Lost Gardens of Heligan - History and Facts | History Hit

Lost Gardens of Heligan

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About Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are some of the most mysterious and popular in the UK. Coming from the Cornish ‘Lowarth Helygen’, meaning ‘willow tree garden’, the gardens are located near Mevagissey in Cornwall.

The gardens became overgrown after the outbreak of the World War One, but were rediscovered in 1990 and in the time afterwards became Europe’s largest garden restoration project. Today, Heligan’s 200 acres are a dreamy paradise for romantic nature-lovers.

History of Lost Gardens of Heligan

Records indicate that a manor was built on the estate of Heligan in the early 1200s by the Arundell family. In 1596, a Sampson Tremayne purchased the land and house, the latter of which was expanded in 1603 to reflect a Jacobean style, and then a William and Mary style in 1692.

Around the middle of the 18th century, the gardens were developed by the Tremayne family, with a series of rides for horses, walled flower gardens and a melon yard being added. With new plant, fruit and vegetable discoveries being made abroad, many wealthy families wanted tropical plants to thrive on their land. John Tremayne therefore planted numerous exotic plants across the gardens.

By 1900, there was a team of over 20 gardeners working on the garden, with a ravine, sundial and Italian gardens also adding to the majesty of the site. However, many were called away to fight during World War One, the woodlands were cut down and the manor house was offered to soldiers as a convalescent home.

The house was then used as a base for American troops during World War Two. After the war, the final direct descendant of the family Jack Tremayne rented out the house because he could ‘no longer live with the ghosts’. It was eventually sold off and converted into flats in the 1960s. The gardens fell into decay and slowly became overgrown with thorns, brambles and rhododendrons.

Lost Gardens of Heligan today

In 1990, famed conservationist Tim Smit discovered a derelict garden on the site. He soon realised that a wonderful hidden garden existed beneath the overgrowth, and put the wheels in motion to lovingly restore the 200 acres of land. Within two years, the beautiful gardens had been reopened to the public and gained worldwide fame. They were named the most prominent botanical gardens in Britain.

The gardens contain enormous rhododendrons and camellias, a series of lakes run by a ram pump of over 100 years old, highly fertile flower and vegetable gardens, an Italian garden, a wild area know as ‘The Jungle’ filled with subtropical tree ferns and Europe’s only remaining pineapple pit. Also notable are two large sculptures known as the Mud Maid and Giant’s Head. Even today, new discoveries are frequently made and added to the estate.

Getting to Lost Gardens of Heligan

From the centre of Exeter, the gardens take around three and a half hours to reach. St Austell is the nearest railway station and is only 5 miles from the gardens. There are lots of routes to the gardens by car from the variety of towns in the area; alternatively, buses will take you there but run fairly infrequently.