Wakehurst Place (5)
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Wakehurst Place
Ardingly, West Sussex, England

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Wakehurst Place:
The Culpeper Connection

Wakehurst Stable BlockIn 1890, Lady Downshire sold Wakehurst to Mr. T. W. Boord, MP, a local man, who was made a baronet six years after the purchase and from, then on was known as Sir William. Having formerly lived at nearby Cuckfield, he obviously knew the property well and probably had an eye to restoring it still further and then selling it. Despite all Lady Downshire's improvements, its structure was very unsound and Sir William set about its restoration in a very business-like manner. This took him thirteen years to complete, at the end of which time he sold it to Gerald Loder, one of Wakehurst's most affectionately remembered owners.

Gerald Loder obviously cared for his new home and wrote a carefully researched book on the history of Wakehurst Place and its owners that was published in 1907. But the garden was his first love. In 1903, when he bought Wakehurst, he Junior Lord of the Treasury but left Parliament in 1906 and devoted his tone from then on to replanting and shaping the grounds. Lady Boord described in The Ladies Field, 1901, as 'her own head gardener ', had also been a keen horticulturalist and designed and helped plant the rockery. Gerald Loder's contribution to the garden, in the thirty-three years he lived there, was a great deal more, but much of it was owed to Alfred Coates, Loder's head gardener, who was later commemorated by having Coates Wood named after him. This was appropriate as his particular interest was trees. Apparently at his interview for the post Loder asked him, "What shall it be? Flowers or trees and shrubs?" To which Coates replied, "l reckon trees and shrubs, Sir" and got the job, for this was Loder's preference, too. So trees and shrubs it was, and between them, Loder and Coates began replanting the grounds. In this they were partners, each respecting the other's point of view, and if Loder had the upper hand as owner, Coates had the edge on him in terms of horticultural know-how. Gardening is a great leveler between people, whatever their stations. Sad to say, much of their work was destroyed in the Great Storm of October 1987, including a row of cedars that Loder had grown from seed.

Winter BedsCoates was still head gardener when Loder, who was made Lord Wakehurst in 1934, died in 1936. And still there in 1938 to give advice to Wakehurst's new owner, Sir Henry Price, who had made his fortune making off-the-peg suits and was known as the 'Fifty Shilling Tailor'. War had begun and, in 1941, Wakehurst became the billet of the Canadian Corps, many of whom fell in the Dieppe raid of that year.

Shortly after the war, Coates retired - though he remained close at hand - and Reginald Wallis, who had formerly been head gardener at Woburn Abbey, replaced him. It was actually Wallis who, though indirectly, instilled Sir Henry with an interest in plants. The story goes that Sir Henry, while reading The Times one morning, noticed that several exhibits shown by Wallis at the Royal Horticultural Society's show had won prizes. Needless to say he was immediately eager to see the plants for himself and from then on took more interest in the gardens in which he had a wall constructed around the old kitchen garden.

Wakehurst Winter BedsLady Eve Price needed no such encouragement and she and Sir Henry will always be remembered in horticulture by the various plants that were named after them. These include Rosa 'Eve Price', Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price', Carnassia leichtlinii 'Eve Price' and Pieris formosa 'Henry Price'.

Sir Henry died in December 1963 and in his will he generously bequeathed the estate to the National Trust who subsequently leased it to Kew for ninety-nine years, beginning on 1 January 1965. For a few years after her husband's death Lady Price continued to live in the mansion but later gave up her life tenancy rights that were then added to the National Trust lease of the gardens. However, she retained a keen interest in her former home and in September 1982 officially opened the Lady Price Room, once the Library, in which she had some of her own antique furniture installed.

Lady Price Room
Lady Price Room at Wakehurst

Wakehurst Place is rich in memorabilia of its former owners: Sir Edward Culpeper's initials carved on the spandrells over the old South entrance; the date, 1590, carved on the door which Lady Downshire had moved to the east side; Lady Boord's rock garden, now the Rock Terraces; Gerald Loder's heath garden, the pineturn and the Loder Valley Reserve; the Sir Henry Price Garden; and of course all, the thousands of plants which grow there.

To sit in these Gardens in the summertime, when their beauty is most vivid, brings to mind all the long history of Wakehurst Place. It is easy to imagine that, having spent his childhood so nearby, Nicholas Culpeper, the herbalist, was once a visitor too and many of his herbs can be seen growing alongside different plants beloved by those who lived there. In this way the four centuries of the Mansion are represented; the plants of the past and the present are inseparable, and the future will undoubtedly add still more to the continuing story of Wakehurst Place.

Also See: Ardingly Church

Photograph Source: The photos were provided to Culpepper Connections! by Veronica Morris who is a Ranger at Wakehurst Place, where her duties include conducting guided tours. She says that she would be most interested in meeting any Culpepper descendants visiting Wakehurst.

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Last Revised: 02 Jan 2015


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