Apley Estate walled garden to be restored after 50 years
"There are some old gardens that are very much a historic site - this is a very historic site, but we want to bring it into 21st century use."
Lady Hamilton is speaking about the 18th Century walled garden at the Apley Estate in Shropshire which is to be restored after lying unused for 50 years.
The four acres of garden once supplied fruit and vegetables for the house and estate, which was originally owned by the Whitmore family and sold in 1867 to the Foster family. The Hamilton family inherited the estate in 1980.
The walls in the garden were once heated by an underground steam boiler, which allowed exotic fruits including pineapples to be grown in the greenhouses.
Lady Hamilton said: "Before they installed pipes which carried hot water around to warm the walls there was a void in the walls and that had hot air passing through it. Against those walls they produced pineapples, peaches and plums."Researching history
Apley Estate history
- Sir William Whitmore acquired the estate around 1600
- Thomas Whitmore sold it to the Foster family in 1868
- The present house was built in 1810 by John Webb
- Lord Hamilton of Dalzell (4th Baron) inherited the estate in 1980
The walled garden was last used when the main house was used as a boarding school from 1962 until 1986.
Estate manager Graeme Manton said: "It's been largely unused for about 50 years - it was used a little bit by an organisation called Apley Park School, but they only used very small parts of it, so we have got quite a lot of work to do to clear it.
"When we carry on and restore the greenhouses there is quite a lot more work there, and it will take quite a while."
Lady Hamilton has been researching the story of the walled garden, using Shropshire Council archives and the estate's own records, and is keen to hear from anyone who might know more about its history.
"I am hoping that one day [I will] unearth all that information that might be somewhere I haven't yet discovered," she said.
Mr Manton said that archaeologists would examine the gardens as half a century of vegetation was cleared.
He said: "We don't have much about the design of the garden but we have got details of what was produced and taken to house for the period when the Fosters were there.
"It does make quite interesting reading - they once took 20 pineapples up to the house because somebody important was coming to the house."
Lady Hamilton said the estate was believed to have been the inspiration for writer PG Wodehouse's fictional location of Blandings Castle.
She said their plan was to use part of the garden to grow "unusual or old forms of vegetables", including white carrots, which were not widely available.
The estate hopes to begin planting in spring 2013.