Gardener Sam Carr and Paul Johnson, Fund Raising and Promotions Officer for Wentworth Castle Trust, with a Union Flag in the restored Union Jack garden. © Shaun Flannery
A pair of patriotic 'Union Jack' gardens at Wentworth Castle, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, planted in 1714 to mark the Act of Union between England and Scotland 300 years ago, have been restored at a cost of £290,000.
The work has been backed by English Heritage and undertaken by the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Trust, using funding from the Wolfson Foundation.
The gardens were created by Thomas Wentworth, First Earl of Strafford, who was a keen advocate of the United Kingdom and wanted to show his support for the new nation.
Not content with simply running a flag up a pole, he instructed his gardeners to lay out two one-acre plots at the rear of the Grade I Wentworth Castle in the shape of the Union Flag, using oaks, yew, holly, laurel and other plants, many kept regimentally trimmed.
But over the years the striking design became overgrown with vegetation. However, experts have now been able to use historic documents and illustrations to revive the essential character of the gardens.
Image of an engraving, dating to 1714, showing the 'patriotic' period landscape at Wentworth, adorned with horticultural flag designs. Courtesy English Heritage
A two year project has seen many of the rhododendrons and magnolias relocated elsewhere, while yew and holly trees have been cut back. Other trees have been felled to break up the dense forest canopy and allow light to penetrate the gloom.
Within each of the flag quarters, evergreens and broadleaves have been planted, many scented and typical of those available in the 18th century. Paths have also been reinstated giving people the chance to enjoy the revitalised landscape.
“The gardens at Wentworth Castle are amongst the most important in northern England and the Union Jack gardens themselves are very unusual, perhaps even unique," said Andy Wimble, English Heritage Regional Landscape Architect.
"The fact that they have survived so long is remarkable. They add an eccentric and quite beautiful twist to this exceptional place. Too many of our historic landscapes in Yorkshire have been lost over the years, so it gladdens the heart to see work at Wentworth reviving our heritage for the enjoyment of a new generation.”
Wentworth Castle has South Yorkshire’s only Grade I listed landscape, which is currently undergoing a £15.5m restoration project. Funding partners include English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, Barnsley Council, Northern College and the Learning and Skills Council. The first phase of work is due to be completed in 2008.