Lost Chelsea Rock Garden Rediscovered


Though protected by current regulation, Limestone Pavement is a fascinating stone which reflects the influences of water, weather and the environment.  We are lucky at Mindrum, to have a wonderful limestone pavement rock garden which was installed in the Mid 1930’s.  

Mindrum in 1878
Mindrum in 1878

A picture of the Mindrum Garden from 1878, shows that the gardens were limited to what is now the top garden, with a south facing wall for growing fruit trees overlooking the river.  Much of what is now the bottom garden, along the Mindrum Burn, was just a grassy gully which appeared to be grazing land.   A study of the older maps shows that a mill race left the river here and ran down to Mindrum Mill where it powered the grain mill.

In 1927, Mindrum was bought by Charles Chartres, who had started his career as a hydro electric engineer in India.  His wife, a keen gardener, and started to develop the garden and in the 1930’s.  It is on record that she saw a rock garden in the Chelsea Flower show which she bought and moved to Mindrum, installing it in the grassy gully to the south of the garden.

Could this be the same rock garden - looks familiar
Rock Garden at Chelsea in 1935 – Could this be the same – looks familiar?    (Picture from RHS Lindley Library)




We don’t know for sure, but the attached picture taken at Chelsea in 1935 does contain some familiar rocks – perhaps this is the same stone.

Little is known about the garden at this stage, but in the late 1940s, the now extensive gardens became rather hard work and,  allegedly, Her husband (having sent her to London to go shopping with a cheque for 200 pounds) covered the rock garden with soil and on her return she found that it had been planted with Scots Pine Trees.  (Some of which are still visible today).  History doesn’t relate the discussion that ensued on her return!
rockgarden 1955 a
The newly recovered rock garden in 1956

When he moved to Mindrum in 1955, One of the first things that Pery Fairfax did, on hearing that there was a lost rockery, was to find and recover it.

Over a two year period, he and his team removed trees and excavated the hillside until he discovered the pools, cliffs, rocks and waterfalls that had been lost over a decade earlier.
Pictures of the garden that had just been recovered showed that this was a significant piece of work but enabled him to start planting many of the trees we still see today.
1956 Rock garden during restoration
1956 Rock garden during restoration

After marrying Pery in 1965, Ginny became interested in the garden and over the next 5 decades, Pery and Ginny, together, developed the rockery, with Pery focusing on the trees and the ponds and Ginny developing the planting in the borders with an artist’s eye.

Tom and Miki have now taken over the baton, and
eighty years after its initial layout, the rock garden is still going strong, changing every year and still in good working order, assisted by a vigorous ongoing programme of leak treatment and blanket weed removal!

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