The original Secret Garden

There is a little piece of the Secret Garden in all of us, a yearning for our own patch of peace and solitude, with just a few special friends, be they human or animal, and a smidgeon of order amongst the tangled beauty of a busy life.

Frances Hodgson Burnett tried to find her way into the garden at Great Maytham Hall when she rented it 112 years ago.  It was then a 1760's Georgian manor house. Whilst exploring the badly neglected garden, a robin perched on a nearby plum tree showed Frances the way to a rusty door knob overgrown by ivy. It was the door in the garden wall and this inspired her to write 'The Secret Garden' when she returned to America in 1915.

She wrote 'Little Lord Fauntleroy' whilst living here. 

.. and I thought of the pauper boy at the gates of the palace looking in..

But it in 1909 Sir Edwin Lutyens concealed the original Secret Garden door behind a pigeon house. He had been commissioned by John Tennant to build a grand country house in the style of Christopher Wren. John Tennant didn't last long, he died collapsed on his billiard table in 1936 - after which the house was sold, and later requisitioned by the government as a school and then for the army in WWII.

The craftsmanship is typical of Lutyens.

Gertrude Jekyll designed the borders, which are now maintained as a communal garden for the private apartments there managed by the Sunley Trust. The views are stunning, and I met a man who had been to view an apartment - apparently there are two for sale - all with original Lutyens fireplaces!


  1. hi Marian, thanks for this, i used to read 'the secret garden' over and over when i was a boy, i always wanted to be the lad who lived on the moors! i probably became a gardener because of it...

  2. Very formal garden, love the flagstone walk under the arbor. Thanks for joining my blog.

  3. Nice gardening. thanks for your valuable post. keep it up.
    Landscape designer virginia


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