Since the creation of the Yorkshire Gardens Trust in 1996 more than 300 events have been organised for our members and guests. Here are some recent highlights...

For reports of earlier events please follow this link to earlier Newsletters


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Day visit

Summer picnic at Littlethorpe Manor


Our Summer Picnic this year was held at Littlethorpe Manor by kind permission of Mrs J P Thackray. We enjoyed an extensive guided tour of the 11 acres of gardens which have been developed since 1998 with Head Gardener, Eddie Harland and his team. These included a walled garden with herbaceous planting, roses and gazebo, a sunken garden with ornamental plants and herbs, brick pergola with wisteria, blue and yellow borders, a formal lawn with fountain pool, and a large pond with classical pavilion and boardwalk. We also explored the new contemporary physic garden with rill, raised beds and medicinal plants designed in commemoration of Mr John P. Thackray, OBE, and the family company Chas. F. Thackray, followed by picnic lunch and strawberries and cream in the covered marquee.                                                

Day visit

Summer evening at Ness Hall

Fundraising Evening for YGT Student Horticultural Bursary Fund


Our venue for the Summer Party was Ness Hall. The main 2½ acre garden is contained in a 17th Century walled garden. It has been lovingly gardened and developed by 3 generations of Murray Wells. It now contains a rose pergola, a Japanese-influenced garden with pergola and stream, a woodland area, cutting and kitchen garden and a wonderful ‘fairy’ garden. Often described as a large cottage garden the borders are full, with self-seeding encouraged, there are lots of seating areas for relaxing and catching up with friends. There is also a large orchard and gardens around the house to explore.

This was a fundraising evening for our Student Horticultural Bursary fund, to support individuals in their horticultural, landscape design, landscape/garden history research or conservation of historical designed landscapes careers.  


Lecture / Talk

Yorkshire Philosophical Society/Yorkshire Gardens Trust Biennial Lecture

Identifying and Protecting Historic Parks and Gardens in England:Celebrating Forty Years of the Register - Dr Victoria Thomson

2024 marks the fortieth anniversary of the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. The Register identifies over 1700 historic parks and gardens, which then benefit from a high degree of protection through the planning system. What now seems like a self-evidently necessary mechanism for ensuring the survival of these widespread and much-loved elements of the historic environment had a difficult emergence, though: the Register appeared around a hundred years after monuments first received protection, and forty years after similar measures for buildings. The story did not end with its introduction, either: there have been a number of ups and downs in the ensuing decades. This talk explored that story from the beginning to the present day, covering the origins and evolution of the Register, and its application and effectiveness, before considering the future of the protection of historic parks and gardens. 

Victoria’s professional background is in town planning and historic conservation, with stints in local and national government, a government agency, academia, and now the third sector. Her personal and research interests are very much focused on historic parks and gardens, and particularly on their protection. She is a member of the Gardens Trust’s Conservation Committee.

Day visit

Ray Wood, Castle Howard

Ray Wood stands to the east of Castle Howard on the site of an ancient woodland. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle created serpentine paths in the natural style wood and filled it with statues, cascades, fountains, pavilions and summerhouses, but by the mid-18th century these had disappeared. In the 1940s it was clear felled for the war effort, but in the 1970s George Howard and his designer James Russell created a woodland garden reinstating the irregular paths in its 25 acres. Today, their planting legacy means there are nearly 800 species of Rhododendron in the Wood, as well as glades of Pieris, wild roses, magnolias, hydrangeas, viburnums and maples and rowans. The collection is of national importance and many of the plants have come here from across the globe and were were derived from those brought to the UK by some of the great plant hunters of the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection of plants is now managed by the Arboretum Trust staff, with assistance from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. We spent an exclusive day with John Grimshaw, Director of the Yorkshire Arboretum, starting with an introductory talk at the Arboretum, John then lead a walk through the wood.


Day visit

Sewerby Hall and Gardens

An illustrated talk and guided walk

Sewerby Hall is Yorkshire’s uniquely sited historic park and garden in a dramatic clifftop position. With its spectacular views over Bridlington and the Bay it has a long history from 1086 when it was a manorial estate held by the count of Mortain. Having passed through various families it was acquired in 1714 by John Graeme I, a Bridlington merchant and the Graeme’s held the estate for 220 years. John Graeme III inherited Sewerby in 1798 and having married in succession two wealthy heiresses and inheriting some money from his father he set about designing his landscape setting for the Georgian house and making additions to the building.  

