On a glorious sunny afternoon our group enjoyed a very interesting and informative colourful slide presentation on the history of the Estate of Luton Hoo through the ages until the present day. Originally designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1763 as a unique 5 acre octagonal walled garden for the then owner the 3rd Earl of Bute.
The Estate then passed through 2 more family groups, the Leighs in the 19th century and the Wehners and Philips in the 20th century. Sadly the walled garden fell into decline from the 1980’s but is now going through a great restoration aided by around 150 dedicated local volunteers.
Many areas within the garden are undergoing continuous maintenance with plots being weeded and brought back to life with vegetable crops (pumpkins,sweetcorn, beans, courgettes) sown together with many shrubs and plants of yesteryear discovered from old plans through diligent research by a dedicated team of volunteers.
Several propagation greenhouses have been renovated and now growing melons (in netting) courgettes and cucumbers. The long conservatory has a series of grape vines on one side and a wall of figs along the wall. Behind the wall are a series of rooms for tool cleaning and storage, a room for mushroom growing and washing of vegetables ready for service in the mansion’s kitchens. Cut flowers were also supplied to the house each day, the responsibility of the head gardener who was also responsible for the arrangements too!
15 to 17 under gardeners were employed and all lived together in a house on the estate overlooked by the head gardener’s own house who kept an eye on them for any misbehaviour! Especially as the dairy maids lived close by in a another house. The under gardeners were responsible for the upkeep of their own standard apparel. Boots highly polished were inspected by the head gardener every morning before work commenced at 7.00am. Training at Luton Hoo was a very prestigious posting as it was regarded as second only to Kew which would greatly enhance their future careers.
Our group were also able to view inside the dairy which is under restoration. The large marble slab in the centre of the room was recently used as a morgue in the recent film, Bleak House!
The Walled Garden is open to the public every Wednesday throughout the summer until 26 September between 10.30am-4.00pm. There is a £5.00 entry fee. Current produce grown in the garden is on sale, also honey and honeycomb from the Estate’s own bee hives.
For those who have never visited it really is a worthwhile outing. Those that have not visited in recent times will be amazed by the progress that has been made over the last few years. Click to see photos
To complete all the renovations a sum of 8 million pounds is thought to be the amount needed! Lottery winners are very welcome to apply here!
For further information visit: http://www.lutonhooestate.co.uk
…and Volunteers always welcome!