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Sat 15th Oct, 2022. 2pm

John Knowles gave over 50 members a fascinating lecture on social history concerning the estates where three of his ancestors were head gardeners.

George Du Rose Knowles emigrated to New Zealand in 1875 and became head gardener to a Mr Perry at Beverley Park, Timaru. The garden was 12 acres and George took this on aged only 23. The estate also had a large pond and four large glass houses where they grew orchids, pineapples and oranges. When Mr Perry died he left George land to establish a nursery. The last tree on the estate was only lost recently.

Charles William Knowles became head gardener at Bagshot Park at the age of 34 in 1901. Bagshot Park was built in 1877 for Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria. The house replaced an earlier dwelling lived in by the Duchess of Gloucester, a keen gardener who designed the garden there in 1828. Paintings of the garden at that time are published in a book by Cyril Ward entitled The Royal Gardens. The soil there is poor, acid and dry. A number of trees planted there came from the west coast of Canada, this helped to establish a pinetum which exists today. The house is currently occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Wessex and is not open to the public. The garden had a Japanese Pavilion built in 1910 after the Japan British Exhibition in 1910. Sadly it did not survive.

Friar Park was established by Sir Frank Crisp, who by all accounts was very eccentric. The house was a Gothic mansion and Sir Frank created a medieval theme park. He was very fond of Gnomes which inhabited the garden and created a Matterhorn from huge rocks which he imported into the garden. Philip Oswin Knowles was head gardener there from 1888 to 1919. When Sir Frank died the house eventually became derelict until it was bought by George Harrison, the Beatle. George’s widow still lives there but the house and garden are not open to the public. Some of the land was sold off for housing.

The lecture finished with an old video of George Harrison and friends singing and performing in the house and grounds of Friar Park, a song called Crackerbox Palace.

Find out more about the planting layout of Bagshot and Friar Parks at

Next Event

Lady’s Wood, Melton Constable

Sunday 19th May. 2024 2-5pm

Melton Constable, NR24 2NF
75 acres of woodland walks with wide grass rides in a peaceful lakeside setting.

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