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Bridge End Gardens


This is a Victorian garden (1837-1902) covering an area of 2.7 hectares (6.6 acres) with varied features originally laid out in 1794. The gardens were opened to the public in the late-19th century and taken over by the council in 1918.


The generally level site has a slight fall to the south-east towards the course of the Slade stream which flows close to the south- east boundary.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

An early Victorian town garden which was leased by the Borough Council in 1918 and opened as a public pleasure ground.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

Bridge End Gardens are set on the north-west edge of the town of Saffron Walden. They cover an area of c 3ha, bounded to the north-east and north-west by farmland, to the south-east by playing fields and the football club, and to the south-west by allotments and town buildings which sit on Bridge Street. The generally level site has a slight fall to the south-east towards the course of the Slade stream which flows close to the south-east boundary.

Entrances and Approaches

There are two main entrances to Bridge End Gardens. From a passage off Castle Street, a path leads north-west across the Borough Meadow into the Gardens where it meets a second path leading into the Gardens from a gate in the brick wall running along Bridge Street. Beside the junction of the two paths is a set of ornamental iron gates (listed grade II), set on square red-brick piers surmounted by eagles.

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

The Bridge End Gardens are divided by walls (partly listed grade II) or hedges into five main compartments, each with a different character: the Dutch Garden, the Summerhouse Lawn, the Rose Garden, the Maze, and the Kitchen Garden. The walls bear several plaques and inscriptions, dated 1794, 1814, 1818, and 1840 although the origins of some of these is not clear (Liz Lake Assoc 1999).

The two paths into the Gardens merge and run through a shrubbery along the south-west boundary, past a circular brick structure known as Jacob's Well, set on higher ground adjacent to the Rose Garden and shown in this position on the 1877 OS map. The gateway at the junction of the two entrance paths leads into the Dutch Garden, underneath which the Slade stream is culverted. It is enclosed to the north-west by a high red-brick garden wall with the gravel Pavilion Path at its base. The Path is terminated at its south-west end by a square brick pavilion (erected c 1845, listed grade II), on the north side of which is a tiny enclosure called Poets' Corner, laid in a box knot. The south-east boundary of the Dutch Garden is marked by a low balustraded wall, beyond which is a ha-ha, the Garden itself laid out in a formal arrangement with yew topiary and box-edged borders focused on a central circular fountain basin. The main central path runs from the basin south-west, terminating in a shrubbery, and north-east, leading to a raised viewing platform edged with iron railings, beyond which lies a small brick Grotto in an area known as The Wilderness.

Beyond the north-west wall of the Dutch Garden lies the Summerhouse Lawn, comprising an open expanse of lawn bordered by gravel paths and shrubberies. At the western end of the lawn is an octagonal summerhouse (c 1840, listed grade II), built of grey gault brick under a lead domed roof; beyond it to the south-west lies a circular yew-hedged rose garden, bordered by iron rose hoops. An arched gateway through the dividing wall with the Dutch Garden is focused on the centre of the Rose Garden, which is thought to be one of the oldest parts of the Gardens (ibid). Beyond the north-west boundary of the Summerhouse Lawn lies the walled kitchen garden, while a gateway engraved 'FEG 1840' (listed grade II) at the northern tip leads to a hedged enclosure in which a mature yew maze is situated. The gateway dates the planting of the Maze, which at the time was surrounded by a shrubbery with a pleached alley, the remains of which survive. In the C19 the Maze had a central viewing platform which no longer survives and excavation of the Maze during the 1982 restoration revealed the footings of a building within it, the exact form of which is not known.


The gardens are enclosed to the south-east and north-east by areas of grass edged with plantations. Beyond the ha-ha below the Dutch Garden is the Borough Meadow which has a plantation of mature trees along the southern edge beside the path into the gardens, all that remains of a more extensive plantation which ran around three side of the Meadow. Beyond the Maze to the north-east are two further areas of grass, now (2000) used partly as a cricket ground and partly as the Anglo-American Memorial Playing Fields, with mature trees surviving along the banks of the Slade. Plantations to the north-east and north-west no longer survive (2000). The area beyond the dressed ground was laid out as he laid out the Gardens and was planted as a parkland setting for the more formal areas of ground.

Kitchen Garden

The walled kitchen garden (listed grade II) has a plaque dating its construction to 1840. It is walled on three sides, the south-east boundary being hedged and fenced. The ground is laid to grass with gravel paths running around the perimeter. Further paths, edged with box and planted with new (late C20) trees, divide the ground into quarters, and lead to a central circular fountain pool.


  • Survey of Saffron Walden, 1828 (T/M 141), (Essex Record Office)
  • Draft town plan of Saffron Walden, 1829 (D/DQy 25), (Essex Record Office)
  • Tithe map for Saffron Walden parish, 1842 (D/CT 378), (Essex Record Office)
  • OS 1st edition 1:500 town map, 1877
  • OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1877
  • 2nd edition published 1896
  • OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1877
  • 2nd edition published 1897

Archival items

  • A small collection of material relating to Bridge End Gardens is held at the Essex Record Office.

Description written: November 2000

Edited: September 2001

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01799 516502

Access contact details

Please note the main garden is open to the public. The walled garden is open 8am-4pm Monday-Thursday, 8am-12 noon Friday.


At the north-west edge of Saffron Walden


The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

18th Century

When Atkinson Francis Gibson married Elizabeth Wyatt in 1789 she brought as part of her dowry, the Bridge End Homestall and surrounding fields on the edge of Saffron Walden. The Gibsons lived near the centre of town, on the corner of the High Street and Castle Street, where they had only a small garden. Thus despite its detachment from their house, they began to lay out a garden at Bridge End, evidence for which is shown on two maps dated 1828 and 1829 (town survey; town plan).

Atkinson Francis Gibson died in 1829 and was succeeded by his son, Francis Gibson, who was greatly interested in aesthetic principles and architecture. Having completed a garden design for his sister and having agreed to give a lecture to the local horticultural society on garden styles, he turned his attention to the Bridge End site and from 1838 onwards designed and laid out a new garden there in collaboration with William Chater, a local nurseryman and garden designer.

By 1856 both men were members of the Committee of Management for the Saffron Walden Horticultural Society. When Francis died in 1858 he was succeeded by his son, Francis Edward (Frank), who himself died, unmarried, in 1862. The property then passed to Frank's sister, who was married to Lewis Fry and was living in Bristol. An agent was employed to manage the gardens and from 1867 onwards Bridge End Gardens became one of four venues used by the Horticultural Society for their summer and autumn shows.

20th Century

By 1902 Lewis Fry had opened the gardens to the public as a pleasure ground and in 1918 he leased the site to the Borough Council who took over responsibility for its management. Uttlesford District Council have continued to lease the Gardens and since 1982 have undertaken a comprehensive restoration scheme.

The site remains (2000) a public pleasure ground.


  • 18th Century (1701 to 1800)
  • Late 18th Century (1775 to 1799)
Associated People
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD1146
  • Grade: II*


  • Ha-ha
  • Stream
  • Description: Slade stream
  • Gates
  • Description: ornamental iron gates
  • Lawn
  • Description: Summerhouse Lawn
  • Rose Garden
  • Maze
  • Description: mature yew maze
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: walled kitchen garden (Listed grade II)
  • Shrubbery
  • Grotto
  • Description: small brick grotto
  • Summerhouse
  • Description: octagonal c1840 (Listed grade II)
  • Dutch Garden
  • Meadow
  • Description: Borough meadow
  • Fountain pool
  • Description: Circular fountain pool
  • Well
  • Description: Jacob's Well
Key Information





Principal Building

Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces


18th Century (1701 to 1800)





Open to the public


Civil Parish

Saffron Walden



Related Documents
  • CLS 1/121/1

    Draft Historic Landscape Survey and Restoration Management Plan - Hard copy

    Liz Lake Associates in association with Debois Landscape Survey Group - 1998

  • CLS 1/121/2

    Apppendix A: Archival Material - Hard copy

    Liz Lake Associates in association with Debois Landscape Survey Group - 1998

  • CLS 1/121/3

    Restoration Management Plan - Hard copy

    Liz Lake Associates - 1999

  • CLS 1/121/4

    Conservation Management Plan: Re-establishment of Victorian Walled Garden - Hard copy

    Liz Lake Associates in association with Susan Campbell - 2006