Events, people and decisions featuring in the garden down the ages
1545 John Gerard, the celebrated herbalist and author of “The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes”, was born in Nantwich and attended Willaston School. He learned about plants in the fields and by-ways of Nantwich.
1577 Gerard moved to London and superintended the gardens belonging to Lord Burleigh in the Strand.
1580 Richard Wilbraham built his family home, Townsend House, in Welsh Row. He had four sons who all rose to positions of wealth and honour, and he died aged 85.
1596 John Gerard published a list of plants he had grown in his own garden. This was the first catalogue of any garden ever published.
1597 John Gerard published his celebrated “Herball” He was Herbalist to the King and notable people.
1617 King James I of England visited Townsend House and gardens. He visited the parish church and walked to the brine works. He stabled his horses on Kingsley Fields.
1622 Thomas Wilbraham, much travelled and well educated son of Richard, kept precise records of all that was purchased for the house and gardens. He would almost certainly have consulted the “Herball“ when buying his plants. These archives are available today and have been researched by David and Doreen Mason of Nantwich.
1644 During the siege of Nantwich, in the English Civil War, Thomas’s son, Roger, was residing at Townsend House when it was attacked by Royalist soldiers and it suffered some damage to outbuildings, causing a fire. Thomas, a Royalist, refused to give money to the Parliamentarian soldiers but took no part in the Battle of Nantwich and was a prisoner in his own house.
1819 The house was sold and became a brewery.
1831 The house was converted into a clothing factory and was a major employer in the town.
1906 The house was the Nantwich Co-operative Boot and Shoe Factory.
1911 The house was again a private house, belonging to local solicitor, A.O.Bevan. After his death it was demolished and became a garage and petrol station. [This is now a gated housing complex called King’s Court.]
1986 The Old Walled Garden was Listed Grade 2 by the Department of the Environment.
2000 The beautiful old gateway to the garden was accidentally knocked down after standing for over 400 years. Gateway damaged.
2001 (February) Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council Planning Brief for building on Kingsley Fields was produced – “conditional on the restoration of the Listed Walls of Townsend House.” The Old Walled Garden was shown as “white” land with no building within it.
2001 (September) Notice of permission to build on Kingsley Fields. Condition 11 stated: “The reserved matters application which relates to the part of the site containing the walled garden at the rear of Townsend House shall include a programme for its restoration, and a design statement to justify the means by which the area it encloses will be developed. Reason: To ensure that the walled garden which is a listed building is preserved and incorporated within the development adequately.”
2002 (April) A Committee of local people was formed with the aim of saving the Old Walled Garden for Nantwich. It was called The Campaign to Conserve the Old Walled Garden.
2003 Application made by Bellway Homes to build within the Walled Garden.
2004 (June) Nantwich Walled Garden Society was formed with the following aims and with a view to obtaining charitable status and raising money:
- To prevent the development of housing on the site of the Old Walled Garden.
- To ensure that the Elizabethan walls are fully restored and re-instated.
- To restore the garden in a way that reflects its history, so that it can be maintained in perpetuity for the enjoyment of residents and visitors to Nantwich. Society formed.
2004 (July) The Development Control Committee of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council refused the application by Bellway Homes to build flats within the Walled Garden. (Planning Applications P03/1515 and P0/1524).
Reasons: 1, “Detrimental to the character, setting and special historic interest of the listed walled garden in conflict with policies BE10 and BE11 of the Adopted Local Plan.
2, The application fails to demonstrate why additional development is required at Kingsley Village to secure compliance with Condition 11 of planning permission P00/0757 and consequently the restoration and repair of the walled garden.”
2007 (May to October) The Nantwich Walled Garden Society asked the owners of the garden on three occasions to donate the walled garden to Nantwich. There was no reply to any of the requests.
2007 (November 24) The Society wrote to every Borough and Town Councillor drawing attention to the state of the walls and the fact that nothing was being done about the repair of the North wall. They were also reminded that they were responsible for ensuring that the Planning Inspector’s recommendations were implemented. The Society also asked that an Urgent Works notice be issued as soon as possible.
2008 A new set of plans for building within the walled garden were shown at a meeting on April 22. These propose six terraced houses and two apartments – all two storeys high – which will take up a major part of the garden and will be surrounded by a Tudor communal garden.
2008 (August and September) Crewe and Nantwich M.P. Edward Timpson, local councillors and the public express support for our efforts.
2009 (April) An Extraordinary General Meeting was called to discuss the position. A legal challenge to the planning permission had to be dropped when we were unable to raise sufficient funds.
2009 We lost two of our stalwarts. Peter Greene, our first Treasurer, died just after the EGM, and our founding Secretary, Pat Fulford, died in November. Pat once said that she woke one morning and decided she was going “to save that garden”. Sadly, her goal wasn’t reached when she died.
2009 (December) At the Annual General Meeting, members voted to continue the fight to save the garden. The year ended with no sign of building work on the garden site.
2011 Our concern about the safety of the wall is not shared by local councils.
2012 (October) A revised plan for the garden – focussing on the achievements of Nantwich-born herbalist, John Gerard – is drawn up by the society.
2013 The walled garden is included in the Welsh Row Conservation Area, raising our hopes that the wall, in danger of collapsing, might finally be saved.
The story continues . . .