Historic kitchen garden will bloom again in Cresswell

Work has started on the restoration of an historic walled kitchen garden that 200 years ago served a stately home in Cresswell.
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In the 19th century the garden kept the Cresswell family supplied with all the fruit, vegetables and cut flowers they needed for the grand home they had built for themselves.

Cresswell Hall stood within a 200-acre landscaped park where six acres were set aside for kitchen gardens.

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The last surviving part of the gardens is a triangular walled garden that was protected from the cold winds blowing in off the North Sea, by 15-feet high walls on its three sides.

Harry Fenwick (centre) with Ian Dunning and Michael Coulson.Harry Fenwick (centre) with Ian Dunning and Michael Coulson.
Harry Fenwick (centre) with Ian Dunning and Michael Coulson.

It meant estate gardeners could grow more exotic fruits which would have been considered luxuries in those days, such as peaches, pears, grapes, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries.

The hall remained the home of the Cresswell family until 1924 when the estate, the hall itself and all its fixtures and fittings, was sold.

It was purchased by Northumberland County Council with the intention of converting it into a hospital, but those plans never materialised and it was eventually demolished in the 1930s. The walled garden was largely abandoned.

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Now, Parkdean Resorts who own the site, have granted Cresswell Pele Tower Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) a 25-year lease, as well making a financial contribution, so both the walled garden and the adjoining 14th century pele tower, can be restored to their former glory.

Work on the pele tower has been completed so successfully that it has been removed from English Heritage’s ‘At Risk’ register.

The work was done with the aid of some £800,000 in funding, largely from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

For the second part of the project, the Cresswell Pele Tower CIO has secured another £230,834 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to carry out the restoration work, engage a volunteer co-ordinator and deliver a programme of activities.

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The work has been contracted out to RHD Construction of Seaton Burn, whose owner Harry Fenwick said: “Our job will be to retain as much as possible of the original 200-year-old layout whilst providing a fully-accessible community garden that both local residents and visitors can enjoy

“It is a challenge, but it is going to be so satisfying to bring back to life a neglected piece of local history that people will be able to enjoy visiting.”

The work is expected to take about four months to complete and will involve laying new footpaths, installing lighting bollards and three pergolas, building a lean-to greenhouse, a large gazebo for activities and performances, creating a pond to attract wildlife and turfing over the central area.

Local resident and archaeologist Barry Mead, one of the project co-ordinators, said a team of volunteers has already been busy in the garden before the landscapers get to work, planting up borders and re-creating an orchard.

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The volunteers have also begun to establish their own colony of bees to produce honey from several hives they have been given, an initiative funded by the North of Tyne Authority.

“We can’t wait to see work on the walled garden completed,” said Barry. “Since restoration work was completed on the pele tower thousands of visitors have been to see it for themselves and so many have said they want to come back and spend time in the walled garden too.”