The History of Cusworth Walled Gardens

The walled gardens at Cusworth Hall and Park are found in a quiet corner of the Park about 200m to the east of the Hall and to the south of Cusworth village.

Cusworth gardeners photographed in the 1920s

Cusworth gardeners photographed in the 1920s

Walled gardens were important for growing fruit such as peaches, pears, cherries and grapes which couldn’t be bought from the shops and had to be grown in a space protected from the English climate. It was also a sign of wealth and status if a family could afford a gardening team to grow these luxuries, especially out of season.

Cusworth also had greenhouses to grow pineapples and melons as well. In addition to producing food there was a flower garden, one of the earliest bowling greens in the county and a Grade II listed Bowling Pavilion.

The walled gardens were built for William Wrightson, a lawyer and landowner, to the south of the original Cusworth Manor House to provide a private leisure space and productive gardens for flowers and fruit.

The first description of the site is provided by a map of 1719 showing a garden, orchard and two closes which is supported by a sketch by the well known topographical artist, Samuel Buck c.1720.

Later, following the building of the present Cusworth Hall (1740-44) the walled gardens were incorporated into the designs of Richard Woods who laid out the park between 1761-76 when it became part of the pleasure grounds as well as retaining an orchard, flower garden, vegetable garden and bowling green.

In its Victorian heyday it included approximately five acres of garden including pineapple houses, melon frames and several glasshouses which were later demolished.

The correspondence, wage books, stewards and agents accounts and plans in the Battle-Wrightson records held at Doncaster Archives reveal in detail the management of the estate including the gardens.

Bowling Pavilion built in the early 18th century

Bowling Pavilion built in the early 18th century

An understanding of the social history of the walled gardens is also provided by objects held in the collections of Cusworth Hall & Park.  Theses include tools and equipment rescued from the gardens, a set of wooden bowls inscribed with William Wrightson’s initials c.1722, and photographs of 20th century gardening staff. There is also a limited amount of relevant oral history and newspaper material.

Unlike many estates, the gardens at Cusworth survived the impact of two world wards and the Great Depression. However, in 1961 they were sold off piecemeal but it was possible to bring together the majority of the gardens together when Doncaster Council purchased its central elements from the Cusworth Church Trust.

The Bowling Pavilion was largely restored in the 1990s and the upper chamber has been decorated with trompe l’oeil views based on documentary sources.