Re-Discovering Walmer's Lost Pleasure Grounds
In a £2.3m project at Walmer Castle, English Heritage is taking action to revive and reunite gardens begun by William Pitt the Younger, assisted by his niece, Lady Hester Stanhope.
The wild flower meadow known as the Paddock and the planted former chalk quarry called the Glen were once part of a delightful 19th-century garden landscape that nature, over time, has partially reclaimed such that both are now inaccessible.
Read on to find out how we are going to recover these lost features, re-unite them into the pleasure grounds, and re-present them for future generations to enjoy.
Background to the Project
Begun in 1802 by William Pitt , the landscaping we’re seeking to preserve was completed by Lord Liverpool after 1806, then used, enjoyed and adapted by successive Lords Warden – notably the Broadwalk introduced by the 2nd Earl Granville in the late 1860s and the ‘keyhole’ view created by the 7th Earl Beauchamp during his tenure as Lord Warden (1913-34).
The Glen has been overgrown and difficult to access for around a hundred years, and is at a critical point in its decline. In the woodland perimeter walk, holly and yew trees now dominate, blocking the light and suppressing the ground flora below. No space is available to re-establish upper canopy trees lost in the gales of 1987 and 1990. In the Paddock meadow, open areas have become filled in by the encroachment of self-set trees pushing out the grassland flora and fauna. Combined with a lack of wayfinding clues, a poor path surface, and restricted access, it has been increasingly difficult for visitors to enjoy this distinct area of the site.
Were we to let this continue, an important element of William Pitt's legacy and the final part of Walmer Castle’s evolution from a coastal fort to a gentleman’s residence would be undetectable, and the story of the pleasure grounds disconnected from the story of the castle. Clearly, urgent intervention is needed, and thanks to the support we have received, it is now possible to halt the deterioration and revive this wonderful historic landscape.
In addition to the rejuvenation of the historic pleasure grounds, the project has allowed us an excellent opportunity to make improvements to our visitor facilities. Over the course of the project we'll be addressing the following:
- Paths throughout the woodland will be restored according to historic plans
- We will help the historic grounds reclaim their natural flora and fauna in a mix of habitats
- We will manage the meadow to support the vulnerable and distinct flora and fauna associated with chalk grassland
- We will re-present the Glen, inspired by the evergreen plantings mentioned in letters written by Lady Hester Stanhope
- We will restore the ‘keyhole’ view created by the 7th Earl Beauchamp and recorded photographically in the 1920s.
- The gardeners’ compound will be re-developed to provide improved facilities for the care and maintenance of the garden
- We will create a new Greenhouse Café, allowing visitors to enjoy refreshments in the beautiful setting of the Kitchen Garden
- Visitor facilities will be improved with new interpretation panels, a free family trail leaflet, updated multimedia guide, volunteer led tours and activities and new toilet facilities
- We will work with our community in outreach and on-site activities, as well as offering additional job roles and volunteering opportunities
- We will create a hub for community and educational activity with a new purpose-built learning room
Work officially begins on the project with a groundbreaking ceremony held at Walmer by Walker Construction.
Construction work begins on the new learning room, replacing old pre-fabricated buildings that made up the gardeners compound.
Supports which will hold up the visitor staircase allowing access to the glen are now installed.
A crane moves large containers and materials around the old gardener's compound area.
With the adjacent prefabricated toilet block now removed, work gets underway on the Glasshouse cafe.
Foundations and walls of the new learning centre are now complete.
The visitor staircase allowing access to the Glen is installed.
Clearing work begins on the Glen, and pathways are set down. The area begins to take shape.
Clearing in the Glen turns up a number of unusual artefacts.
Working with our Community
A key aspect of this project is the value we hope it will bring to those living in the local area, which is why community engagement has been made a key element of the project’s objectives. Support provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund has allowed us to expand our volunteering offer and open up new opportunities for local people to get involved in the gardens. We are working with a diverse range of community groups, including young people, schools, families and people with disabilities and mental health difficulties, to ensure our offer is as inclusive and empowering as possible.
As the project progresses, we will implement a number of additional community outreach and on-site activities, from horticultural and creative workshops, to gardening activities, flower shows and garden tours. We intend for Walmer to become a hub of community and educational activity with learning and volunteering opportunities at its heart.
If you would like to take part in this project, visit our volunteering page and find out what opportunities are available at Walmer today. You can also browse our jobs page to find out about upcoming employment opportunities in the gardens.Find out More
We would like to thank the heritage lottery fund for their generous support of this project
To help us re-present these exquisite pleasure grounds, and preserve them for future generations to enjoy, support the project via Text Giving. Text WLMR18 £5 to 70070 to donate to the Rediscovering Walmer Pleasure Grounds project, and make a difference today.
Explore Walmer's Gardens
Queen Mother's Garden
Enjoy the Queen Mother's Garden, gifted to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother for her 95th birthday.
See one of the glories of Walmer; the magnificent Broadwalk.
The Kitchen Garden
Explore the fruit trees, vegetable beds and glasshouses of Walmer's Kitchen Garden.
Seasonal Garden Highlights
From spring sowing to autumn pumpkins, discover the best of Walmer's growing season.