We are delighted to answer a question that has been asked hundreds of times over the last thirty years..”What is behind that door”, after years of work we are ready to answer, its Athelhampton’s kitchen garden. Its not finished.. rather a work in progress.
The Garden you will see today is essentially the ‘bare bones’ of the original Kitchen Garden. The central pond as axis to the acre square plot is Victorian, with the sundial recently restored. The paths unearthed from beneath moss and soil, covered following the absence of footfall for 30 years.
No early records are known to survive for Athelhamptons Kitchen Garden but through the study of contemporary gardens and indeed the history of Kitchen Gardening in Britain, we can gain a good idea of how the structural lay out would have appeared, including clues left behind by the surviving features; the metal framed walkway, greenhouse, apple trees and of course best of all, childhood memories and family photographs.
There are key factors that play an essential role to guarantee the success of a productive garden. From the late 18th Century, Kitchen Gardens were moved away from the immediate space surrounding the House, partly due to the smell but also for the increasing desire to have ornamental pleasure gardens in their place.
The site chosen would have been an acre to four acres in size, have a south facing aspect with the brick walls running east to west, built slightly longer to maximise south facing wall space for fruit trees. Late varieties were planted on the other walls to extend the crop.
Water was essential, therefore very often a water source would be placed centrally, as we have here. Paths allowed efficient access to beds and crops, dividing the site symmetrically and to compartmentalise planting for a pleasing as well as a practical effect.
By the time this garden was built in the late Victorian Period, Kitchen Gardening in Britain had developed and refined innovative techniques, culminating in this structural format.
The garden was still in use well into the 1970s but no longer running to its productive capacity. As with so many Kitchen Gardens, due to man power and expense the garden ceased to be viable and was closed with only a quarter used by our family as a private space. By then it was known as ‘The Secret Garden’ due to its overgrown and magical appearance.
For a number of years we have planned to regain control of this area, by clearing the enormous brambles, self seeded weeds and saplings. It has taken a year to clear, repair the greenhouse – 1500 pieces of glass – and now to begin replanting the lost structure.
It will be an ongoing project, no doubt a ‘labour of love’, gradually evolving into we hope, a beautiful addition to the existing gardens here at Athelhampton.