Kingston Maurward House, in the classic Palladian style, dates from 1717-1720. It was built for George Pitt, a cousin of the Prime Minister, and thought to be the design of architect John James of Greenwich. The estate originally belonged to the Grey family and came into Pitt’s hands through marriage. King George III was a frequent visitor. In 1794 William Pitt encased the red brick building in Portland stone to please the king.
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Thomas Hardy, who lived in Lower Brockhampton, a nearby village, was a famous visitor to the house when he was a child. He used it for the setting Knapwater House in the novel Desperate Remedies. It was the Hanbury family who were responsible for the formal gardens, laid out 1918-20. From 1990 there has been wholesale renovation of the gardens. Plants of particular note are the national collections of penstemons and salvias.
The gardens reflect the Arts and Crafts style so popular in Edwardian times. Garden rooms were designed in 1914 by the Hanbury family, and enclosed with stone terraces, balustrading, steps, and yew hedges. The walled garden was, at one time, a kitchen garden for the manor house. In the garden rooms are water features and topiary. The parkland and pleasure gardens reflect the style of ‘Capability’ Brown—grass, groups of trees, a lake and a temple beside the lake.
Specific sections of the garden include a red garden with red foliage dominating; a beech avenue with summer house; rainbow beds; the terrace garden with summer bedding perennials; a brick garden which is formal with low box hedging; a herbaceous border with 100 species; the crown garden which has the national collection of tender salvias; the lakeside with exotic trees; the Japanese garden in the tea garden style; and the walled demonstration garden.
In the grounds is an animal park with donkeys, miniature Shetland ponies, goats, pigs, guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, and chickens. Also of interest for children is a willow tunnel and play area.
Kingston Maurward Gardens
Kingston Maurward College, Dorset
off A35 Dorchester bypass at eastern end; follow signs from college entrance; entrance to garden via Visitor Centre
Tel. 0 1305 215 003
Open: daily, Feb-end Oct, 10am-5pm; Nov, 10am-4.30pm; closed Christmas break
Website: Kingston Maurward Gardens
shop; refreshments; picnic area