An introduction to Bradenham Hall Garden & Arboretum
   We manufacture and sell our own high quality garden labels
   The garden's layout, maps of the walks, colour photographs
   Background information, the Arboretum's layout and a list of our trees
   When we're open and how to find us, with maps to print
  A brief history and background information


Bradenham Hall


Early woodcut of the house (c.1890)Bradenham Hall (earlier known as "West Bradenham Hall") is an early Georgian house, more in the Queen Anne style and from its elevated position, faces almost due South.

For long periods of time, the house has been tenanted rather than lived in by the owners and reputedly amongst these tenants was Lady Hamilton, who is said to have entertained Lord Nelson as a guest.
Since the house was built in about 1740, it had been owned principally by the Smyth, Haggard (Rider's dog 'Spice' is buried here) and Penrose families until 1951 when Dick & Jane Allhusen bought it, together with 1500 acres of surrounding land and woods.

In the 1940's it was occupied by various army units, one of which left a legacy of numerous heaps of empty tins and literally thousands of broken glass medicine bottles in many parts of the garden, particularly on the West side. Several dozen concrete Nissen hut foundations were an unwanted additional burden.

A number of local people thought that the house could never be properly renovated and lived in again (the new owners had to start by taking practically the whole roof off).

Other than the courtyard and walled garden areas (both covered by a massive crop of long established deadly nightshade), there was no garden worthy of the name. The area to the North East was entirely occupied by a derelict canker-ridden apple orchard and the (unused) front drive ran through a fenced off grass pasture grazed by the dairy herd. There were also approximately 200 wasp and several hornet nests which had to be dealt with during the first summer.

Plans for the garden were devised in about 1953 and continue to this day.

The garden's development

Having no experience whatsoever or knowledge of gardening, the Allhusens were none the less determined to create a setting for their future family's home which would provide interest at all times of the year. Perhaps riskily, they deliberately avoided garden designers. The lay-out, for better or worse, is therefore entirely their own creation. They of course needed, and received, excellent detailed advice in the early days from expert plantsmen such as Frank Knight, George Taylor of Wisbech and Geoffrey Chadbund.

The prevailing wind is South West, so that, reasonably protected by woods on the North and East sides, the owners' first task was to plant the windbreak on the West side in 1953, which also saw the creation of the terrace and the sheltered children's garden. Owing to the wind problem, they then had to create a series of rooms, surrounded by yew hedges, for the flower and shrub areas.

It took them 4 years to accumulate enough knowledge (and confidence) to know what they wanted initially to plant in the arboretum. This was started in 1955 and then expanded Westwards from the front drive in three stages until, in 1970, it occupied the whole of the Top Park. Naturalised Narcissi, in single variety clumps (mostly of about 200 bulbs), were planted in the grass flanking both sides of the curving front drive. The trees and most shrubs were (and remain) labelled, on either path or North side, and bear the date of their planting. This may not be to everyone's taste but it can be a convenience.


Top of Page