Part 4: A Garden Brought Back to Life

Part 4: A Garden Brought Back to Life

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By 1980 the restoration of Miss Jekyll's planting was complete, with the border between the outer wall of the East Rill and the Orangery lawn the final area to be replanted.

The site's structures and surfaces had been saved from dereliction, and Hestercombe's profile was high.

The fire brigade continued to welcome thousands of visitors, eager to experience this iconic Lutyens-Jekyll garden for themselves.

Many members of the team retired or moved to other jobs in the years that followed, but a visit by Prince Charles to Hestercombe in 2002 was the occasion of a reunion for Bil, Madeleine and Harry.

Roy Cheek remained involved on the Hestercombe gardens advisory panel until 1994, as the restoration of the garden continued, making further repairs to the structures, maintaining the planting and slowly replacing the missing garden ornaments and seating sold at auction.

Bil, Madeleine and Harry (far right) meet
Prince Charles in 2002.

Hestercombe featured prominently in an exhibition on the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens at the Hayward Gallery in London, which opened in November 1981.

The restored Dutch Garden, 1979.

In the introduction to the catalogue, Jane Brown wrote:

The Jekyll planting for Hestercombe has recently been restored by Somerset County Council, and it is a pleasure to begin this section with a garden of the partnership ‘properly dressed'...

In the entry on Hestercombe, Brown continued: ‘The restoration of Gertrude Jekyll's planting affords a perfect insight into their partnership.'

The 1970s restoration of the Lutyens-Jekyll garden at Hestercombe laid the foundations for the conservation work at the site that continues today, and remains a model of good practice in the sensitive restoration of historic planting.

The team's achievement was all the more remarkable for the fact that every one of the people involved were novices in the restoration of historic gardens and had no knowledge of Gertrude Jekyll's planting when they began. The result was a testament to their collaborative effort, vision and dedication.

Since 2003, the garden has been leased to the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, which was formed in 1997. The Somerset Fire Brigade left Hestercombe House in 2008.

This article is dedicated to Bil Mount (1925-2008), who first interested me in the original restoration project at Hestercombe, and without whose personal commitment the restoration is unlikely to have taken place.

References and sources