The gardens at Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire

Gardens and Landscapes Conservation

English Heritage looks after many nationally important historic gardens and landscapes, such as Wrest Park and Osborne House. Their conservation is guided by detailed management and maintenance practices, and we have developed extensive guidance on these, much of which can be downloaded from this page.

Our advice on gardens and landscapes falls into five main categories that reflect the work we do:

A LOO WITH A VIEW: RESTORING A VICTORIAN PRIVY

English Heritage has recently completed a conservation project in the gardens at Brodsworth Hall in South Yorkshire.

The 6 month project saw a outdoor privy returned to its former glory. Built exclusively for the use of the Thelluson family in the 1860's, the privy was a delightful rustic style curiosity nestled within a fragrant secret garden.

Find out more about the function and history of this Victorian privy, and discover how it was brought back to life by English Heritage conservators.

Find out more about conserving the privy at Brodsworth Hall

Plant Collections

The Kitchen Garden at Audley End contains a large collection of historic fruit cultivars, some dating from the 17th century

The Kitchen Garden at Audley End contains a large collection of historic fruit cultivars, some dating from the 17th century

English Heritage cares for many significant and historic plants and plant collections. Some of the plants are among the earliest introductions of that species in the UK. Others are intrinsically linked with historic events or people, such as those at Down House, the family home of Charles Darwin where he developed his ground-breaking theories.   

We also conserve collections of rare historic plants, such as fruit cultivars and over 3,000 veteran trees. At Marble Hill, for example, we care for a Black Walnut which has been recorded as the third largest in the country and is about 300 years old. These important collections often depend on conserving the unique microclimates that are vital to their survival.   

Threats to Gardens and Landscapes

Canada Geese, seen here at Audley End, can damage lawns and other vegetation, as well as being aggressive towards people during the breeding season

Canada Geese, seen here at Audley End, can damage lawns and other vegetation, as well as being aggressive towards people during the breeding season © Marianne Majerus           

The fabric of historic gardens and landscapes is threatened by pests, diseases and invasive plant species. These growing threats are thought to be the result of increased global trade as well as climate change and are introduced via infected plant material or human transfer, or are spread naturally, for example by wind, water or wildlife. Animals like squirrels, badgers and Canada geese can also threaten the presentation and management of a historic garden or landscape. 

Environmental Sustainability

Vinehouse pot plants at Audley End

Vinehouse pot plants at Audley End

The consequences of climate change are already noticeable in many historic gardens,from increased carbon dioxide levels to average temperature changes and more frequent extreme weather. These changes affect not only historic planting but also visitor numbers and needs, perhaps resulting in more wear and tear or alterations to visitor facilities and routes due to changes in the prevailing weather conditions.

Developing policies to manage the impact of climate change allows us to conserve historic gardens for the future. As well as monitoring the effects of climate change in our gardens and landscapes, we limit the use of peat and manage green waste sustainably wherever possible.

Conservation Management

Harebells growing on a wall at Byland Abbey

Harebells growing on a wall at Byland Abbey     

Looking after historic parks and gardens is complex. The protection and conservation of historic designs and features have to be balanced against the needs of visitors and wildlife. Conservation management plans for individual properties help us to understand what matters and why, and how to conserve and manage it. They can also be used to develop programmes of repair and restoration or to draw up proposals for change.  

As well as advice on preparing plans, English Heritage publishes guidance on the standardised management practices and policies applied at all our historic gardens and landscapes.

Research

The Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle, recreated in 2009, was the result of detailed research on historic designs and plants

The Elizabethan garden at Kenilworth Castle, recreated in 2009, was the result of detailed research on historic designs and plants

Detailed historical research enables us to restore historic designs and introduce appropriate historic plants. Our research methods include landscape and geophysical surveys, aerial photography, and remote sensing technology as well as excavation and the study of environmental archaeological evidence.

At Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, for example, detailed historical and archaeological research was the focus of the restoration of a 17th-century style garden. The garden planting was based on the advice of 17th-century garden writers such as John Gerard and John Parkinson in his book Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (1629).

Where historical evidence is lacking, new designs may be appropriate, such as those created for our Contemporary Heritage Gardens project. These designs had to be in keeping with the context of each historic property but also present the best of contemporary design and set standards of design for future heritage.

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