Part 3: Recognition Grows

Part 3: Recognition Grows

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The team's main concern was to show the council some results as soon as possible, and the restoration was launched with a reception for councillors in the Orangery, together with a viewing of the new planting.

‘They needed to see something that impressed them enough that they would continue to back the scheme,' explains Madeleine.

One of Bil’s first actions when the restoration project received the green light had been to commission an exhibition from a team at Somerset College of Art (staff members Tom Murrow, David Farrant and Ros Carter). This was mounted in the Orangery in time for the launch, with panels explaining the garden’s history and the work of Lutyens and Jekyll, together with a selection of old photographs showing how the formal garden had looked in its heyday.

The Orangery exhibition in 1974.

The team also invited people with an interest in garden history to see the work, such as members of the Garden History Society and Betty Massingham, author of a number of books on Gertrude Jekyll.

Mrs Massingham helped with advice on the planting (she also supplied the missing Saponaria officinalis from her own garden) and, following a visit to California, provided more information on the plans available in the College of Environmental Design Documents Collection.

‘The grey borders were tremendously successful, and much visited in the first few years as being outstanding examples of how Jekyll's planting worked,' says Lorna McRobie.

In 1975, the restoration scheme received a prestigious Civic Trust Heritage Year Award in connection with European Architectural Heritage Year. There was also an award from the English Tourist Board Public Gardens competition in 1979. TV crews visited, as did many newspapers and magazines, and the media profile was high.

As the garden's fame grew, so did the number of visitors. By the autumn of 1975, with the garden open to the public by appointment a few afternoons each week, fire brigade administrative officer Dougie Deer had made arrangements for some 3,000 people to come and see the rebirth taking place at Hestercombe.

The Planting Progresses

The wall of the Grey Walk in 1979.