WP_20150505_15_12_46_ProOur second visit whilst travelling to the Lake District last week, was to Biddulph Grange, in Staffordshire.

Restored over the last 30 years by the National Trust, this is a delightful series of gardens designed to house James Bateman’s (the original owner) extensive plant collection from around the world. This is achieved in a series of gardens within a strong overall design structure, featuring some amusing and beautiful touches typical of the Victorian age.

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The gardens are a delight and I was fortunate to see the highlight (‘China’) last; a fitting climax as you wander round this fascinating window on one man’s passion for plants, superbly restored by the Trust. Wikipedia describes the devopment of the gardens:

Biddulph Grange was developed by James Bateman (1811–1897), the accomplished horticulturist and landowner; he inherited money from his father, who had become rich from coal and steel businesses. He moved to Biddulph Grange around 1840, from nearby Knypersley Hall. He created the gardens with the aid of his friend and painter of seascapes Edward William Cooke. The gardens were meant to display specimens from Bateman’s extensive and wide-ranging collection of plants….

Bateman was president of the North Staffordshire Field Society, and served on the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Plant Exploration Committee…. He especially loved Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Bateman was “a collector and scholar on orchids,” …

His gardens are a rare survival of the interim period between the Capability Brown landscape garden and the High Victorian style. The gardens are compartmentalised and divided into themes: Egypt, China, etc.

In 1861 Bateman and his sons, who had used up their savings, gave up the house and gardens, and Bateman moved to Kensington in London. Robert Heath bought Biddulph Grange in 1871. After the house burnt down in 1896, architect Thomas Bower rebuilt it.

The post-1896 house served as a children’s hospital from 1923 until the 1960s; known first as the “North Staffordshire Cripples’ Hospital” and later as the “Biddulph Grange Orthopaedic Hospital” (though it took patients with non-orthopaedic conditions as well…. The 15 acre (61,000 m²) 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…’

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Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener