The garden was completed in September 2007 and opened by Sir Roy Strong, distinguished art historian and writer, one of the patrons of the Merchant’s House. Designed by garden designer Jeffrey Galvin-Wright, and constructed by Hillier Landscapes, the garden is a reconstruction, in the spirit of the 17th century, of a Town House garden, owned by an affluent silk merchant and his family, who rebuilt the original Merchant’s House after the Great Fire of Marlborough in 1653.
Documentary evidence uncovered by our archivist tells us that there was a garden at the Merchant’s House but its exact location is uncertain. From early times, the area where the garden now is, was occupied by sheds and outbuildings. There was a garden further up, towards Back Lane where the original burgage plot terminated, but this is now lost under the new housing. Recreating a garden in keeping with the House, therefore, has to be in the spirit of the mid seventeenth century, avoiding the temptation to make it a pastiche.
DESIGN AND PLANTING
The design, construction and planting have been carefully researched, so that the garden is as accurate as possible to the style of a formal, yet utilitarian, garden which would have existed in the mid to late 17th century, belonging to a Puritan family.
The garden, which is approximately 27m long by 8m wide, is on three levels: a paved terrace at the bottom, then up to a formal parterre, based on a design from Leonard Meager’s 1670 book ‘The English Gardener’. The Parterre is planted with Campanula persicifolia, Calendula officinalis (Old English Marigolds) and 17th century varieties of Tulips, all enclosed by Box hedges, Box balls and pyramids. A Bay tree in the centre was planted by Sir Roy to commemorate the opening of the garden.
There is a herb garden with approximately 17 varieties of herbs for both medicinal and culinary uses, and an orchard at the top, with nine old varieties of fruit trees (including 4 apples, 2 pears, a Medlar and a Quince). In the centre unifying the garden is a wooden ‘Play House’ based on a design in the 1679 Dutch gardening book the ‘Nederlandtsen Hovenier’. The design echoes some of the Dutch influenced decoration in the house. The garden is enclosed by a Hornbeam hedge and ash trellis panels.
Other plants include: Lavender, Acanthus, Paeonies, Hyssop, Clematis, Honeysuckle, old Roses, and a grape vine, all varieties found in English gardens of the 17th century. There is a bee house, with old skeps, which are for show only.
SUPPORT FOR THE GARDEN
The garden has only been made possible by many fund-raising initiatives such as the Adopt-a-Plot scheme, which raised over £4,000 from many individual donors, and by a number of generous donations, including grants from The Stanley Smith Trust and The Worshipful Company of Gardeners.
The garden is lovingly maintained by a small group of volunteer gardeners and, in 2009, was awarded the Wiltshire Life ‘Garden of the Year’ award.
VISITING THE GARDEN
The finished garden offers visitors to the Merchant’s House a chance to see how a 17th century Town House garden might have looked, positioning the Merchant’s House in context. It can be visited as part of a tour of the House, or by groups by special arrangement. For more information go to our visitors page