History of Holehird Gardens

Holehird Gardens has been home to the Lakeland Horticultural Society since 1969.  However, written records of Holehird go back to the 17th century when a large part of the area was owned by Thomas Hird and his family.

In 1885 the Manchester industrialist John Macmillan Dunlop laid out formal gardens and had the present Walled Garden built with a range of heated greenhouses against the north wall, where Visitor Reception and LHS Members' Rooms now stand.  The Groves family moved to Holehird in 1897 and continued the development of the grounds and garden, designing a rock garden and introducing many water features, including damming streams to form the tarn below the Mansion.  In 1945 Henry Leigh Groves gave the estate to the County Council, to be held in trust 'for the purpose of the better development of the health, education and welfare services of the county of Westmorland'.  The estate is now managed by the Holehird Trust who lease the various parts of it to organisations and individuals.  The Mansion has been leased to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation since 1961 and is still run as a home for the disabled.

In 1969 the Lakeland Horticultural Society (LHS) was formed and took over the lease for 2 acres of the overgrown Rock Garden and grassy slopes of the Orchard.  The first volunteers cleared the rank vegetation and self-sown saplings, being careful to preserve the mature specimens of shrubs and trees which had managed to rise above the willowherb and brambles.  Old paths were exposed and new ones created and a garden worthy of being opened to visitors emerged by the end of the 1970s.

In 1980 the LHS took over the Walled Garden which at that time was being used as a tree nursery.  The derelict glasshouses were cleared and the walls repaired.  Internal walls, steps and paths were built and the design of the Walled Garden was agreed.  A Members' Room and Library were built.  In the 1990s this was extended to create a new reception area and outbuildings were renovated for use as potting sheds and propagating areas.  The Paddock was acquired to house growing frames and trial beds and the Hydrangea Walk was established.

The last part of Holehird Gardens as we know it today was added in 2001 when the LHS took on a further 5 acres around the Mansion, thus uniting the original Victorian gardens.  The Woodland Walk was made, many invasive and potentially disease-ridden Rhododendron ponticum were removed and a new planting programme began.  The Cascade and other water features in the Gardens were extensively restored.

Holehird Gardens continues to evolve.  2017 saw the opening of a new Walled Garden Display House, allowing us to expand the range of plants we can grow.  Other changes are not so immediately obvious but are the result of the effects of climate, the life-cycle of the plants we grow and lots of everyday decisions made by our volunteers.  All gardens develop over time and Holehird is no exception.