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Hartland Abbey


Set in the grounds of the last monastery to be dissolved by Henry VIII, the Hartland Abbey Estate has developed as a private house with extensive parklands, walks and gardens. It lies in an area classified as of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The parkland runs right down to the Atlantic coast.

Hartland Abbey remains a family home, having been gifted by Henry VIII to an ancestor of the present owners. The house is also open to the public. The site lies in a beautiful valley leading to an Atlantic cove. Much of the 50 acres of gardens and grounds was lost under mountainous undergrowth from the outbreak of World War 1 until 1996. Ongoing restoration has revealed the ‘lost' Fernery and Bog Garden by Gertrude Jekyll, winding paths through woodland gardens of spring flowering shrubs, hydrangeas and eucryphia, the Gazebo on the cliff and the Summerhouse, newly restored for 2011. Three romantic 18th-century Walled Gardens once again grow herbaceous, tender and rare perennials, vegetables and fruit.
Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The house and gardens are open from April to October from 11.30 to 5pm (House 2 ? 4.30pm). See the website for dates and times confirmation each year, as well as special events.



In the 12th century the Augustinian monks gardened here; they built high walls around the Abbey and grew everything that they needed to survive. In the 16th century these walls were demolished and in the 18th century Walled Gardens were built at the top of the valley away from the Abbey, to avoid the devastating south-westerly gales from the Atlantic. In 1750 the avenue of oaks was planted down the front drive and the woodland gardens were created on either side of the valley with the Ladies Walk linking them to the Walled Gardens.

The gardens were probably at their finest between 1870 and 1914: in those days fifteen garden staff were employed, many of whom went to the First World War, never to return. Now there are one and a half gardeners, backed up by the Stucley family!

At the beginning of the 20th century Gertrude Jekyll had a significant influence on the Bog Garden, Fernery and Italian Terraces. As a friend of Sir Lewis and Lady Stucley she helped them in planning these areas of the garden, planting important shrubs and trees, many of them still thriving today. Sir Lewis and his wife also created many intricate paths throughout the gardens and towards the Gazebo and the sea, most of which were completely lost beneath rampant undergrowth after the gardeners left for World War 1. Now, over 100 years later, some of these beautiful paths are being restored, with additional plans to rebuild another, hidden summerhouse.

Sir Lewis and his wife also planted a huge collection of daffodils and narcissi, many unnamed, which we are now dividing and spreading throughout the gardens and walks. During 2008/9 many more historic daffodils were given by Grenville College, Bideford, a former Stucley home. These had been planted many years ago by Sir Hugh's ancestors.

Sir Dennis and Lady Stucley inherited the estate in the 1930s but at the outbreak of World War 2, the house was requisitioned for Highgate Junior School and, later, a finishing school for girls, the Monkey Club. When the family returned to the house in 1945 the gardens had become almost totally lost. From the 1950s until Sir Dennis's death in 1983 they planted much of the South Shrubbery and the Bog Garden; Sir Dennis planted most of the camellias there today and Lady Stucley planted many rhododendrons and azaleas. They had many notable gardening friends, including Lady Anne Palmer from Rosemoor and Dr. Smart from Marwood, all of whom gave them wonderful plants.

During the late-1980s the garden again started to fall into decline. In 1996, on the death of Sir Hugh's mother, Sheila, Lady Stucley, an extensive cleaning up and replanting programme was begun to try to return the gardens to their past glory.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: Hartland Abbey 1104440
  • Grade: I


  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: Originally vegetables were grown in a much larger walled garden but probably have been growing here since the 1914-18 war.
  • Greenhouse
  • Description: The two lower glasshouses are original but have been patched up in the past and in the summer of 2002 the middle, geranium greenhouse was almost totally restored.
  • Summerhouse
  • Description: The small summerhouse was built on its site by Sheila, Lady Stucley in her later years as somewhere to rest in private while the Abbey was open.
  • Gazebo
  • Walk
  • Description: Woodland and coastal walks.
  • Planting
  • Description: Bog garden. This has been replanted with Azaleas, Acacia, Libertia, Anthericum liliago, Sophora, Magnolia, Hellebores, Galanthus, Narcissi, Cyclamen, Scilla, Erythronium, Anenome blanda and Geraniums.
  • Fernery [glasshouse]
  • Description: The remains of the Victorian fernery, probably designed by Gertrude Jekyll, were discovered in 1998. The fernery has now been cleared and replanted with many different ferns including Dicksonia antarctica.
  • Terrace
  • Description: The Italian terraces have replanted with Magnolia stellata, Corylopsis, Drimys lanceolata, shrub roses and thickly underplanted with Dorinicum, Muscari, Daffodils, Narcissi, Hosta, Cyclamen, Helleborus, Anenome blanda, Geraniums .
  • Lawn
  • Drive
  • Description: Carriage drives.
  • Planting
  • Description: Walled formal gardens.
  • Planting
  • Description: There are two large Magnolia grandiflora, an old un-named camellia, the variegated pink climber Actinidia Kolomitka, climbing Hydrangea petiolaris, Rosa 'Dorothy Perkins' and R 'Zepherine Drouhin', a small Hydrangea involucrata 'Hortensis'and a very old Jasminum.
  • Path
  • Description: Several paths were designed with the help of Gertrude Jekyll around the turn of the 20th century. Many more Camellias line these sheltered paths and terraces.
  • Arch
  • Description: Honeysuckle arch
  • Topiary
  • Description: Yew topiary.
  • Planting
  • Description: The Mulberry Garden, so called because of the large Mulberry Tree (Morus).
  • Rose Garden
  • Description: The pretty arched doorway with Rosa 'Guinee', Clematis 'Perle d'Azur', Akebia quinata and R 'Seven Sisters' growing over, leads into The Old Rose Garden, which has been recently replanted.
Key Information




Ornamental Garden

Principal Building






Open to the public


Civil Parish