The Friends of Hylands House

Registered Charity No 1059969

Mrs Hanbury's Kitchen Garden
' They had a long lean-to house, great big plant house, fernery, carnation house, vinery, various frames and such like.  They used to grow melons and all luxuries like that '
Maurice Abbott’s memories of the kitchen garden
Maurice’s job in the kitchen garden was simply sowing vegetables. “Wet days I used to go in and help in the greenhouses. They had a long lean-to house, great big plant house, fernery, carnation house, vinery, various frames and such like. They used to grow melons and all luxuries like that. And from there the House decoration was done, not from Pleasure Ground, but from the Kitchen Garden.”
The kitchen garden was beautiful. “Oh it was a joy to work in there! We had a great walled garden and peaches, twenty two peaches on the wall and all the dessert lovely plums - Jefferson Superb plums, masses of apples.”
Stacks Image 5251
'As you enter the Park from Three Mile Hill, the kitchen garden area is immediately on the left, opposite the entrance to the car park.'
“I used to have to take a fruit basket, bunches of grapes, raspberries from the Kitchen Garden, whatever was in season up to the back door of the House.”
Stacks Image 5254
Most of the produce used to go up to the House, “some of it did, what didn’t, we ate ourselves.” They planted about 250 savoy cabbages, and one day Mr Dobson said Maurice could take one home for his tea, but Mrs Hanbury saw him and told him that in future he had to grow his own vegetables and not take them from the garden. Old Mr Dobson gave Maurice a bit of ground to grow his own vegetables and Maurice said “That’s how we had to live in those days.”
“Old Mr Dobson never started work before 7.00 – he said that he’d never started before seven and he wouldn’t start now!”
Old trucks were used in the gardens [for moving leaves, lawns mowings, etc.]. The trucks came from the brewery. The workmen at the brewery made barrows and long low trucks for leaves, for use in the gardens. When Mrs Hanbury went off to board meetings, they brought plants and flowers to decorate the house on the low trucks. Mr Dobson would go into the house and deal with the flowers, but he was the only one allowed into the House.
Maurice talked about the acre of land between the kitchen garden and the wood. “Anyway we had an old wooden plough there, no wheels, an old Essex bean plough. We used to get a horse off the farm and we used to plough this bit in wintertime. It was a joy to behold – talk about steering a ship at sea – Bill used to put one leg up against one of the handles and the whole plough used to float down the field with proper depth all the way down. ‘Come on’ he’d say, ‘You have a go at it!’ Sometimes I was three foot in the ground and sometimes six foot in the air. I couldn’t hold the thing! One year we put in potatoes and the next, mostly green stuff - brassicas, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, that sort of thing.”
The gardeners worked on a rota system at weekends to clean all the greenhouses. During the summer months the gardener on duty would be there until six or seven at night, and damp all the greenhouses down, ‘if the sun came out you opened the ventilators, and if the sun went in you shut the ventilators.’ In wintertime they had to go back at night to light the fires at nine o’clock, and make sure that everything was alright and there was no air in the pipes. This explains how they were able to grow exotic fruits in the Kitchen garden.
“Early in the new year, old Mr Dobson used to say to old Bill Knight ‘We don’t want to see you for another week’ and off he’d go in the woods and cut the pea bows, bean rods and stakes down. Then we’d have a day with the old horse and cart and bring all the loam down for the potting of the chrysanths.” For general potting they would bring five or six loads of loam, stack it with soil, a bit of soot, a bit of manure and a bit of lime and then leave it for twelve months and “that was your potting mixture. That was the only time we ever did anything else. We just went down the kitchen garden, got on with the kitchen garden, came out at night and went home and so one year after the other.”
“We had a wall with all the peach trees and some lime trees outside the wall, overhanging the peach trees; so of course, we got a lot of greenfly droppings onto the peaches. So Mr Dobson said ‘Take a pair of long-armed secateurs and a ladder.’ Course you could walk along the top of the wall quite comfortably and cut the branches back.”
Considering all the tools used – axes, billhooks, hand saws, and coarse-cuts – “I don’t think anyone ever really got hurt on the place, which, when you come to think of it, was rather remarkable.”