Xmera / Garden History / Gardens: Batsford Park

Batsford Park

Batsford Park near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, was inherited by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (later Lord Redesdale) in 1886. He knocked down the existing Georgian mansion and replaced it with a neo-Tudor house, designed by Earnest George (possibly with Harold Peto). Mitford redesigned the grounds, creating a wild garden of naturalistic planting derived from his observations in China and Japan. An accomplished plantsman and authority on bamboos, he created one of the foremost collections of the time. He built a 600 metre artificial watercourse running down the western side of the gardens, a hermit's cave, a thatched cottage and Japanese Rest House.

In 1903 Country Life published an article on Batsford Park, praising the 'delightful individuality' and 'rough picturesqueness' of this enthusiast's garden. The garden incorporated a collection of around 50 hardy bamboos, one of which [Sasa veitchii] 'encumbered the garden to such an extent that its removal to the woods for planting as fox and pheasant covert became a necessity'.

In 1910 Lord Redesdale let Batsford Park to Granville Frederick Richard Farquhar esq. for 10 years at £1,500 per annum. In 1912 a dispute arose over changes Farquhar had made to the garden. It was agreed that the lease would be terminated and William Goldring, nominated by Kew's director David Prain, arbitrated between the parties over the alleged damage to the garden.

The Mitfords sold Batsford after the First World War, when it was bought by Gilbert Alan Hamilton Wills (later Lord Dulverton). The garden was restored by the second Lord Dulverton, who inherited in 1956. Since his death in 1992 it has been in the hands of the Batsford Foundation, a charitable trust set up to promote research and education into conservation, arboriculture, gardens and architecture.

Description of Batsford from William Robinson, The English Flower Garden (5th edition, 1896):

A BOLD ROCK GARDEN.- Among rock-gardens formed of recent years, one of the most extensive and picturesque is that at Batsford Park. It differs from other rock-gardens in the close association of various types of vegetation, trailers, shrubs, and even low trees, and in fact it represents very prettily a rocky valley with a great variety of charming scenes - a miniature Val Anzasca. Many things grow in it beautifully - alpine flowers, rock shrubs and climbers, delicate Ferns and creepers, bog flowers and water plants. Many Bamboos are scattered near, and delightful breaks of the red Oriental poppy and other hardy flowers are seen in summer. The background is formed of alpine Pines, Banboos, and shrubs, which, as we get near the stream by the rocks, are replaced by many rock shrubs and flowers, such as the various kinds of Thyme and Sandworts, alpine Pinks, charming in broad tufts on the rocks; Mountain Avens drooping over them; Erinus clothing their faces; Rockfoils in delightful variety; purple Rock-cress, Houseleeks, Stonecrops, Gentians, alpine Phlox, Indian and other Primroses, the Welsh Poppy for shady nooks, and the many Hellebores now in cultivation. Very charming too is a pretty Strawberry (Fragaria nitida), which is effective in covering banks. In such a place the smaller Sun Roses (Helianthemum) are happiest of all, and the alpine and Icelandic Poppies are very effective and pretty. One Rock Knotweed (Polygonum vaccinifolium), a little rock plant seldom made use of, is charming beside the water here. The Meadow-sweets massed beside rocky streams of this kind form groups handsome in leaf and flower, the shrubby ones coming well in the background. Among the many hardy plants grown, some of them, like the Rubi and the showier St John's Worts, are particularly well suited for a rock vale. Excellent use is made here of the fine double-flowering Gorse in bold groups for associating with Pinus montana, and the alpine forest Heath (Erica carnea) is seen in great sheets of rosy bloom in spring, while the alpine Rhododendrons of Europe also come in well, in addition to the hybrid American and other Rhododendrons and Azaleas in the background. The wild Roses of Japan and Europe lend their charms in the rougher parts, climbing over Juniper and the dwarf Pine of the Alps. In such a varied garden the Barberries, evergreen and others, lend much aid, as do the various Brooms and Gorses. Some parts of the rocks are delicately draped with Feather Ferns, Lady Ferns, Hart's-tongues, Maidenhairs, and many others. The delicate little American Ourisia, which, though a long time in our gardens, is seldom used to good effect, here creeps about in pretty ways in the angles of steps and moist corners, and is very beautiful. In theformation of this rock-garden many thousand tons of stone were brought from the Bourton quarry on the estate. The dwarfer and bushy Pines of Europe are used near the rock-garden, and also some of the dwarfer forms among American Pines, and there is a large collection of Bamboos containing between forty and fifty kinds; a collection recently formed, and which will be most interesting a few years hence, when we shall see which are the hardiest and most graceful of these fine plants for our country.

The rock garden at Batsford, c. 1896.