In 1908, at the age of 65, Gertrude Jekyll was asked to design the now historic garden of Charles Holme’s Manor House at Upton Grey. Holme was, by then, an established figure in the Arts and Crafts movement. He had founded The Studio magazine in 1893 and subsequently edited it. In its time The Studio was the most influential magazine of its kind. It was largely responsible for raising Crafts to the status of Applied art.
Holme had extended his family’s textile business to trading in the Far East and was one of the founder members of The Japan Society, a country whose art he admired greatly . Holme moved to Upton Grey in 1902 from the house that Philip Webb had built for William Morris,Red House, in Kent. Holme purchased several houses and a great deal of the surrounding land in Upton Grey. The Old Manor House ( the original name of this house ) which he rented out for the rest of his life, was in fragile condition, so Holme commissioned local architect Ernest Newton to make what The Royal Institute of British Architects described as Alterations and Additions to the old building, keeping many of the original features. Timbers in the roof are dated between 1480 and 1540. Today’s Edwardian facade encloses oak-panelled rooms, a 16th century staircase and the original roof timbers. Newton’s house was completed in 1906
Gertrude Jekyll’s plans
are for a four and a half acre garden on a sloping, chalky site (pH 7-8). Here she designed one of her most beautiful gardens. It includes many features of a typical Jekyll garden, but on a rather smaller scale than many of her commissions. To the north-west of the house stands the Wild garden. Grass paths wind from semicircular grass steps through wild flowers, rambling and species roses, to a small copse of walnut trees and beyond them a pond. Some of Jekyll’s original drifts of daffodils survive at the end of the Wild Garden. To the south-east of the house stands the Formal garden. Here there are no curved lines. In a geometric outline Jekyll designed a rose garden, drystone walls and her typical herbaceous borders. She described similar borders in her book Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden, published in the year she designed this garden, 1908. Here colours run in drifts from cool (blues and whites) to hot (reds and oranges)and out to cool again. These, with the tennis and bowling lawns are enclosed in yew hedging which serves both as protection for plants and a strong background to the colours.
Outside the hedging lie the nuttery, orchard, kitchen garden, stable cottage and cottage beds. The whole is faithfully restored to the many plans and plants that Jekyll provided. Very few of her original plants survived the 70 years between design and restoration but the vast majority of her plants do survive in England’s nurseries, and finding them for restoration has been relatively easy and accurate.
The Rose Lawn c.1920
12 years after Miss Jekyll designed this area there are already alterations to her plans. Topiaried yew in the centre and a weeping willow beyond are incorrect.