|HCC Site ID.||1093||Parish:||Burley|
|Designations:||NFNP; AHBR||Area:||0.4 ha|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Private|
Location and Site
Byways lies near the south-western corner of Burley with only a few houses between it and the open forest to the west. The plot is bound by Castle Hill Lane to the north and Pound Lane to the south, with neighbouring houses Weavers on its north-west, Yew Tree Cottage on its west and the point where three roads meet on its east. The land is fairly flat lying about 65m above sea-level except for the artificially constructed rock garden itself. The view south from the house across Pound Lane encompasses farmland and is open beyond the roadside trees, while to the east, north and west the trees are more closely planted and the view restricted by these and the houses. Castle Hill lane slopes gently uphill west behind the property and more steeply as it continues north west and peters out into a track. Pound Land slopes similarly south-west turning south 150m from Byways’ south west corner to cross the dismantled railway after 600m. The property is about one acre though previously included the land now belonging to Weavers and an area of orchard, now meadow, along Castle Hill Lane west of this, making altogether 1.5 acres at the time of its registry as a Countryside Heritage site in 1987.
There has been a dwelling on this site since at least the late 18th century (Hardcastle 1987, p188). The current cottage was probably built in the 19th century (Hampshire County Council 1981, p63). Edwin Doncaster bought the plot in 1922 (Hardcastle 1987, p188) and began construction of his rockery and alpine garden in 1924 (Doncaster, K., 1951).
Doncaster was born in 1871 in Eccleshall near Sheffield, the son of a steel manufacturer. He married Kathleen Mary Johnson in 1897 and they had two children: a son, Ellis Lynn, born in 1899 and a daughter, Kathleen Mary, born in 1904. Ellis Lynn was killed during the First World War while serving with the Royal Air Force. Having lived in the Sheffield area and for a time also in Surbiton and Petersfield, the family moved to Burley on buying Byways in 1922 (various docs supplied by J. Harmer 2014).
Doncaster wrote about his work on the garden in an article for the Alpine Garden Society Bulletin describing the influences and encouragement he received and the materials and methods he used in the construction (Doncaster, E.D., 1937* pp153-157). Years later his daughter recalled in a letter the details she remembered of the work (Doncaster, K., 1951*).
Doncaster had been on several plant collecting trips to the mountains of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria and had become enamoured of the landscapes and alpine plants that he found there. In his attempt to reconstruct a semblance of the mountain habitat he took inspiration from works by Farrer (sic), Sidney Jacobs and Gertrude Jekyll; in particular beginning with a figure-of-eight design from a Jekyll book. He mentions also the suggestions and encouragement for his garden that he received from friends such as Walter Ingwerson and Sir William Lawrence.
The plan and construction began at the lowest level nearest the cottage with a series of ponds and connecting streams. There were paths leading roughly along the length of these gently rising pools with planted bluffs placed to hide one part from another and create the suggestion of a climb through woods to hills. Slightly up the slope was a larger pool, the path continuing on its further shore giving the first view of the mountain landscape beyond, a view interrupted and delayed by the placement of stepping stones and projecting rocks. The design included cliffs, gorges, pockets, scree and stone slides all modeled on those seen on his European adventures. Paths became rougher and steeper, waterfalls higher and noisier as the route ascended up to a mountain tarn fed by a rill from the uppermost cliff and above that an alpine lawn. A spring in the nearby orchard fed all the ponds. Later, when mains water arrived in Burley, waterfalls were added to the lower group of ponds, a pump installed to circulate the water and a pipeline engineered high in the rockwork with little taps in it with which a melting snow effect could be created.
Construction was laborious on what Doncaster describes as a “flat, unlikely, waterless, clay site”. Excavated material from the ponds was piled up to create a north and south mound (the slopes face roughly south-east) and the areas surrounding the lower levels built up with loam, a woodland mixture and well-drained sandy peat. The great mounds were covered with peat to isolate the clay followed by a thick layer of broken bricks (from a nearby disused kiln) to ensure good drainage. Finally a scree mix was spread over the whole area to mimic the conditions in the mountains. Throughout the design great rocks were placed, some weighed more than a ton and a crane was designed and constructed to lift these into place. It was shifted to three positions in the garden during the seven years of construction. At the lower levels Purbeck stone was used which began yellow and weathered to a warm grey. Beyond and up to the highest parts a Westmorland limestone was introduced, a sharp corner having been created at the change in order make it as unobtrusive as possible. Near the entrance gate there were a few pieces of Burley rock – a reddish conglomerate of gravel.
Following the plan was not always straightforward. To give a natural impression there needed to be a huge overhanging rock face that, in nature, would have caused all these screes and rock slides. Doncaster constructed a large platform out of local cheap material but, having raised these great mounds and cliff faces, he found that the back and sides looked distinctly odd and unnatural and was forced to re-think the design so it wasn’t so one-sided. To do this he removed some greenhouses and man-made structures and cleared space to make a more natural north side with a path down through it. Later he removed the high overhanging platform to make an improved structure as the garden matured.
