you have any concerns.
Surveys and research: Chris Addison (Historic Environment office)
Education: Jenny Burt and Gwen Tobin
Website: Elizabeth Taylor
AGT representatives: Chris Addison and Adrian Smith
A Company Limited by Guarantee
Registered Charity No. 1055482
MEMBER OF THE ASSOCIATION OF GARDENS TRUSTS