1848 OS 6inch
Shown as Swarcliffe House, lodges, drive house, parkland to E of house, shelter belt of trees to W of house
1891 OS 25inch
Now named as Swarcliffe Hall. Formal terracing overlooking parkland which has been extended. Area to W developed as large walled gardens and orchards.
1909 OS 25inch
No major changes seen.
Site Description: Formal gardens, park, orchard, walled garden
Site Access: Footpaths to S & NW, view from distance
Micro climate: N/A
Buildings: Not visible
Walkways / Gateways / Paths etc: Not visible
Other man-made features: High brick wall (part of orig walled kitchen garden?) with bricked-up wooden door. Property called Gardeners Cottage adjoining.
Planting: Old driveway lined with rhododendrons.
General Condition: Main Hall now preparatory school with kindergarten
Possible contact: Secretary of School
Other comments: A separate study has been done of the hall history & architecture
John Greenwood (1763-1846), scion of wealthy textile magnates based in Keighley, acquired the Swarcliffe site in 1805. Over the next 40 years he established a c.3,000 acre country estate, rebuilt an earlier house and began the development of the gardens and grounds. The First Edition OS maps of the 1850s, charted shortly after John's death, reveal a shaded park of around eight acres to the east and south of the house dotted with ornamental trees.
The house was rebuilt again in the 1850s by John's son Edwin (1798-1852), to the designs of Major Rohde Hawkins. It is believed that Hawkins also drew up the plans for the hard landscaping of a terraced garden as integral to this project. The terrace is comprised of three tiers to the east and south of the house with flights of steps and balustrades linking the masonry to the ornamental gardens, lawns and the parkland below. Photographic evidence from later in the century confirms lush planting in herbaceous borders to the south and east elevations, a profusion of climbing plants on the terrace and house walls, and a range of exotics in masonry urns. Documentation also refers to a small 'walled garden' within this complex at the northern end of the terracing. It is believed that this was a knot, or rose garden. From the top of the tower, in very dry conditions, it is possible to discern slight geometric parch marks in the lawn below which may indicate earlier knot formations or formal flower-beds. A rock garden to the immediate west of the house was developed from the 1860s. This made dramatic use of the eponymous black rock outcrops of the vicinity which were overplanted with mosses, ferns and foxgloves. The bank behind was densely planted with rhododendrons.
Until the 1840s Swarcliffe was not the main residence of the Greenwood family. John Greenwood continued to live at his Keighley mansion (Knowle House) and to use Swarcliffe as a seasonal base for country pursuits. Once Swarcliffe became the permanent home of the family, the large household, which included up to the high teens of servants, would have required an intensive and reliable year-round provision of fruit and vegetables. Although the precise date is uncertain, evidence suggests that the walled kitchen garden was built in the late 1840s or 1850s. The plot, to the south-west of the house, covered about two acres. It was enclosed by a 10-12 ft. brick wall, stepped to the north and south, and double-skinned in stone to the east, where it faced the service road. An internal south-facing wall ran along most of the central axis from due west to east. The garden had six sides and was formed of an approximate square to the north and a rectangle to the south. Within this were six distinct plots laid out in a grid formation with walkways between. Four glasshouses, potting sheds, and what may have been an earlier hothouse were located in the northern end of the site. On the OS 1891 map significant orchards are shown to the south and west.
Research has revealed the names of 13 head gardeners, and around 40 other men who were employed as gardeners at Swarcliffe Hall between the years 1850 and 1950. Head gardeners like John Gray, William Stanton and Edwin Guyll were highly skilled in their provision of both everyday foodstuffs and exotic fruits and vegetables. From 1867, the head gardener at Swarcliffe provided impressive displays of flowers and foliage for the annual Birstwith Horticultural Society Show, and also won many prizes: 'John Gray sent down some capital vegetables and marvellously good peas called Superlatives . . . '. Swarcliffe head gardeners also acted as judges at horticultural shows throughout the area. Garden staff were drawn from all parts of the country and some went on to success in even grander establishments: William Stanton, for example, went on to become head gardener to John Menzies at Escrick Park in c.1890.
The ornamental gardens and parkland continued to be developed by a later John Greenwood (1829-1874) and his son Charles Staniforth Greenwood (1857-1941). The OS of 1910 shows that by this time the park had doubled in size and now extended to the south as far as Elton Bank. The parkland today is dotted with ornamental trees and includes British native trees such as oak, red oak, pin oak, lime, sycamore, beech, elder, horse chestnut, hazel, ash, cherry, birch and yew (Taxus baccata), as well as a wide range of exotics, for example, deodar cedar, blue Atlas cedar, western red cedar, Lawson cypress, maple, ginkgo, Turkey oak, eucalyptus, monkey puzzle, giant sequoia, dawn redwood, dove ('handkerchief') tree. Evidence suggests that many of these were planted during the nineteenth century, or even earlier.
In addition to this range of tree species, the grounds today are dotted with clumps of rhododendrons and azaleas which are also believed to be of nineteenth century origin. A number of these specimens are mauve ponticum, popular in Victorian times as game cover on country estates. The grounds at Swarcliffe also contain a large and lush planting of bamboo. This too is thought to date from the mid- to late Victorian period, when the species became first became readily available in Britain.
In the village of Birstwith the Greenwood family provided the Anglican church, and Swarcliffe gardeners laid out and maintained the church-yard. The gardeners also provided floral displays for church events and for Greenwood family weddings, baptisms and funerals. Villagers were provided with good-size garden plots and two pumps provided fresh water from a spring in Catstone Wood. From the 1860s the gardens and grounds of Swarcliffe Hall were open to the community for special events and were the venue for a number of charitable fund-raising events up to the 1960s.
During the 1950s and 1960s the kitchen garden was run on a semi-commercial basis. Flowers and fruit, notably sweet peas and muscat grapes, were provided for Campbell's Florists and Fruiterers trading in Parliament Street, Harrogate. Produce was also sold directly from the site.
The Swarcliffe estate was dispersed in 1949. From the early 1970s the hall and its immediate grounds became a preparatory school. The walled kitchen garden now contains a private house.
Sheila Wilkins: 2018
Bogg, Edmund. From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, c.1894, Leeds and York, Bogg and Sampson
Grainge, William. Nidderdale: Or An Historical, Topographical and Descriptive Sketch of the Valley of the Nidd . . . 1863, Thorpe, Pateley Bridge
Grainge, William. The History and Topography of Harrogate and the Forest of Knaresborough, 1868/1871 J R Smith
Speight, Harry. Nidderdale and the Garden of the Nidd: A Yorkshire Rhineland, 1894, Elliot Stock
Speight, Harry. Nidderdale: From Nun Monkton to Whernside, 1906, Elliot Stock
Wilkins, Sheila. The Gardens, Grounds and Llandscape of Swarcliffe Hall, 2018 Historic Parks and Gardens Study Group.
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