The Princess Beatrice Garden
The Princess Beatrice Garden is an Edwardian-inspired garden, set within the former 'privy' gardens of Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Beatrice. This year, we're celebrating the tenth anniversary of its opening here at Carisbrooke Castle. Read on to find out more about the design and inspiration behind this enchanting feature, and enjoy it with us as it enters its most beautiful season.
Princess Beatrice was Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, and held the position of Governor of the Isle of Wight from 1896 until her death in 1944. Beatrice was resident at Carisbrooke Castle during her governorship, and from 1913 the walled garden became her private or 'privy' garden, which she enjoyed during her regular visits to the island. The creation of the Princess Beatrice Garden in 2009 celebrates this period in the castle's history, and serves as a colourful reminder of a woman who dedicated significant time during her life to the Isle of Wight and, in particular, Carisbrooke Castle.Who was Princess Beatrice?
Designing the Garden
To create the garden, English Heritage engaged the help of award winning garden designer and former BBC Gardeners' World presenter, Chris Beardshaw. His design transformed what was a relatively unused green space with minimal planting into an exciting and colourful oasis.
Beardshaw's design creates a geometric layout that takes inspiration from plans of the original 'privy' garden, whilst also weaving in elements of Princess Beatrice's heraldic motif and the castle's architecture. Herbaceous plants feature in colourful borders, gravel paths run between clipped hedges and benches, and a serene fountain gurgles at its centre. Sympathetic to archaeology just below the surface of the ground, fruit trees were included in large planters, containing their roots whilst giving a summer canopy of shade, and fruits in the autumn.
The creation of the Princess Beatrice Garden continued a trend of contemporary garden design at English Heritage sites across the country that began in 1997 with the Queen Mother's Garden at Walmer Castle, Kent. We worked with Chris Beardshaw for a second time in 2017, when he designed a new garden at Mount Grace Priory, interpreting the Arts and Crafts garden that existed there historically.
Discover our historic Gardens
- In winter, as the garden rests, take the opportunity to appreciate its formal structure and layout, with clipped hornbeam and yew hedges showing the framework of the borders. When viewed from the castle wall walk, one can see the design inspiration which has come from the shape of the chapel windows.
- Spring sees the banks and wild areas bursting into life with snow drops, primroses and daffodils, followed a little later by cowslips and bluebells. The beautiful blossom of the Judus tree (cersis siliquestrium) is one of the first trees to flower providing a pink canopy to the blue camassia bulbs in the border below. As the days warm, experience the exquisite scents of sweet honey spurge (Euphorbia mellifera), lilacs and the first of the old fashioned roses (Rosearaie de l ‘Hay), along with colourful salvias, geraniums and aquilegias.
- In summer, the garden is bursting with exuberant growth, a riot of colour and texture. Stroll amongst the romantic mix of cottage garden favourites and unusual exotic species, many attracting bees and butterflies. Graceful delphiniums, meadow rue (Thalictrum) and grasses sway gently as the spicy aroma of the mock orange shrub ( Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’) releases its intoxicating scent. Enjoy walking in Princess Beatrice’s footsteps as you stroll through the fig tunnel or relax under the shade of the Walnut trees. All the plants are labelled so you can take inspiration for your own garden at home.
- In autumn, a flush of later flowering perennials continue to flourish including rudbeckia, sedum, achillea and helenium. Now is the time to discover the rather curious medlar tree (Mespelus germanica) fruits from which have been enjoyed since Roman times, although they need to be ‘bletted’ (soft and brown, almost rotten looking) before they are palatable. Autumn is also be a solemn time in the garden, as each November we commemorate Armistice Day with the laying of wreaths and poppies by the statue of the war horse, Warrior.
Wight in Bloom 2019
Each year, Wight in Bloom encourages the community to get gardening, bathing the island in a sea of blossom and colour. Judges look out for a number of key features, from a garden's design and layout, to good horticultural practice, innovation and sustainability. In a delightful result for its 10th anniversary year, 2019 saw the Princess Beatrice Garden named runner up in the category of Best Large Tourist Attraction Garden.
Jack Seely and Warrior
The bronze statue that you can see in the garden was made by celebrated equine sculptor Philip Blacker. Placed here to commemorate the centenary of the Great War, it shows General Jack Seely astride his war horse, Warrior, whom Seely rode in battle between 1914 and 1918.
Warrior was bred on the Isle of Wight and went to France with Seely on one of the first boats in August 1914. He survived four years on the Western Front leading the famous last cavalry charge at Moreuil Wood in March 1918. He returned home safe and sound and four years to the day after the Moreuil Wood charge, won the Isle of Wight point to point.