Furzey Gardens

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HCC Site ID. 1048 Parish: Minstead
Designations: NFNP Area: 3.2 ha
Access: Public Access – check opening times Ownership: Furzey Gardens Charitable Trust

Location and site

Furzey Gardens, which is located near Minstead in the New Forest area of Hampshire, lies 3 miles to the north west of Lyndhurst. The gardens are situated west of the A337 from Cadnam to Lyndhurst and south of the A31 (continuation of the M27 southwest from Southampton) from Cadnam to Ringwood. (OS 1980, 1986, 2000, 2013).
The gardens lie deep within the New Forest on gently sloping, south facing, ground surrounded by the trees of the New Forest with views to the Isle of Wight. They are within the New Forest National Park and Forest Central South Conservation Area and cover an area of 8 acres (3.2 hectares). They are situated in an area of dispersed settlements on the outskirts of the village of Minstead in one of several historic ‘funnels’ into the New Forest. This funnel runs through the gardens into what was once open heathland but is now the remnants of a 19th century plantation to the western edge of the garden. (New Forest National Park Authority 2009)

Historical Development

The Manor of Minstead came into the Compton family in about 1513/14 with the marriage of William Compton, a friend of Henry VIII when he was Duke of York, to Werburgh Brewerton. The lands had been passed to her from the Berkeley family prior to her second marriage to William Compton. (Roberts 2002)
The Tithe map of 1840 for the Parish of Minesteed shows an award of a total of 2 acres 2 rods and 36 perches of land to James Furze, a charcoal burner, tenant of Henry C Compton who owned Minstead Manor. (HRO 21M65/F7/160/1)
The Manor of Minstead that incorporated the village as well as the land at Furzey remained in the Compton family until 1921 when much of Minstead village, including the land that is now the gardens, was sold off. The property was put up for auction and a cottage, grounds and some 30 acres were sold for about £300. (Furzey 2008) The land that is now the gardens was bought by the Dalrymple brothers. Of the three Dalrymple brothers, two were keen and knowledgeable gardeners. Bertram Hope (Bay) Dalrymple was primarily responsible for Furzey Gardens, and his brother Gerald Hew established the nearby Bartley nurseries. (Edwards 1974). Reginald joined the Army but, Gerald Hew and Bertram were too short to join being less than five feet tall.
Gerald Hew purchased property and established a nursery at nearby Bartley, building a house ‘The House in the Woods’. Bertram (Bay) Dalrymple bought the cottage and extra land at Furzey where Furzey House, lying at the centre of the gardens, was built by Boulton and Paul in 1922. The house, with its Norfolk reed thatch, it was claimed for many years, had the largest thatched roof in the New Forest.
Within the gardens, the cottage is a sixteenth century New Forest cobb cottage which has a thatched roof and is Grade II listed. During the 1920’s, the cottage became the gardener’s cottage and the incumbent in the 1950’s and 60’s was the gardener Arthur Knowlton who was meticulous in his recording of the plants in the gardens at that time. (Furzey Gardens 2008)
Following the death of Bertram (Bay) Dalrymple, Captain Reginald (Bay’s brother) inherited Furzey house and gardens. He and Mrs Dalrymple remained in Furzey House until their deaths in 1957 and 1965 respectively. (Edwards 1974; Lenaerts 2014) when the property was inherited by their 14 year old godson the Hon. Mark Agar. He never lived there, the house being let to various tenants.
By the late sixties the gardens were very run down and by 1972 the gardens were to close and the land sold off in three lots with planning consent for new housing. The Cobb cottage was due for demolition. (Wessex Life 1986, Edwards 1974). Tim Selwood, Chair of Furzey Gardens Charitable Trust, bought the gardens and persuaded the council to preserve the gardens and cottage and the restoration was started. (Lenaerts 2014; Edwards 1974; Paterson 1978).
Planned in 1922, the gardens are planted as a woodland garden. They were built on what had been open pasture land surrounded by the oak, beech and birch of the Forest. Over £7,000 was spent on grubbing out the rough gorse and importing tons of good topsoil before laying out the gardens. The soil was brought to the site by horse and cart to cover the Forest clay to enable the different trees and shrubs that were planted to thrive. At one time there were 16 gardeners employed to manage and improve the gardens. (Edwards 1974, Wessex Life 1986). Much of the area, mainly the lower part of the garden was wet and soggy but the upper part well drained and these conditions are much the same today.

The large pergola, repaired in 2008, with its  Wisteria, thought to be original, was likely planted in the 1930's.

The large pergola, repaired in 2008, with its Wisteria, thought to be original, was likely planted in the 1930’s.

