Unearthing hidden gem

The orangery at Peckover House in Wisbech
The orangery at Peckover House in Wisbech

Peckover House – or, to be precise, its gardens – made a wonderful ‘end of term’ visit for our RHS students last week.

This is a ‘hidden gem’ of a garden along the North Brink in Wisbech; the exterior of the house gives little idea of the elaborate and elegant interior – or of the spectacular garden behind.

The house was built in 1722 and was bought by Jonathan Peckover at the end of the 18th century. The family lived in the house for over 150 years, running a very successful private bank, Peckover Bank, at which time the building was simply known as Bank House.

The family combined their simple Quaker lifestyle with the expectations of the business world.

Presented to the National Trust in 1948, the home and garden are impeccable and, although we did not get chance to explore the house last week, I can thoroughly recommend it from a previous visit. A great place for children – of all ages!

Of course, the gardens were the focus of our day. Outstanding and full of interest, it is difficult to believe they only cover two acres.

They have the feel of a real ‘family garden’ with lawns, borders, summer-houses and ponds. Interesting yet relaxing. The spacious lawns include the Georgian necessity, a croquet lawn.

Specimen trees include Ginkgo, Tulip tree (Liriodendron) and Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria).

With a rose garden, fruit trees, bee borders, topiary and bedding, there is so much to see – yet the paths seamlessly link the more formal and the informal areas together. We happily wandered around for over three hours!

But it was the Orangery that we all fell in love with. The impressive restoration of this wonderful feature was helped by images from the early 20th century, and includes sliding sashes in the roof for ventilation, worked by a pulley system.

This is thought to be the country’s only example of a double pitched glasshouse with this early Victorian feature. Original features of the orangery include the decorative tiled floor and the large blue-tiled planters containing the orange trees – thought to be over 300 years old!

The orangery would have been a favourite of the Peckovers, with its wonderful displays of exotic and colourful plants from around the world. Just as it is now!

Also restored, and a magnet to our students, was the glasshouse and cold frames. Looking to all intents and purposes like the original Victorian structure, the replacement aluminium framework, has to be touched to be believed.

Practical and low maintenance, yet with the timeless aesthetic qualities of an original heritage structure. I am sure that the Peckovers would have used this material had it been around!

The gardens are a credit to the gardening team and volunteers, and a big thank you from all of us at Manea School of Gardening to Allison, the Head Gardener, for a wonderful tour.

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/peckover-house/

n Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre)

RHS Courses taught at all levels. Applications now being taken for September.

Open for plant sales on Saturdays.

www.maneaschoolofgardening.org

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