Hidden path leads to a secret 19th century garden

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7 June 2017 10:39AM

“IF you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

And this line from the children’s classic The Secret Garden is certainly ringing true in Wylam.

For a local resident has uncovered his own 19th century secret garden in the grounds of an historic building.

Victor Schenk was gardening over Easter when he chanced upon a pathway in the grounds of Castle Hill House in Wylam.

He said: “I was digging for leaf mould to put on the flower beds and and hit stone. I started digging around and found it was a path.”

With the help of half a dozen fellow Castle Hill House residents, over the next three weeks the area was cleared of ivy, leaf mould and weeds.

And under around 10 inches of earth and weeds, the outline of a formal floral garden began to take shape.

The stone Victor first unearthed formed part of a pathway that snaked around a series of flowerbeds with a diamond-shaped central bed.

The uncovered garden is two-tiered, with the lower tier a mirror image of the upper, but with a hexagonal central flower bed.

Alongside fellow resident Iain Anderson, Victor began to look into the history of the grounds.

Castle Hill House was designed and built as a private residence by Tyneside architect Archibald M. Dunn.

In 1901, Dunn sold the building to Frederick Stirling Newall and upon his death, his eldest son presented the house to the RVI in 1933.

Castle Hill House was used by the RVI as a convalescent home until it was turned into apartments 20 years ago.

One resident put the group in touch with local historian Dr Tom Yellowley. He showed them a photograph from the 19th Century showing the garden bounded by box hedges and with the distinctively-shaped flower beds in full bloom.

Victor said: “It’s amazing to think it’s been here all this time; it’s rather special.”

The group is keen to restore the garden to its former glory. Anyone with information about the garden can contact Victor by letter at 13 Castle Hill House, Wylam, NE41 8JG or email victor.schenk@outlook.com

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