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As the names suggests, Manor Gardens was originally part of an old Manor House. This was home to the Ducarel family during the 18th century and subsequently Mr Charles Prettejohn. It was a large building set into the hill and featured extensive cellars - some of which still exist today - extending under Chapel Hill. Apparently, one of the butlers was well known for disappearing from the house discreetly in the evening, venturing over the road from the back entrance to the pub at the foot of the beacon.
In 1893, the Local Board (the local council at that time) decided to lease the gardens from the Rolle Estate for public use. The Manor House was demolished in 1894 and a 99-year lease was granted by the Honourable Mark Rolle to the Local Board. The rent was £50 per year (worth around £3,500 today) - a very generous arrangement, especially when you consider Rolle Estate also donated £50 a year to the upkeep of the gardens.
The gardens were made even larger in 1905 when they incorporated the kitchen garden of the Imperial Hotel and in 1907 a deed of conveyance finally gave the entire area over to the local council, a condition being that nothing should ever be built there.
Now the gardens are again surrounded by iron railings but these were only reinstated in the mid-1990s. The railings were originally taken down as part of the war effort but there is no doubt replacements have helped restore the original appearance of the gardens. The cellars also played their part during the war when they were used as an air raid shelter.