The gardens were initially started on the south slope nearest to the house and at first consisted mainly of daffodils, Ericas and herbaceous plants planted in the 1920’s. According to the records it was not until the 1930’s that shrubs and trees were introduced. Paterson (1978) describes Furzey as ‘… one of the gardens to which new collected material from the Orient and especially Australasia came’. Hence these plants are often of historical value’. He also said: ‘Noteworthy Specimens (there were) Too many to list.’
This is one of the reasons the gardens are so interesting, many of the plants first grown in the gardens were supplied from the nearby Bartley Nurseries run by Hew Dalrymple. At this time, there were many plant hunting expeditions overseas and Hew Dalrymple along with other local landowners such as Lionel de Rothschild from Exbury Gardens near Beaulieu, helped sponsor both George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward on their travels (Furzey Gardens 2008, Exbury Gardens 2015, Musgrave, Gardner & Musgrave 1998)
Seeds and plant material brought back from these expeditions would be germinated and grown in the nursery and some of these plants would have been sent to the gardens at Furzey. It is believed that the Darlymple brothers were very competitive and anecdotal reports suggest that the strongest plants were kept by Hew to grow or sell on and the less robust specimens sent to the gardens.
Many of the plants introduced by Forrest and Kingdon-Ward can still be found in the gardens, such as Rhododendron species such as R. griersonianum, R. haematodes (Forrest) R. anthopogon and R. macabeanum (Kingdon-Ward) as well as Primula vialii, P. bulleyana (Forrest) and P. florindae (named for Kingdon-Ward’s wife). (Furzey Gardens 2008; Musgrave, Gardner & Musgrave 1998)
Rhododendron macabeanum, a Kingdon Ward introduction from KW7742. Several specimens are in the gardens. (May 2014)

Rhododendron macabeanum, a Kingdon Ward introduction from KW7742. Several specimens are in the gardens. (May 2014)

The evidence providing the provenance for the gardens and the plants first grown and introduced in them is convincing and tangible. Arthur Knowlton, gardener at Furzey in the 1950’s and 60’s kept detailed records of plants in the gardens. He listed where the plants were within the gardens, the dates of planting and accession numbers (where available).
These records are held at the gardens, in a notebook, known as ‘Arthur’s Book’.
Many of the original lead plant labels, some including accession numbers, have been found over the years in the gardens by gardeners carrying out maintenance work. These are still being found to this day, especially when remedial or renovation work is done. (Furzey Gardens 2008). A very old Rhododendron keysii (KW 6257) and R. triflorum Mahogani gp (KW 5687) are still to be found in the gardens and have been identified from original lead labels as the original Kingdon-Ward introductions grown from seed brought back from his 1925 expedition. (Kingdon-Ward 1926).
By 1972 the gardens had become very overgrown with weeds, brambles, saplings, unpruned shrubs and overgrown plants. The clearing of the gardens was down to sheer hard work with a staff of two. (Paterson 1978) In 1973, National Tree Planting Year, the owners placed an advertisement that they would give away 800 trees to help clear the surplus of young trees. (Edwards 1974). A year later began the development in the lower part of the garden with the construction of the lake made with puddled clay. This area had always been very damp and provided an opportunity to grow moisture loving plants (HRO; Furzey Gardens 2008) In the same year, the Will Selwood Arts & Crafts Gallery, cafe and shop were opened.
In 1986, the Charitable Trust set up in the 1970’s was extended and Martin Lenaerts was asked to set up the Minstead Training Project (now the Minstead Training Trust). This was a small project, in the corner of Furzey Gardens where one member of staff worked with five young adults with Learning Disabilities. Using hands on horticultural training, these young people were able to develop skills, confidence and general well being. (Minstead Training Trust 2015). The Trust now works with over 80 students in developing their skills and confidence whilst they have lots fun and are learning at the same time. Furzey Gardens has the perfect environment to provide work experience for the students and they help maintain the gardens, plant nursery, shop, gallery and café.
In 1989, Head Gardener and Senior Horticultural Instructor, Peter White, was appointed and remains as Head Gardener to this day (2015).
The Chelsea 'Gold' Garden in situ at Furzey - in the lower, southern part of the garden, west of the lake. Rhododendron macabeanum is one of the key plants.  (March 2014)

The Chelsea ‘Gold’ Garden in situ at Furzey – in the lower, southern part of the garden, west of the lake. Rhododendron macabeanum is one of the key plants. (March 2014)

In 2012, in partnership with Chris Beardshaw, Patron of the Trust, the Gardens entered a show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, the first show garden ever to be built by a learning disability team and to their delight, they won a Gold medal. The show garden contained 26 trees, 35 shrubs and 2,500 plants with the focal point being the thatched folly or ‘Lantern’ structure. The garden, relocated after the Flower Show back at Furzey, with its framework of trees and shrubs, provides colour in all seasons. It continues to thrive and give pleasure to visitors to the garden and the students who maintain it. (Lenaerts 2014; Royal Horticultural Society 2015).

