Fortescue Garden Trust
The house and gardens that form The Garden House were bought in the 1940s by Lionel and Katharine Fortescue. Over the next 40 years the Fortescues created a garden which was – and continues to be – viewed as one of the finest in Britain.
By 1961 they had established the Fortescue Garden Trust, an independent registered charity, to which they bequeathed the house and garden to ensure the survival of this beautiful place for future generations. After their deaths in the 1980s ownership passed to the charity, which maintains the Fortescues’ lovely legacy.
Today, a board of Trustees oversees The Garden House and actively seeks support to fulfil its objectives.
History of The Garden House
The Garden House is the elegant former home of the vicars of Buckland Monachorum. built in the early 19th century, the house accommodates the tearooms and offices.
The history of this 10-acre garden is closely entwined with that of Buckland Abbey and the local church. In 1305 the Bishop instructed the Abbot to build a house for the parish priest and this site was chosen. At the dissolution of the monasteries, the Abbot became the vicar of Buckland Monachorum and by the early 1700s, the vicarage consisted of a substantial 3-storey dwelling. The remains of this building, a tower with spiral staircase and a thatched barn, formerly the kitchen, are now the romantic ruins on the lower terrace in the walled garden.
A modern vicarage was built in the 1920s and The Garden House was sold as a private dwelling. The house came onto the market again just after the Second World War and was purchased by Lionel Fortescue, a retiring master at Eton, and his wife Katharine.
Lionel was the son of a Newlyn school painter and had a good eye for colour as well as being an exacting plantsman. Lionel and Katharine set about renovating and developing their garden whilst running a thriving market garden business, providing stock plants for growers in the Tamar Valley, and managing a herd of Jersey dairy cattle.
Lionel appointed a head gardener, Keith Wiley, who was to spend 25 years shaping the garden and enlarging it by 6 acres, before he left in 2003 to create a new nursery, Wildside Plants.
Matt Bishop took on the role and a delightful legacy of his is the number and variety of snowdrops and bulbs. Matt left The Garden House in autumn 2012 to set up his own business ‘Matt Bishop Snowdrops’.
Nick was previously Head Gardener at the National Trust property, “Greenway” the Devon home of Agatha Christie. Nick has been leading us since 2013. His role is to care for and respect the legacies of his predecessors whilst ensuring that The Garden House remains a crucible of new ideas and new plants, at the cutting edge of horticultural excellence and innovation. He has undertaken a major refurbishment of the original Fortescue garden as well as ongoing maintenance in other areas to ensure a long opening season of glorious colour and variety. This has been an excellent opportunity to introduce many new plants whilst continuing Lionel’s principle of using only the best forms and cultivars available.
Nick has two horticultural students under training here and a small team of dedicated staff and volunteers.