Having reconstructed as best as possible the alpine landscape he loved, Doncaster filled the garden with plants he had brought home from his travels and some found locally, fitting them each into areas designed with their individual requirements in mind. He used ferns, cyclamen and other shade-lovers in the gorges of the lower slopes and bog primulas, waterside irises and autumn gentians around the low and middle level ponds backed with junipers. Higher up he planted dwarf rhododendrons and other ericaceous plants, meconopsis and lilies and birches for light shade. From the local area he added wild gladiolus, yellow water lily, lungwort, white and purple heathers and forest ferns.
In all this work he describes his aim not to make a “slavish theatrical copy in miniature …[but]… to create, within the semblance, a happy home for alpine plants”.
Doncaster was a founding member of the Alpine Garden Society and wrote a number of other articles concerning the plants he had brought home and the travels he had undertaken.
His wife, Kathleen Mary died in June 1946 at Byways and in September 1947 he married Amy Rose Baring of the banking family. Byways appears to have been sold to F.R. Davis some time in that year (Hardcastle 1987 p188). Doncaster made one last expedition, to Obergürgl, in 1950 and died in August of that year at Amy’s home in Chandler’s Ford (Harmer, 2014). An obituary appeared in the Alpine Garden Society’s bulletin written by his friend and former plant-collecting companion, Walter Ingwerson (Ingwerson 1950 p341).
Byways has had at least four owners since Doncaster’s time there but the garden appears to have been retained much to his design.
The garden is in good condition and largely as Doncaster designed it. The house has open lawn to its south and east with a greenhouse, shed and a number of mature magnolia trees. Inside the old pedestrian gate onto Pound Lane there is a small paved area with steps and an arch before the path to the house.
This Pound Lane boundary is a thick holly hedge 6 feet tall with some rhododendron through it and a few holly and yew trees along its length and the pedestrian gate. The eastern boundary is a brick wall of 2.5 feet topped by a five foot clipped yew hedge. There is a triangle formed by the property boundary on this side and the point where the roads meet which is open boggy ground with a number of trees. The northern boundary is a 3.5 foot solid slat fence behind which is a seven foot holly hedge with mature bay trees and a wooden outhouse at the east corner. It culminates in the main entrance on Castle Hill Lane, a pair of solid wood gates about seven feet tall.
Summary and Significance
The garden is in good condition and the design and creation of Edwin Doncaster in the 1920s remains. It is important as an example of a fashion for re-creating non-native environments. The work is connected to the plant collecting expeditions still popular in the early 20th century and the design makes reference to a significant figure in the gardening world of that time, Gertrude Jekyll.
HGT Research: March 2015
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
110M89/P58 – aerial photograph of Burley, 1962
41M81/PX7 – plan of Burley based on 1941 Ordnance Survey, 1951
107M86/19 – Ringwood tithe map 1845
41M81/PD3 – plan of area from 1845
41M81/PX7 – plan of area at 1:2500 from 1951
O.S.1st 2nd and 3rd editions 6″
O.S. 1st and 3rd editions 25″
Hampshire County Council, 1981. Hampshire Treasures. Winchester: Hampshire County Council.
Hampshire County Council, 2000. Hampshire Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Winchester: Hampshire County Council.
Hardcastle, F., 1987. Records of Burley: Aspects of a New Forest Village. Spalding: Chameleon International. (revised edition)
Kelly’s Directories, 1885. Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire, Dorsetshire and the Isle of Wight. London: Kelly’s Directories Ltd.
(also 1889, 1895, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1907, 1915, 1920, 1923, 1927, 1931, 1935, 1939)
Page, W. (ed), 1911. The Victoria History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight vol IV. London: University of London Institute of Historical Research.
Peckham, R.T.S., undated. Burley: One Foot in the Past. Self published (Lymington library R942.275)
Binny, J.A.F., 1987-8. Regarding Byways. Letters between the owner and the county planning officer regarding the recording of Byways as a Countryside Heritage Site. (supplied by HGT)
Doncaster, E.D., 1937. On Mountain Making. Quarterly Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Society vol 5(2) pp153-157.
Doncaster, K., 1951. Byways garden creation. Letter from Doncaster’s daughter recalling the construction of the alpine garden. (supplied by HGT)
Hampshire Planning Office, 1987. Byways, Burley. Entry on Countryside Heritage Site Register. (supplied by HGT)
Harmer, J., 2014. Collection of photographs and documents collected during research into Amy Doncaster née Baring. These include information concerning the electoral roll, the census, wills and probate, marriage registration plus old and recent photographs and a time line for E.D. Doncaster’s life.
Ingwerson, W., 1950. Obituary: E.D.Doncaster. Quarterly Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Society vol 18(4) pp341-342
Land Registry (downloaded 25.11.2014). Byways, Castle Hill Lane, Burley. Extract from title register and title plan (figure).
New Forest Post, 05.11.1992. Byways. Sale advertisement by Executive Country Homes. (supplied by HGT)
DC Thomson Family History, 2014 (trading as findmypast.co.uk). [viewed 26.11.2014] Census, Land and Survey Records [online]. London: DC Thomson. Available from: http://www.findmypast.co.uk/content/search-menu/census-land-and-surveys
New Forest National Park, 2014. [viewed 03.01.2015] Tree Work Applications [online]. Lymington: New Forest National Park Authority. Available from: http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/treeworkapplications
- Burley, New forest No Public Access Click for Disclaimer & copyright
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