Current description:

The Furzey Gardens website describes the gardens as: ‘a haven of peace and tranquillity in the heart of the New Forest’. This is a true description of Furzey where the only sounds are human or birdsong, away from the bustling world we live in. Those who have admired the gardens in the past (Boyd 1975; Paterson 1978; Edwards 1974) would find the gardens have changed and moved on, as gardens do, but the character of the gardens together with the peace, tranquility and pleasure they experienced remains.
The gardens are now managed by a very small team of staff helped by the horticultural students and many loyal volunteers. They are open throughout the year but during the winter months, the gallery, shop and tearoom are closed.
Furzey Gardens are still an informal, woodland garden, approached beside the old forest cottage and its garden and through the Will Selwood Gallery, built from timber with a thatched roof, opened in 1974. It is where visitors enter the gardens, is the ticket office, has a tea room, shop and exhibition area. The emphasis is on local arts and crafts that are all exhibited and sold here. Local produce, such as New Forest honey, is also sold here.
A patio area outside the gallery provides some seating overlooking the south facing slope of the garden that overlooks the lake and water gardens with the Chelsea Garden beyond. Paths, mostly hard wheelchair accessible paths, guide the visitor around the garden. To the east and north of the open area of the south slope are many trees and large shrubs of interest.
Furzey house, is not open to the public, it is used by the Minstead Training Trust, and there is private access to the house away from the garden entrance.
The areas to the south and adjacent to the house are private but can be appreciated from the gardens due to the sloping of the land.
On the west side of the lower part of the gardens is an open meadow where there is a wildflower conservation area, not accessible to the public. Alpacas can be glimpsed here and there are extensive views into the surrounding forest.
Many different paths on the west side of the garden take the visitor to the many delights within the gardens. To the west is the children’s play area with the arboretum beyond. A pergola to the south of the house, reportedly repaired recently, (Furzey Gardens 2008) and the wisteria that was retained, is thought to be original.
They have a wide variety of plants including trees shrubs and herbaceous perennials, and are famous for their comprehensive collection of heathers and have many rare and unusual plants (Paterson 1978; Wessex Life 1986; Furzey Gardens 2008).

Summary & Significance

The gardens are unique as a fine example of an informal woodland garden within the New Forest having a strong affinity to the New Forest and its character.
Of huge significance are the plant collections within the gardens of the many rare and exotic species grown there and the proven close links with important plant hunters of the early twentieth century, particularly Frank Kingdon-Ward and George Forrest. These introductions were responsible for giving the gardens
‘an international reputation among horticulturalists and botanists throughout the world’ (Wessex Life 1986).
HGT Research: December 2015


Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
21M65/F7/160/1 Tithe Maps and Awards 1&2 1840& 1842
Furzey Garden Guide Leaflet: ‘Furzey Gardens: Will be Selwood Art and Craft Gallery and Ancient Cottage’ (date unknown)

HRO (1840&1842) Tithe Maps and Awards 1&2 HRO 21M65/F7/160/1
Ordnance Survey (1980) Pathfinder Series Sheet 1283 1:25 000 (2.5 inches to 1 mile/4cm to 1km)
Ordnance Survey (1986) Outdoor Leisure Series New Forest (22) 1:25 000 (2.5 inches to 1 mile/4cm to 1km)
Ordnance Survey (2000) Street Atlas South Hampshire (3.5 inches to 1mile/5.52cm to 1km) pp98
Ordnance Survey (2013) Mastermap (HCC/HGT) Hampshire Register of Historic Parks & Gardens (1:2000) Figure 3

Kingdon-Ward F (1926) in Cox K ed (2008) Frank Kingdon-Ward’s Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges pp 91, 157
Musgrave T, Gardner C & Musgrave W (1998) The Plant Hunters: Two Hundred Years of Adventure and Discovery Around the World chapters 8 & 9 pp 177 – 217
Paterson A (1978) The Gardens of Britain: Dorset, Hampshire & the Isle of Wight. pp 87 – 89
Roberts P (2002) Minstead: Life in a 17th century New Forest Community pp 3

Other Sources
Boyd W B (1975) ‘”Furzey” nr Minstead’. Hampshire Review pp 47 – 52, Hampshire Record Office
Edwards E (1974) ‘Australians gave Hampshire lovely gardens’. Hampshire, March 1974
pp 57 – 58, Winchester Record Office
Furzey Gardens (2008) Conservation Management Plan
Lenaerts M (2014) Furzey Gardens – Welcome notes for introductory talk.
NFNPA (2009) Forest Central South Conservation Area Character Appraisal
Wessex Life (1986) vol 3, no 3 pp 20 – 21, Wessex Life 1985-86, Test Valley and Andover Publications 4A06/5/1/5, Hampshire Record Office, Winchester.

Electronic Sources
Exbury Gardens (2015), The Gardens, Plant Hunters www.exbury.co.uk

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