National Trust revives 1920s garden to former glory

A five-year restoration project has returned Standen House Arts and Crafts garden in West Sussex to its 1920s heyday.

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With the help of National Trust volunteers and gardeners, a five-year restoration project has returned the long-lost 1920s Standen House Arts and Crafts garden to its former glory.

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Standen House in West Sussex was designed for James Beale and his family in the late 19th century. Overlooking the stunning High Weald and Weir Wood Reservoir, the garden is considered one of the most important in the country.

The 12-acre hillside garden was originally designed in the 1920s by Margaret Beale – a skilled gardener and plantswoman, and husband to James Beale. The garden’s design included a collection of outdoor rooms, a scented rose garden, a lime tree walk, ponds and lush foliage. Margaret drew inspiration from a world tour she had undertaken in 1906 to 1907 to create the exotic areas.

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Quarry Garden at Standen Hall in the 1920s<em> ©National Trust</em>

The £500,000 conservation project – one of the National Trust’s biggest undertakings in recent years – followed the discovery of the Beale family swimming pond in the garden over ten years ago, and in 2012 the garden’s revival began.

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Beales’ grandchildren swimming in Standen Hall pool <em>©National Trust</em>

“In the latter part of the 20th century, Standen’s gardens saw alterations and replanting which covered or removed some of the original features. When I was first investigating the undergrowth in areas of the gardens I realised there was much more than met the eye,” states Standen’s head gardener James Masters.

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Bamboo clearing during the Standen Hall Arts and Crafts garden restoration <em>©James Masters </em>

“Over the years our discoveries have included lost walls, a rock garden and rare and unusual plants all overgrown by the vigorous modern planting that had masked the original beauty of Margaret Beale’s design,” Masters adds. “So we were lucky to have a wealth of archive material that has helped us research how it would have looked, ranging from family photographs, maps and receipts, to Margaret’s garden diaries which she kept for over 40 years. These have enabled us to piece it together and bring the garden back to its best.”

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<em>Standen House from he Croquet Lawn in the 1920s ©</em><em>National Trust</em>

One of the highlights of the garden is the Rosary, said to have seen the biggest transformation during the restoration. Alongside a sun dial, a sweeping oak trellis and a reinstated swimming pond, the Rosery offers a place where visitors can admire China pink roses, one of Mrs Beale’s her most loved flowers.

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Standen House’s restored Rosary <em>©Andrew Butler, National Trust</em>

Other original features of the garden that have been restored include the Kitchen Garden, the replacing of lime trees, 10,000 tulips (including rare varieties), the croquet lawn and the medieval quarry face.

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Croquet Lawn and Kitchen Garden at Standen House <em>©Andrew Butler, National Trust</em>
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James Masters Head Gardener with staff and volunteers at Standen House <em>©Roger Bloxham, National Trust</em>
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The garden at Standen House <em>©Andrew Butler, National Trust</em>

An exhibition concerning the garden and its revival will take place in Standen House from 6 May and 3 September. The exhibition will include the showcasing of the original documents belonging to Margaret Beale that were used.

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For more information on Standen House and the Arts and Crafts garden, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/standen-house-and-garden