After coffee and biscuits, Val Hepworth and Caroline Kernan led the day explaining the developments at Sewerby and guided members outside in the afternoon. There is no evidence that a ‘well-known’ name was employed by Graeme, but it is likely he was influenced by other landowners in his social circle. Sewerby is something of a hybrid, not a truely rugged picturesque landscape, but incorporating Brownian clumps, belts and picturesque use of the sea. There are distinctly Reptonian features, mid 19th century Victorian aspects and the walled kitchen garden appears built with three compartments on the 1854 OS Map.  Afterwards there was an opportunity to visit Sewerby Hall. A Listed Grade I house it underwent a total restoration in 2013-2014 and has been re-presented as an Edwardian Country house, circa 1910. The rooms are furnished with impressive pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as other important collections.


Day visit

The Lost Nurseries of Central York

The Dissolution of the Monasteries left several sites within or close to the York city walls that were productive gardens or had the space to be so. Several of these subsequently became significant plant nurseries. The walk will begin with the lost site on Fishergate that became the Riggs nursery, and proceed to the site close to Clifford’s Tower that became Matthew Wharton’s nursery, and then to Tanner Row where the Telfords and later the Backhouses established their important nursery businesses. The walk will finish close to the centre of York at the Yorkshire Museum gardens, another location where monastic land became an important horticultural site.
None of the nurseries survived beyond the mid-19th century, so map evidence and illustrations will be provided to help us imagine them. During the walk we will examine the importance not just of the nurseries but also of York more generally as a centre of horticultural innovation from the mid-17th century onwards.


Day visit

AGM at Askham Bryan College

Yorkshire Gardens Trust held its 2024 AGM at Askham Bryan College. After the AGM business we heard from Trevor Nicholson, Head Gardener at Harewood who  spoke on "Harewood’s Gardens & Grounds – ‘Reimagined’ Content" and following lunch we toured the college facilities with staff members

Lecture / Talk

‘Bright Prospects’- Curating & Conservation at Wentworth Castle Gardens and Beningbrough Hall

The third in a series of Zoom lectures in conjunction with The Gardens Trust

Both created at the same time in the early 18th century by some of the same craftsmen, these two Yorkshire sites have seen centuries of change and challenge before coming into the care of the National Trust.
Wentworth Castle Gardens near Barnsley was conceived as a grand expression of aristocratic pride and taste. The remains of this vision sit at the core of the site, overlaid with important 19th and 20th century influences. The contemporary Beningbrough Hall near York was the creation of a wealthy young gentry couple hoping to consolidate and enhance their family status. The remarkable preservation of their house stands in contrast to the much-altered garden and parkland.
Most recently, both sites have shifted from being private spaces to thriving public assets. Hear how has this developed and how the contemporary National Trust is working at these places to further enhance their social benefit alongside ensuring the care and conservation of nationally significant heritage assets?


Lecture / Talk

A Rock Garden Recreated - The Restoration of the Backhouse Rock Garden at Burnby Hall Garden, Pocklington,

The second in a series of Zoom lectures in conjunction with The Gardens Trust

The period 2016 to 2019 saw the complete restoration of the substantial early 20th century Rock Garden at Burnby Hall Gardens. Originally created for the owners of Burnby Hall, Major Percy and Mrs Katharine Stewart, by James Backhouse and Son of York, a substantial Heritage Lottery Fund grant supported the transformation of this unique location. This illustrated lecture featured a brief history of the Stewarts and details the extensive work that has been undertaken to restore the Rock Garden, including obtaining the funding, the challenges that were overcome, and its ongoing maintenance.

Lecture / Talk

Bramham Park – Restoring & Preserving the Legacy

The first in a series of Zoom lectures in conjunction with The Gardens Trust

Bramham Park was created by Robert Benson, Lord Bingley at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century, as a residence and landscape to demonstrate the status he had risen to as Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Director of the South Sea Company. In the three following centuries a combination of irresponsible illegitimate children, gambling debts, a disastrous fire, two world wars, inheritance taxes and a hurricane-force gale meant that Benson’s design has never been substantially changed. This makes Bramham a rare survival of the period between baroque formality and the Landscape Movement, showing the development from one to the other.
Since the gale in 1962, Benson’s descendants have sought to restore Bramham to its original condition and the current owner, Nick Lane Fox recounted his efforts, since taking over from his father in 1997.