In 1763, the Earl of Bute purchased the Luton Hoo estate in south Bedfordshire and commissioned the celebrated gardener, `Capability` Brown, to landscape the grounds. A five-acre octagonal walled garden was also established. This flourished under subsequent owners and, together with the large glasshouses, provided flowers, fruit and vegetables for the estate for almost two centuries. The garden became famous in its time and its reputation was such that any gardener who had worked on the Luton Hoo estate was sure to find employment.
Many ladies and gentlemen from the higher echelons of society were invited to the Hoo for weekend visits; they would often spend time admiring the grounds before taking tea in the beautiful tea house nearby. In 1903 Luton Hoo was sold to Sir Julius Wernher whose family still owns the estate, although the mansion has now been sold to Elite Hotels.
Sadly, after the Second World War, the gardens became overgrown and the sturdy glasshouses, which The Victorian Society considers to be `probably the last survival of this type of lavish glasshouse range` were in need of repair. It became obvious that there was much of historical and horticultural interest at the site that should not be lost; the gardens needed to be brought back to life, not as a society showcase but as a local amenity.
In 2000, research began into the history of the gardens and much archival material has already been found. Also a team of volunteers is doing practical work to reclaim the land. The garden opens its gates regularly to visitors and the team is working to encourage a wide involvement with community groups. It is hoped that this nationally important site will become `a vibrant tourist attraction and valuable local resource`.
More can be found out about this fascinating project on the website: www.lutonhoowalledgarden.org.uk
Or phone 01582 721443
Posted for Anne