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Book Review: Walled Kitchen Gardens of the Isle of Wight

P1030800Isle of Wight Gardens Trust, Walled Kitchen Gardens of the Isle of Wight (2014)

Thanks not least to Susan Campbell, whose revised A History of Kitchen Gardening came out in 2005, and the Walled Kitchen Garden Network http://www.walledgardens.net/contact/contact1.htm, we now have a pretty good understanding of the features and workings of walled kitchen gardens. Systematic local studies remain relatively few, however, and thus this HLF-funded, volunteer-led project is to be warmly welcomed. Especially laudable is the fact that one of the project’s outcomes is this attractive Shire Book-style, 90-page, colour publication, which provides both overview and selective gazetteer.

At the outset the project guessed there might be 30 walled gardens to investigate; eventually 98 were identified. Thirty pre-dated 1800, 59 were constructed 1800-1875, and 9 were later. Most were small, their walls built of a mixture of brick and the presumably cheaper local stone. Given this modesty, it’s not surprising to find that relatively few had ambitious ranges of glass or multiple compartments. One or two, however, were on the grand scale: royal Osborne, which English Heritage opens to the public, and Norris Castle, where James Wyatt designed a house and combined home farm and walled garden for Lord Henry Seymour. The latter is extraordinary, with crenellated walls and multiple turrets, a cross between a Roman fort and a Crusader castle.

All concerned with this venture are to be congratulated, and one hopes it is copied in other counties. Putting such surveys on the web is essential, for free and wide access and searchability. A PDF of the publication is available on the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust's website: http://www.iwhistory.org.uk/iwgt/wkg.pdf. But for legibility, and rapid skimming, you can’t beat a proper book!

Paul Stamper, English Heritage