In the summer, children will enjoy the Garden of the Imagination in the upper kitchen garden as well as the underground tunnels and the gardener’s bothy.
Discover the Peach House and the Orangery in the Walled Garden. Built in 1777, the Orangery has recently been repaired.
Explore the Physic Garden with its vegetable beds, orchard and bee hives.
Don’t miss the Auricula Theatre in the Flower Garden.
There’s also a 2 mile walk around the estate.
National Trust Members visit for free.
An Augustinian priory was founded on the site between 1115 and 1120. Following the Dissolution, the Abbey was given to the Earl of Warwick. Calke passed through several hands until 1622 when it was bought by Henry Harpur.
In 1702, George London of the Brompton Nurseries was paid £2 3 shillings to create a design for the garden. Further work was carried out in 1760s by William Emes. The kitchen gardens were built between 1772-74 and include an Upper Kitchen Garden (now a ‘Garden of Imagination’) and the Flower Garden.
A Tunnel c70 meters long was built north of the Orangery in 1815. This allowed gardeners to bring produce to the Abbey without being seen walking through the pleasure grounds.
In 1981, Charles Harpur-Crewe suddenly died and his brother, Henry, was landed with an inheritance tax bill of £8 million. After a prolonged battle with the Treasury and with the support of the National Trust and SAVE, Harpur-Crewe succeeded in saving the house for the Nation. The architectural historian, Dr Howard Colvin was one of Calke’s main advocates: ‘What in the nineteenth century had been a social anomaly, and in the early twentieth century an eccentric anachronism, had by the 1980s become a unique historical document’.
Amazingly, the Trust decided to ‘repair not restore’ the buildings and gardens and so Calke Abbey remains a wonderful testament to days gone by. John Betjeman once said: ‘When the tenant leaves the house, the soul goes out of it’ but at Calke, its spirit very much remains. In the pealing plasterwork, the Victorian glass cloches, the seed drawers, the prize certificates…