The history of Walled Gardens can be traced back to the Paradise Gardens of the Persians – ‘Pairidaeza’ in Arabic means ‘enclosed place’. The Romans had their Cloisters while monasteries built Walled Gardens for contemplation as well as for growing plants to eat and for medicinal use. By the sixteenth century, the popularity of the ‘hortus conclusus’ grew as houses used gardens to provide food and flowers for the household and for entertainment.
An illustration in Thomas Hill’s The Profitable Art of Gardening of 1579 shows a garden divided into geometric beds surrounded by a wattle fence. The ‘walls’ had the benefit of protecting plants from the weather and for keeping animals out.
In the seventeenth century, exotic plants like the pineapple were imported into Britain with greenhouses built inside Walled Gardens to protect the ‘exoticks’.
With the rise of the country house in England in the eighteenth century and the increased demand for fruit and vegetables throughout the year, many Walled Gardens extended or rebuilt. Some were relocated away from the house, not to hide them from visitors but to provide a surprise for guests on their walk around the ‘pleasure grounds’.
The Victorian era saw an explosion in the building of Walled Gardens and their future seemed secure. The vast country houses needed a constant supply of food for their large house parties and the Walled Garden entered its heyday.
But with the demise of the country estate after the two world wars, many Walled Gardens were either neglected or demolished. The dwindling work force combined with the commercial availability of fruit and vegetables meant Walled Gardens ceased to be cost effective.
But luckily, many survived. Here are some of my favourites: