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Eggleston Hall Gardens
There have been Gardens at Eggleston Hall since the late 16th century. It is hard to imagine, given the limitations of plant varieties, just how these would have looked, but my suspicion would be towards a physic garden, in all likelihood with the proximity of Egglestone Abbey it may well have been under monastic influence through their use and knowledge of medicinal herbs.
However this was the time of the Tradescants and the birth pains of more a scientific interest in plants. Over the next couple of centuries many of these old monastic gardens morphed into Botanical gardens. The advent of relatively easier travel around the globe, the natural human thirst for knowledge, and adventuresome spirits such as John Fraser, David Douglas, Robert Fortune, Sir Joseph Hooker, George Forrest, and latterly Frank Kingdon-Ward, meant that tales of exotic plants and enchanting gardens were brought home to an insatiable public. Many amongst them would have been wealthy landowners, merchants, or industrialists, to who both money and land were readily available. It is not hard to imagine the culture of oneupmanship over who had the rarest and most unusual plants on their estate.
One only has to look along the river banks of the Tees from Eggleston bridge to see the selection of rarer mature trees that could only have been planted during this long period, and while they are sadly passing with the winds of time, their spirit and grace remain as a testament to this past for a while yet.
We know through photographic evidence that the gardens went through something of a renaissance during the Victorian era, albeit for private pleasure they were set out in the Italian style and Glasshouses with heating pipes were introduced.
Throughout all these eras a private chapel has stood in the grounds of Eggleston Hall Gardens, some of the earliest tombstones date to 1607. It was closed in 1868, the roof used on other estate buildings and the gates chained up. Over the following 120 years it fell into disrepair until Gordon Long with the agreement of Rosemarie Gray developed it into what is now a very peaceful feature. In many ways it is a spirit echo from the past with its religious connections, the fact its been planted round with rare plants from around the world, and simply that it has stood there throughout. It is a part of the garden shrouded with history and tranquility, a small space for meditation, contemplation and reflection. Yet there are voices for those that wish to hear.