See also our article Newstead Abbey
The gardens and parkland at Newstead Abbey cover more than 300 acres. Water for the lakes, ponds, and cascades comes from the River Leen.
It is thought that the Stew Pond is, in reality, a medieval monastic fish pond redesigned in the early 18th century as an ornamental canal. It continued being used for fish during Victorian times when it was stocked with carp. On either side of the Stew Pond are walks flanked by yew trees. St Mary’s Well, once at the north end, was a wishing well thought by the superstitious to have magical powers.
Surrounded by walnut trees, another medieval fish pond is the Eagle Pond, named after the eagle shaped lectern owned by the monastery. It sits in the middle of the Great Garden, dating from the late 17th century. The formal garden, with its stone walls, has terraced walks and was designed in the Dutch style popular during the reign of William and Mary (1682-1702).
The Great Garden began as an evergreen garden with fruit trees. The 720 foot long herbaceous border was added c1870. It was planted with roses, peonies, tritomas, St John’s wart, hellebores, campanulas and others. In 1896 it underwent changes and was planted with a large variety of perennials. The present plantings date from 1990. Behind the border is a 14th century north terrace wall. Here was the Forest Pond, drained in the 20th century.
Other gardens date from 1861-1900 and were developed by Mrs William Frederick Webb and her daughters Geraldine and Ethel. These are the Fernery, Rockery, Sub-Topical Garden, Spanish Garden, and Japanese Garden.
The Fernery is sited beneath a rustic wooden bridge and dates from 1864. At one time it had hundreds of different species of fern. Some of its stone may have originated with the priory church. The Fern Garden used stones that were part of the priory church.
The Rockery, dating from c1874, was named Venetia after a novel of the same name by Benjamin Disraeli. Published in 1837, it was set at Newstead during Byron’s younger days.
The Sub-tropical Garden is an early 20th century one. Here exotic plants such as bamboo, eucalyptus, pampas grass, blue veronicas, yucca, gave the garden its name. Here also is a handkerchief tree.
The Spanish Garden, dating from 1896, has a box hedge parterre with ornamental flowerbeds. It sits on the monastic burial ground. Its name derives from the mosaic well head that was copied from a Spanish one. Seasonal annuals and bulbs add colour.
The Japanese Garden dates from c1900-1914. It was designed by a Japanese gardener to replicate a Japanese landscape in small scale. A stone bridge, small streams, little islands, a thatched teahouse, and stone lanterns set off shrubs and dwarf trees (quince, maple, and conifers).
The walled Rose Garden is of later date—1965—and took over the site of a Victorian kitchen garden. A small walled garden is next to it. In Victorian times fountains and glasshouses grew grapes, peaches and melons. Tender flowers such as begonias and ferns also benefited from the heat as did the bedding plants started in the greenhouse. Pear trees and carnations were added to the small walled garden by the Webbs. The greenhouses were taken down when the rose garden was built.
The Garden Lake dates from c1820. A path runs along its edge, and trees of swamp cyprus, Luscombe oak, medlar, and willow provide shade. Aquatic plants growing here include yellow water lily, wild angelica, water figwort, corn mint, bulrush, marsh marigold, water mint, and many others. Waterfowl include grey heron, ruddy ducks, and kingfishers.
The American Garden, formerly the Wilderness Garden, once had an aviary. In 1874 the area became a rhododendron garden. Its new name, dating from Victorian times, was the result of trees and plants from the US and Canada being planted here. These included magnolias, azaleas, and a tulip tree. The yew hedge was planted to separate this garden from the Rose Garden.
The French Garden dates from 1830-40 and takes its name from the white spar, blue slate, and red brick dust that was laid out in patterns between the parterre. In 1916 the garden was simplified and became one of formal flower plots and gravelled walkways with a central sundial.
The Monks’ Garden is next to the priory church. The Webb pet cemetery was located here. Snowdrops, crocuses, narcissi, and daffodils are highlights of this section of the garden. The stable block and Upper Lake can be seen from here. Next to the Victorian stable block is a mock fort built in 1770 which was later used as a cowshed.
The monument in the garden was erected 1808-09 by Byron in memory of his Newfoundland dog and was also supposed to serve as his own tomb. However, he was buried at Hucknall in the family vault. The inscription to his dog reads: 'possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of Man without his Vices'.
Newstead Abbey and Gardens
Newstead Abbey Park, 12 miles north of Nottingham, near the A60
Close to Junction 27 of the M1; follow the signs for Sherwood Forest until you see the brown signs for the Abbey
Tel. 0 1623 455 900
Open: House: by tour on Sundays at noon, 1pm, 2pm, private tours available, phone to book; Grounds: all year, daily, 9am-5pm or dusk whichever is sooner; Cafe, daily 11am-4pm; shop, April-Oct, noon-4.30pm, Nov-March, weekends only, noon-4pm; Parking; refreshments; shop; adventure playground; picnic area
Parking; refreshments; shop; adventure playground; picnic area
Note: plan at least one full day to take in all the gardens, park, and abbey and enjoy a lunch in the café.
Photos and content © by Barbara Ballard
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