Back in November last year we took a trip to the North West of England primarily to go to one of Slayer’s last British concerts in Manchester,but at the same time we took the opportunity to visit some of the historic National Trust properties in that part of the country. We visited Dunham Massey as well as Tatton Park,but the best property we saved until last and visited on the way home this was Biddulph Grange.
I took many photos which I’ll share here, but to add some information l’ve used some of the wikipedia script to give you an idea of how things came about. Behind a gloomy Victorian shrubbery there’s a gloomy Victorian mansion, but behind that lurks one of the most extraordinary gardens in Britain…it contains whole continents, including China and Ancient Egypt – not to mention Italian terraces and a Scottish glen.”
The “rhododendrons and azaleas are spectacular in late spring, but the pinetum and the evergreen topiary provide year-round interest. It’s a fantastic garden for children, with its tunnels and rockeries, and there is a children’s quiz trail.” The true brilliance of Biddulph Grange “lies in the way that Cooke and Bateman hid the different areas of the garden from each other, using heaps of rocks and thickly planted shrubberies’ the design locks together as tightly as a jigsaw or a cross-section of the brain.” It contains “a series of Italianate terraces, connected by steps and enclosing small flower gardens’ at the bottom, long, buttressed hedges enclose a dahlia walk,” In the Egyptian part of the garden, “Two sphinxes guard the mastaba-like entrance to a tunnel, whose darkness is an invitation to explore. Deep inside is a bloody chamber (lit by a hidden window of red-coloured glass) in which squats the half-spooky, half-comic figure of the Ape of Thoth.”
The garden is divided into many different areas with themes including: China,Egypt,Western Terrace,Italian Garden,Lime Avenue,Rhododendron Ground,The Glen,Pinetum and Arboretum,Bowling green and Quoit Ground,Cheshire Cottage,Wellingtonia Avenue,The Stumpery,Lower, Rose, Verbena and Araucaria Parterres,Cherry Orchard and the world renowned Dahlia Walk.
Biddulph Grange was developed by James Bateman (1811–1897), the accomplished horticulturist and landowner; who had inherited money from his father. He moved to Biddulph Grange around 1840, from nearby Knypersley Hall and created the gardens with the aid of his friend and painter Edward William Cooke. The gardens were meant to display specimens from Bateman’s extensive and wide-ranging collection of plants.
Biddulph Grange “started life as a bog-standard rectory, but around 1840 it was bought by James Bateman…he and his wife Maria had a passion for plants and the money to indulge their interests, and as the house was enlarged they began work on the surrounding gardens. His gardens are a rare survival of the interim period between the Capability Brown landscape garden and the High Victorian style.
From 1923 until the 1980s; the house was used as a hospital known first as the “North Staffordshire Cripples’ Hospital” and later as the “Biddulph Grange Orthopaedic Hospital” The 15 acres (6.1 ha) garden became badly run-down and neglected during this period, and the deeply dug-out terraced area near the house around Dahlia Walk was filled in level to make a big lawn for patients to be wheeled out on in summertime. The Bateman property was (and still is) divided: the hospital got the house and its gardens, and the uncultivated remainder of Biddulph Grange’s land became the Biddulph Grange Country Park.
Until 1991 the house and gardens “housed an orthopaedic hospital, whose managers (understandably enough) were more concerned with their patients than the weird stuff looming out of rocky outcrops in the grounds. For the best part of a century the gardens decayed, visited only by passing vandals and, more rarely, intrepid folly-hunters.”
In 1988 the National Trust took ownership of the property and its gardens, which have now been nearly fully restored, including a long work digging out the Dahlia Walk area archaeology-style to find forgotten features. In 1995–96 the Wellingtonia Walk, which had become post-mature and badly gappy, was clear felled and in that year and the next replanted. Although on our visit in November there were no Dahlias you could see the charm and how Batemans vision had created something special.