Context 163 - March 2020

40 C O N T E X T 1 6 3 : M A R C H 2 0 2 0 Osborne: the main entrance embellished by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1850, with the redundant portico from the 18th-century house and (below) the restored garden and 1854 glasshouses in 2014 HELEN THOMAS Walled kitchen gardens of the Isle of Wight A study found records of almost 100 historic walled kitchen gardens on the Isle of Wight. Now that awareness has been raised, the question is: how can these valued spaces be reused? A summer’s day with scented air and insects buzzing… a narrow doorway in a high wall with a glimpse of a garden beyond… like Alice and the rabbit hole, the curious visitor is drawn to explore.The Isle ofWight GardensTrust, unable to resist the attraction, embarked in 2014 on a 12-month project, aided by a small Heritage Lottery grant, to increase understanding of the island’s historic designed landscapes and celebrate the trust’s 25th anniversary. At the outset it was anticipated that about 30 gardens might be found. A desktop study identified 98. Some 69 sites were visited during the project, which included guided tours, study days with the county archivist, and lectures by kitchen-garden expert and author Susan Campbell. The project concluded with the publication of Walled Kitchen Gardens of the Isle of Wight, 1 with facts, figures, distribution maps and a gazetteer. The findings were also deposited with the IoW Archaeology Centre. It was a busy year. An 1870 advertisement for a first-class fam- ily residence in Ryde gave details of the walled kitchen garden with fruit trees, well-stocked con- servatory and greenhouse before mentioning the number of rooms. As well as a practical designed landscape feature – the location depending on current fashion – the kitchen garden was also a status symbol. This was sometimes difficult to grasp when confronted by an overgrown space enclosed by crumbling walls. The typical features of a walled kitchen garden in its heyday might have included: A High walls (of stone, brick or a combina- tion, with the warmer brick on the inner face) provided support for fruit trees, a micro-climate within the garden, and security. B Entrances (owners’ entrances generally face towards the house and/or are in the south wall so that the garden was seen to best effect;