I know I am lucky to receive invites to visit lovely places. Sometimes I know the place I am visiting and sometimes it is somewhere unknown to me that turns out to be an absolute jewel. The visit to Luton Hoo Estate Walled Gardens was such a jewel.
I was asked to visit as part of an event, but I have not been paid to write this nor am I under any obligation to write this.
Let's start with a bit of history: the Walled Gardens at one time were part of a larger estate that included the mansion house that is called Luton Hoo (now a hotel). Around 30 years ago the estate was divided and the Walled Gardens and area around it are not under the same ownership as the hotel. Obviously the early history of the house is directly linked to the history of the walled gardens because as you will see, the house and estate has changed hands several times and has been through many iterations.
The origins of the house are not totally clear, but there has been a house on this site for a very long time with 1455 being an early record of an already old house. This was when the 1st Baron Hoo died and the house passed to the Rotherham family. It eventually moved into the hand of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (of whom the species Stewartia are named after) who was Prime Minister briefly (1762-63) who spent a lot of time and money remodelling the house into the fashion of the day. Whilst Thomas Adam worked on the house, Capability Brown worked on the grounds. Subsequent owners remodelled and 'improved' the house until it was pretty much destroyed in a fire in 1843. In 1848 the remains of the house were bought by John Shaw Leigh and it was rebuilt again. Time moves on and the house continues to be bought and sold eventually ending up being bought by Sir Julius Wernher, who's descendents still own Luton Hoo Estate. The house is now a high quality hotel in separate ownership. The Estate is used extensively for film/tv location work. So whilst I had not been there previously, it turned out I have unknowlingly seen it a lot.
The Walled Garden is an unusual octagonal shape and was designed for Lord Bute by Capability Brown. The Walled Gardens changed with the times and through each new owner of the estate. Sir Wernher had one of the walls removed and replaced by a huge glasshouse complex built c.1911 by MacKenzie Moncur with a central fernery and six 'fingers' of glasshouses that reached out into the gardens.