Sunday, 15 August 2010

From the archives: Plantation Garden, Norwich

One of my favourite gardens, this urban oasis is always worth another visit. It's also taking part in Heritage Open Days on 11 September, when you can enjoy tea and cake on the lawn.

As someone whose mere touch seems to make plants wither and die, I always admire those who manage to create attractive landscapes. I was especially impressed by the Plantation Garden in Norwich: this Victorian quarry garden is being beautifully restored to create an astonishing secret space in the heart of the city.

The site was formerly a chalk quarry, with two kilns to convert the chalk into lime for building mortar. However, when cabinet-maker and upholsterer Henry Trevor bought the land in 1856, he transformed it into a garden complete with all the most fashionable Victorian features: terraces, palms, carpet beds, water features, shrubberies, follies and ruins. After all, Trevor's furniture business depended upon his awareness of the latest fashions.

Trevor planned the garden himself, and the fountain in particular is unique. He also used various building materials, creating intriguing features, detail in the garden's walls, and 'ruins'. Gardeners were employed to maintain the planting and the extensive glasshouses.

As well as enjoying the garden himself, Trevor welcomed its use for charitable purposes including flower shows and bazaars. It was overlooked by his villa, now the Beeches Hotel.

Sadly, the garden began to change soon after his death: the palm house was dismantled by 1912. Its decline accelerated after the Second World War, and when restoration began in 1980 it had become completely overgrown. The Plantation Garden Preservation Trust, though, is doing amazing work in recovering this very special Victorian space. Although some features such as the palm house, with its boilers and hot water pipes, are still absent, the garden's style and atmosphere are once more apparent.

Practical info:
Earlham Road, Norwich (entrance beside the Beeches Hotel).
Open daily, 9am to 6pm.
Teas, with homemade cake, are served on summer Sundays, 2.30-4.30pm.
Admission: £2
Much of the garden is wheelchair-accessible.


Hels said...

I must tell you how much I enjoyed this post, and you will soon see why. When I was reading about Henry Trevor's gardens, it felt eerily similar to my beloved Rosherville Gardens near Gravesend.

A Victorian businessman, who had made his money in something totally unconnected to gardening, leased a chalk pit and converted it into the most wondrous garden. It was full of plants, trees, water features and every other item of interest that a Victorian mind could think of.

Then tastes changed by World War One and either the heirs weren't as interested as dad or the public was moving onto other ways to spend their leisure time.

At least the Plantation Garden in Norwich has been largely restored. Rosherville was destroyed.

thanks Caroline

CarolineLD said...

Thank you, and I did enjoy your post on Rosherville Gardens: there's something fascinating about the great pleasure gardens (and their decline). Indeed, the new Museum of London galleries use a pleasure garden theme for displaying the costume collection.

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