Report of an ancestor’s estate garden in 1877 Cumbria

A while ago I found that my gg-grandfather Andrew Kerr had been visited and interviewed about the estate garden he kept at Netherby, just across the border in Cumbria. This was just a few months before he died of tuberculosis, the first of many of his family to die of the disease. I wonder if he knew that he was dying when he gave the garden tour. Anyway it is a lovely insight into a working garden at the time. I am particularly impressed by him growing bananas. Netherby lies right beside the Border with Scotland, so was just about as far north as you could get and still be in England.

From the Carlisle Patriot newspaper, 2 March 1877:

NETHERBY HALL – In the current number of the Journal of Horticulture, Mr James Dickson of Arkleton – who enjoys the proud distinction of “the champion grape-grower” among his brethren – writes an animated and interesting account of the Border land from Langholm to Longtown, ending with a description of the gardens and grounds around the stately seat of the Grahams of Netherby. Discoveries made some time ago show that the Netherby was the site of a permanent Roman station. Along the back of the mansion is a cemented terrace 25 feet broad used as a skating rink, then a grass verge 7 feet wide. A flight of steps down to the flower garden, or “terrace garden” as it is called. This was executed about two years ago, and is in keeping with the mansion. This garden is backed up to the east by woods; to the west and south lies a beautiful lawn studded with magnificent beeches, sycamores, oaks, limes, elms, and Scotch firs. Yet I am told that little more than a century ago there was not a tree to be seen in all the locality. Proceeding from Mr Kerr’s house in the direction of the kitchen garden, and passing many cold frames (which were filled with bedding and other useful plants), we come to a propagating pit, length 27 feet, width 11 feet. This is principally filled with some fine young plants intended for table work. The second house is a quarter-span length 31 feet, width 10 feet. This is used for growing pines, and at the time of my visit there were some very fine fruit in it. The sorts grown are principally Queens with a few Charlotte Rothschilds. Passing from this house you enter the kitchen garden, occupying about two acres surrounded by a good brick wall, which is covered with plum, pear, and cherry trees seeming to thrive pretty well. Vegetables are exceedingly well grown and merit special notice. In this garden stands the principal range of forcing houses. The first of the glass structures we enter is a peach house, length 36 feet, width 15 1/2 feet, filled with healthy fruitful-looking trees. I may mention, that when Mr Kerr entered on his duties as gardener here he was very much annoyed with scale on the peach trees, and after trying many compositions all to no effect, he resolved on trying paraffin oil, two wine-glassfuls to three gallons of water. After mixing it thoroughly wih the water he syringed the whole of the trees with this mixture. The result is, he has never been annoyed with scale since. The next house is a stove, length 44 feet, width 15 1/2 feet, filled with a fine variety of specimens of such plants as crotons, palms, ferns, begonias, dracaenas, bananas, &c., with cissus discolor trained-up the rafters, which has a grand effect. The whole are in perfect health. In passing through this house Mr Kerr gave me what he has found to be an effectual cure for mealy bug. To one pint of water add two tablespoonfuls of paraffin oil. After mixing it well go over the whole of the plant, leaves and branches, with a sponge. The next house is a vinery, length 48 feet, width 21 1/2 feet, in which the vines look remarkably well and bear fine crops of fruit. From this we enter a greenhouse, length 37 feet, width 16 1/2 feet. This house is filled with a miscellaneous lot of plants for house and table decoration. We then come to a vinery, length 41 feet, width 21 1/2, in which are hanging some very fine bunches of grapes. Mr Kerr grows all the leading sorts; his favourites are Black Hamburgh, Muscat Hamburgh, Duchess of Buccleuch, Frakenthal, Chasselas Napoleon, Royal Muscadine, Mrs Pince, Gros Colman, Lady Downe’s Buckland Sweetwater, and Muscat of Alexandria. The next house is also a vinery, length 43 feet, width 15 1/2 feet. The vines in this house also look well. The last of the glass structures is a peach house 44 feet in length and 15 1/2 feet wide, filled with peach and nectarine trees, all in fine condition and bearing remarkable crops of superior fruit. Midway between the house and kitchen garden is a geometrical flower garden, in gravel and edged with fancy tiles. This goes under the name of Lady Graham’s flower garden. It looks well at all times of the year, but decidedly best when gay with tulips, as they show off the figures to the best advantage. In the pinetum are the following trees:- Wellingtonia gigantea, Abies Douglasii, Picea Nordmanniana, nobilis, and Webbiana, Pinus austriaca, and Thujopsis borealis.

About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
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1 Response to Report of an ancestor’s estate garden in 1877 Cumbria

  1. Alison Hall says:

    Fascinating detail. Peaches, nectarines! I ate my first peach in Enniskillen, NI in 1966. And I hadn’t even heard of nectarines till the 1980s and here they were growing on the border in the C19th.

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