Historic Gardens Weekend
By: Fourteen Ten On: June 1, 2017 In: Events Comments: 0

Historic Gardens Weekend will take place at the Weald & Downland Living Museum on the 24th and 25th June showcasing six beautiful period gardens aligned with British historic houses formed throughout 16th-19th century Britain.

Guests will get the opportunity to partake in guided tours of the gardens, view the Museum’s Herbarium and various educational displays and watch a short film about the gardens. The museum’s gardening team will be on hand to discuss how each garden represents the period and social status of the house to which it is attached and give details about the herbs, fruit, vegetables and plants that would have been used by the rural household.

Rare fruit and vegetables farmed include one of the oldest varieties of potatoe still in existence the Pink fir Apple as well as Carlin Peas, Martock, warden pears, meddlers, Skirrets amongst others.

The museum has recently undergone a stunning transformation having been donated £6m to create The Gateway Project, a newly configured car park, visitor centre, shop, café and community space.

Historic Gardens Weekend
Date: 24th & 25th June
Timings: 11.00am – 5.00pm
Tickets & Details: http://www.wealddown.co.uk/events/historic-gardens-weekend/

Weald & Downland Historic Gardens

Bayleaf Farmstead
Medieval pictures and documents tell us much about contemporary gardens but very few of them refer to the gardens of rural farmhouses such as Bayleaf. It seems likely that Bayleaf’s garden would have been largely devoted to vegetables, fruit and herbs for use in the household. The vegetables were mainly brassicas such as cabbages and turnips, with leeks or onions, peas and beans, lettuce, and spinach beet. Many of the greens would have been used for boiled pottage or soup.

A wide variety of herbs were grown, and there would probably have been gooseberries, raspberries and wild strawberries in addition to hedgerow fruit such as blackberries, crab apples, plums and damsons. The orchard contains apple and pear trees. The research for the Bayleaf garden was carried out by Dr Sylvia Landsberg, and the garden was created by R Holman.

Poplar Cottage
This is a garden representing that of a landless peasant and his family in the early-mid 17th century. The garden is approximately 26 perches (about one-sixth of an acre) of land and this would have been all they had to feed themselves; therefore the tenant would have had to go out to work, probably as a farm labourer, in order to be able to feed his family. The garden of such a low-status dwelling would have been used almost exclusively to produce food and grow herbs for strewing and medicinal purposes.

Few, if any, plants would have been grown purely for their aesthetic value. Edible weeds such as Chickweed, Sow Thistle, Fat Hen and Cresses still formed part of the daily pottage – the flowers and vegetables from newly discovered lands had not yet reached this social level.

House from Walderton
The garden would have been mainly for vegetables, fruit, herbs and livestock. However, at this date and social level some plants were beginning to be grown for their aesthetic qualities. This shows the beginnings of decorative planting and display towards the public face of the garden.

There are several heritage varieties of vegetables grown within the period gardens many of which closely resemble the original varieties including:

  • Skirrets
  • A multi-rooted winter vegetable similar in taste to parsnips introduced to Britain from East Asia in the 15th century but fell out of fashion in the late 17th century
  • Broad bean varieties
  • Such as Martock thought to date back to the 13th century, Crimson Flowered dating back to the 18th century and a Victorian variety called Bunyard’s Exhibition
  • Carlin peas
  • Date back to the 16th century
  • Pink fir Apple potatoes. One of the oldest varieties still in existence

Carlotta Holt is the Museum Gardener who is helped by a team of dedicated gardening volunteers that look after the six period gardens and spend time interpreting their significance to visitors.

About Weald & Downland Living Museum
Located at the entrance to the South Downs National Park near historic Chichester is the fascinating Weald and Downland Living Museum. The museum is a “living” collection of over 50 traditional rural buildings from sites across south-east England in a beautiful 40-acre landscape. These buildings have been saved from being demolished or simply falling down and carefully dismantled, conserved, and painstakingly rebuilt at Weald and Downland Museum. Visitors can truly experience the buildings’ original uses with volunteers explaining the stories of the men, women and children who lived and worked in them over a 950-year period. There is a regular programme of domestic and craft demonstrations including cooking in the Tudor kitchen, blacksmithing in the Victorian smithy and flour milling at the 17th century watermill.

The Gateway Project
The Gateway Project is the result of 10 years of planning. The three new galleries housing the visitor centre, shop, café and community space are clad in local materials including hand-crafted sweet chestnut shakes (heartwood) and locally produced clay tiles, echo elements from many of the Museum’s rural farm complexes. Large areas of glass highlight the new green oak frames give views of Museum’s collection of vernacular buildings bringing the Museum’s craft and architectural traditions right up to date. Hugh Bonneville officially opened The Gateway project earlier this month naming the museum a “living story book of our culture”.

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