Great Maytham Hall, Rolvenden, Kent : A Secret Garden

Two months ago, I re-read  ‘The Secret Garden’ written by Frances Hodgson Burnett.   At the same time I did a spot of research into the writer, and discovered that Great Maytham Hall was the inspiration for her famous book and that the gardens were open to the public through the National Garden Scheme on 20 and 21 June.   I also wrote a post in April called ‘The Secret Garden and my Discovery’ and said that I intended to visit the gardens at Great Maytham.

I went to Great Maytham Hall on Wednesday.  As everyone knows the weather has been pretty dire, with wind and rain most day so I couldn’t believe my luck  that it was a fabulous, sunny, June day for my visit.  I discovered a beautiful garden which was well worth the drive.

Frances Hodgson Burnet, lived as a tenant at Great Maytham, a Grade II listed building in Rolvenden, near Tenterden, Kent between 1898 to 1907.     It was the discovery of an old door in a wall and a garden hidden behind, that became the base of  her book, although she set it in Yorkshire and not in Kent.

Frances lovingly restored the garden,  planted it with hundreds of roses and spent many hours sitting in the tranquil garden writing her stories.

In 1909, Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned by the owner to redesign Great Maytham Hall, a house originally built in 1721.   He landscaped the terraced lawns in partnership with Gertrude Jekyll.   Although Lutyens retained the old walled garden he removed an old gate, the one that Frances had found, replacing it with a wrought iron one.

The lovely gardens at Great Maytham have several walled gardens including a walled pond garden,

and, a typical Lutyens pergola covered in roses.

In recent years the property has been converted into expensive apartments.  The pristine and tranquil gardens, have one full time gardener and the residents assist with jobs such as weeding and dead heading, as well as their own allotment area and greenhouses.  I couldn’t help thinking, as I walked around, what a magnificent place it was to live – a Lutyens/Jekyll garden, beautiful views and the history that goes with it.

Although the gardens are only open to the public for two days in June through the NGS, it is open for private viewings by appointment so if you want to see it for yourself this year, just give them a call.

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  1. Recently I have come across two gardens that incorporated gates into the design. They were used as focal points but didn’t actually lead anywhere. I thought I liked the idea but have since changed my mind. Gates need to lead to a secret garden.


  2. oh what a lovely garden and such a pity they had removed the original gate. Funny how she chose to set it in Yorkshire, I suppose she wanted to exaggerate the difference between the garden and the wild moors. Thanks for sharing


  3. I love the book, read it to my daughter who loves the book but never knew it was a place. A grand place at that- thanks so much for this post. There is always a secret walled garden I can go to in my mind where the roses bloom year-round. The flame roses were stunning.


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