Covering the coast, Burnham Market, Wells, Holt & surrounding villages

Holkham revisited

3rd August 2022

Exciting times at the Estate’s Walled Garden, as their restoration programme continues apace. Amanda Loose caught up with head gardener, Mark Morrell, for a guided tour

I met Mark on a warm, sunny morning to find out more about the transformation of this six-acre garden – originally laid out by architect Samuel Wyatt in the late 1700s – including the restoration of four historic glasshouses, the discovery of a Georgian hot bed system, and their new ‘Ornamental Garden’. The restoration programme has been funded in part by grants including from the Cultural Recovery Fund, the Historic Houses Foundation and Historic England. 

Our first stop was the Georgian Grade II* listed Samuel Wyatt Vinery, re-opened this April following extensive restoration. This magnificent glasshouse, with its impressive colonnaded entrance with fanlight, now houses a collection of citrus trees, pomegranates, olives, and tender exotics; it feels rather like our own little Kew Gardens in North Norfolk. 

Looking across to the Samuel Wyatt Vinery © Lloyd Birch

Samuel Wyatt Vinery © Ellie Hunter
Samuel Wyatt Vinery © Ellie Hunter

“I think the purpose of the Samuel Wyatt Vinery changed over the course of time and we have gone back to almost the way it was used originally. We’ve almost got the full history of greenhouses over about 200 years at Holkham,” Mark tells me, as we head through the Venetian gates to the garden’s first square, home to the Messenger Building. Remodelled in the 1920s by Thomas Messenger, this would originally have been one of a pair glasshouses Mark says, divided into sections for the four stages of growing pineapples. One of the first buildings to undergo restoration in their current programme, it’s now a display house, part shade and part full sun, complete with its recast bell. 

Nearby, the two Sunken Pit Houses are a work in progress and there have been some exciting discoveries here along the way.

“The ground was level with the top step; we excavated it and found 14 bays which we are assuming was a Georgian hot bed system. There was a fire at the end of the building with a cavity in the front wall which it gently warmed. The bays would have been filled with manure and tanners bark which would slowly release heat to the pots placed on top for a much earlier crop.” Both have sliding sash windows along their length with counterweights whose houses act as vents when the windows are open. 

The new Ornamental Garden comprises four distinct gardens, one for each season. Work started during the spring 2020 lockdown and the spring garden has a white and silver scheme for a cool, wild look. Autumn will showcase a mass of asters from late August to October, and work continues on ‘winter’.

The Ornamental Garden leading to the vineyard © Lloyd Birch

Summer meanwhile is a homage to the traditional English garden, with deep herbaceous and shrub borders with stunning old-fashioned roses (it’s a good year for roses, Mark says), and delphiniums, as well as possibly the smartest striped lawn I’ve ever seen. 

There’s more newness to see, too, with the tapestry-effect vegetable garden, new herb border and tea plants. I come away full of planting ideas for my own garden and the urge to return very soon!

The Walled Garden is open daily.


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