Monday, 28 September 2009

Discovering a garden

Women's Institute
Old Buckenham WI took a step back in time at their September meeting, when Sheila Adams came to give a talk entitled ‘The Plantation Garden’. This could have been called ‘The Secret Garden of Norwich’, as so few of our members had visited it. The Garden is a restored Victorian Garden which Sheila likened to the Lost Gardens of Heligon. Although not on the same scale as that found in Cornwall, the Norwich garden had its conception and development at the same time, during the middle of the nineteenth century.
We have Henry Trevor to thank for the Garden. Henry worked for a prominent Baptist and furniture retailer in Norwich. He married the boss’s daughter, a widow called Mary Page. They begin married life living over the shop in Exchange Street but as they prospered Henry bought some land in the suburbs of Earlham Road. Here he built a family house, which displayed his modest middle class status. Not long after Henry decided to turn the adjoining land, up till then a quarry for the brick making business, into a garden. With a hired gardener, Henry developed is ideas and created a garden on the outskirts of Norwich. In its heyday it had formal flower-beds, an impressive fountain and a splendid palm house. A bridge was built in the rustic style and viewpoints installed. The garden provided a quiet retreat for a busy businessman and his family. Henry died in 1897 and his wife just five years later.

During most of the twentieth century the house was used for various functions including a small maternity hospital. The garden fell into complete disrepair through total neglect. In 1980 a group of enthusiasts formed the Plantation Garden Preservation Society. The Society took the dismal garden under their guardianship and started to fund raise to restore the Plantation Garden to its former glory.
Sheila showed slides of the Garden totally overgrown and wild, then the restored Garden today. Only the Palm House has not been replaced as this was deemed too costly to maintain. The Garden is open daily to the public and is manned by volunteers on a Sunday. A donation of £2 is asked of those who visit to help with the upkeep of this treasure in the heart of Norwich.

So, if you have time on your hands and wish to spend it quietly revelling in a restored Victorian garden, find the entrance on Earlham Road close to the Roman Catholic Cathedral and just enjoy.
The next meeting will be on Thursday 22 October at 7.30pm in the village hall when Barbara Miller’s talk is entitled ‘Step by step’ and will be a history of the Norwich shoe trade. For the monthly competition members can bring along a pair of shoes with sentimental value to them and indicate the reason for this.

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