6 Secret Historic Gardens in the United Kingdom | Historical Landmarks | History Hit

6 Secret Historic Gardens in the United Kingdom

Here are our picks of some unknown English gardens that are a little off the beaten track.

Celeste Neill

09 Aug 2021

It’s no secret that the UK houses some truly outstanding gardens. Sometimes, you have to dig a little deeper than the big-hitting names to find the very best examples. Tucked away in various corners of the country are magnificent gardens, teeming with exquisitely manicured lawns, exotic flowers, delicate fountains, and winding paths that let visitors explore their many treasures. What’s more, the gardens are just as rich in history as they are in scenery, with all kinds of tales and dramas attached to both the fauna and flora and the wider estates they form part of.

Being nestled away in small rural pockets means you wouldn’t know about these gardens unless you search them out. Luckily for you, we’ve done the hard work and have compiled a list of six of our favourites.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC / Christine Matthews

1. Mottistone Manor and Gardens

Tucked away in a sheltered valley on the south-west of the Isle of Wight, England, Mottistone Manor is an Elizabethan manor house surrounded by beautiful gardens that were developed in the 1960s.

The gardens were developed by Lady Vivien Nicholson in the 1960s (the site was previously used as farmland before the restoration in the 1920s) and emulate a Mediterranean style.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC / Flickr: The Patio Garden

2. Iford Manor

Iford Manor is a manor house and estate in Bradford-on-Avon with Grade I-listed gardens. The land on which Iford Manor stands today was recorded in the Domesday Book, but the manor’s history starts to become more fully recorded around the 14th century.

The Cartwright-Hignett family have owned Iford Manor since 1965 and have restored the gardens over the years. Much of Peto’s innovative work remains in place today and the gardens are a huge attraction for visitors from around the area and far beyond. Three miles of footpaths leading around Iford Manor let visitors explore the estate, and the setting was also one of the key locations in the 2020 film ‘The Secret Garden’, starring Julie Walters and Colin Firth.

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Image Credit: Shutterstock

3. St Dunstan in the East Gardens

Central London may not be the first place you’d expect to find a tranquil hidden garden, but this smallish patch – just a stone’s throw from some of London’s most iconic sights – is an oasis of calm and tranquillity. The gardens snake around the ruins of the Church of St Dunstan, originally constructed in the early 12th century.

It’s a wonderfully wild garden, with ivy engulfing the ruins and bushy trees growing through church windows, and over the years the garden has quietly become a much-loved retreat for those who are lucky enough to know about it.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC / Andy Dingley

4. Wyndcliffe Court

Wyndcliffe Court is a Grade II-listed house with a large, picturesque garden, situated in Monmouthshire, Wales.

The house was built in 1922 by Charles Leigh Clay, who owned a shipping company in Cardiff, Wales. Stylistically, the gardens used elements of both the Italianate and Arts and Crafts architectural movements. Its features include a lily pond, sunken garden, bowling green, rose garden, ponds, sculpted topiary, a summerhouse, fountain, kitchen garden, and connections to nearby woodland surrounding the site.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia / CC / Northmetpit

5. Hoveton Hall Estate

Hoveton Hall Estate is a Regency-style house and grounds in Norfolk, England, covering 620 acres, which includes highly acclaimed gardens.

The gardens are perhaps the most famous feature of Hoveton Hall today. As well as the walled ‘Spider Garden’, the grounds hold a walled kitchen garden (which is still used to grow fruit), an early 19th century glasshouse, a magnolia garden stretching alongside a lake, a woodland walk (full of rhododendrons, azaleas and ample wildlife, including butterflies and around 100 species of bird). The gardens also host entertainment, including outdoor theatre productions, such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, and live jazz.

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Image Credit: Shutterstock

6. Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens

Burton Agnes Hall is an Elizabethan stately home with award-wining gardens, set in East Yorkshire, England. The origins of the estate can be traced back to 1173, when Roger de Stuteville built a Norman manor house on the site, part of which still stands today.

The gardens also date back to Elizabethan times. One of the most notable features, the walled garden, fell out of use in the second half of the 20th century, before being restored in 1990 by Susan Cunliffe-Lister, whose family had recently begun living in Burton Agnes Hall. A mix of Elizabethan and modern styles and designs were used to bring the gardens back to life.


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Image Credit: Flickr / CC / the yes man

7. Malleny Garden

Located just a few miles from Scotland’s historic capital, Edinburgh, 17th century Malleny Garden is famous for its large Yew trees and one of the largest rose collections in Scotland.

Though it has been significantly altered over its history, the garden still retains elements of the early 17th century garden. Most notable are the giant 400-year-old clipped yew trees known as the Four Evangelists, the final four of an original collection of 12 known as the Twelve Apostles. Other historical features include a pair of Victorian greenhouses where both vines and a wonderful display of grapes grow.

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