Context 163 - March 2020

42 C O N T E X T 1 6 3 : M A R C H 2 0 2 0 Helen Thomas is a former consultant for the Register of Parks and Gardens and team leader for the IWGT walled kitchen gardens project. Old Park: the walled kitchen garden at Haddon Lake House below in 2002 (with remnants of tropical bird enclosures) and above in 2014 (Photos: Steve Lambert, Lake House Design) The overgrown Norris walled garden and turreted gateway in 2016 References 1 Online version available at www. wkg.pdf 2 The proposal boards from the event can be found at http://norriscastle- At Old Park in Ventnor an early-19th-century walled gardenwas built for cultivating vines,which died and were replaced by fruit and vegetables. A 1906 sale catalogue describes the gardens planted with choice trees and covered with wire netting on iron supports. This site was also used as a market garden, for piggeries in the second world war, and in the later 1900s as a Tropical Bird Park tourist attraction. By the early 2000s it was derelict and in separate ownership from the principal building. The enlightened planning authority granted permission for a contemporary dwelling, Haddon Lake House, with conditions on restoration of the two-acre designed landscape within two years. In the walled garden a new decorative potager design was laid out. The new house and the rescued designed landscape have won awards. Such transformations require substantial investment and a brave approach by all involved, and they are rare. Walled gardens come in various shapes, sizes, ages and materials, and similarly vary in sig- nificance as heritage assets. In East Cowes, neighbouring Osborne, is the Norris Estate. Here in around 1799 James Wyatt designed a gothic-revival castle and a castellated combined model farm and walled kitchen garden for an eccentric client. Both are listed Grade I and sit within a landscaped park. Humphry Repton is thought to have been involved with the design. Queen Victoria stayed at Norris as a princess; as Queen she considered buying it and later leased the castle to accommodate royal visitors. In 2014 the walled garden was disused and considerably overgrown. In 2016 Norris was upgraded from Grade II to Grade I on the register . It has the only known example of a walled garden attached to a model farm in England and the whole single-phase landscape has been little altered. Significance does not get much better than this. By early 2016 the Norris Estate had been acquired by a developer, who held a public consultation 2 in 2018 on their proposals for both Norris and the adjoining local-list Springhill Estate.The illustrative master plan included new- build ‘residences’ at Springhill and a hotel in the Castle. Proposals for the walled garden included restoring the glasshouses as part of a health spa and hotel cottages built against the inside face of the walls so as not to be visible from outside. There were also planted areas with produce to be used in the castle restaurant. By September 2019 no formal applications had been submitted. After 1945 readily available cheap fruit and vegetables made walled kitchen gardens even more of a luxury to maintain, and it is not sur- prising that many succumbed to development. Some were lost, together with their designed landscapes and houses that they served. Steephill Castle in Ventnor and John Nash’s East Cowes Castle are notable examples. The Isle of Wight Gardens Trust defines conservation as the pro- cess of managing change. The 2014 project raised awareness but did not attempt to answer the question of what degree of change for a new use is acceptable in order to provide, at the least, a benign solution for the future. Walled kitchen gardens may no longer be regarded as a dishonoured and forgotten member of the historic landscape family, but they can be a difficult relative to provide with long-term care.