Meldreth Court: the Garden

A hundred years ago, Meldreth Court in the High Street was a much larger property than it is now. In addition to the main house, there were over 21 acres of land and the property included stable buildings, a coachman’s cottage with “useful sheds”, a fruit room, heated pits and a “fine range of heated glass houses”.

The “old-world gardens” were described in sale particulars in 1916 (see photo).

The extent of the land at that time is shown in the gallery above.

In her book, “Meldreth Village“, Sara Butler wrote:

The largest estate was that owned by the late Mr John George Mortlock.  This is The Court, built in 1772, with a servants’ living quarters added by Mr Mortlock. This was a very large estate, employing nine gardeners, a coachman, a footman and several maids in the house. Mr Mortlock … was very fond of children and could often be seen on a Sunday afternoon, conducting a party of children around his magnificent gardens where the fountain would be turned on for their benefit. Just at the side of the house were four hot houses, one of which was filled with exotic plants, flowers and shrubs. Chief concern of the children, however, I am afraid to say, was not to look at the gardens, but to participate in the scramble for pennies which usually took place at the end of the walk. The whole village were invited on a few memorable occasions, when there would be lots to eat, races for the children and the whole of the gardens and fountain lit up by coloured fairy lamps, no mean task, when it is remembered that it was a “candle” in each to be lighted.

The fountain referred to and pictured in the gallery above was a Royal Doulton fountain which was powered by gravity, the water being pumped up into a tank by hand from the River Mel by the servants at The Court. When the tap was opened the fountain would run for about three hours. The tank then had to be refilled! The fountain was sold in the 1970s for £80,000.

The River Mel running though Meldreth Court was much larger then, in fact there was a boating lake at the bottom of the garden stocked with carp and trout. At one time the Court was moated and may well have been surrounded by water.

In 1953, the house was split into two residences, each with its own garden. The property remained separated until 2013 when the then owners of Meldreth Court bought the adjacent property (Mortlocks). In 2014 the two houses and gardens were joined to make one property.

Open Gardens

The garden(s) have been opened a number of times as part of the Friends of Holy Trinity Open Gardens event.

2005 Open Gardens Event

The owners at the time wrote this description of the garden:

The gardens are both formal and woodland. We moved into the Court two years ago and have made many changes, the entrance driveway is planted with topiary yews and new beds containing mixed planting providing seasonal colour. In the main garden a young box hedge has been planted forming a semi-circle as part of the original circle designed before the house and garden was divided 50 years ago. The fountain has been restored and planted with water lilies and a statue to add interest. The River Mel runs through the garden crossed by a bridge to part of the woodland garden; spring bulbs can be seen on both sides of the river. Trees such as Monkey Puzzle, Yew, Horse Chestnut, Ash, Wellingtonia, Oak and Holly can be found in the grounds. At the rear of the Court the walled garden features a balustrade to one side, lawn with mixed shrub borders and a fishpond with waterfall.

2007 Open Gardens Event

By 2007 the property had just under two acres of land. The grounds were described as follows:

Wide shingle driveway approached through splendid pillared entrance gates. Paved area adjacent to house. Parking for several vehicles. Lawns to the side of drive. Shingle paths lead to the main gardens with beautiful mature trees including monkey puzzle, horse chestnut and holly, feature semi circular box parterre with many rose trees and well established shrub and plant borders. Woodland area to rear with timber footbridge over River Mel leading to further wooded area. There is a gazebo adjacent to circular ornamental pond with fountain and a delightful garden chalet with veranda with power, water and heating via a wood burning stove.

The rear garden is walled and laid mostly to lawn with mature trees and shrubs including fig and bay. Well stocked borders and high wall to one side. Paved terrace with outdoor dining area and fish pond with waterfall. 

2011 Open Gardens Event

In 2011, the garden of “Mortlocks”, the adjoining property was open to the public and was described as follows:

Mortlocks is one wing of what was originally the Mortlocks’ family home. The garden is informal in layout with many large trees – including an ancient mulberry.

In the area closest to the house there are flower beds and borders, a small pond edged with ferns and rockery planting and a large Victorian glasshouse with covered patio overlooking the pond and this area of the garden. We renovated the glasshouse from the remaining part of one of the original Mortlock glasshouses.

The “bottom” part of the garden opens out into a large lawn bordered by a shrubbery and woodland areas with snowdrops, aconites, hellebores and massed daffodils. 

2015 Open Gardens Event

In 2015, the year after The Court and Mortlocks had been restored to one property, the owners wrote this description of the garden:

The original Victorian garden, planted with trees, was divided in the 1950s and we started to put them back together in 2014, taking out large hedges and wall. Much of the original planting and layout has been lost, although the circular flower beds have been planted to recreate a circular border from the original garden. To make the most of a large garden with such fascinating features as the river, formal pond and garden buildings (in addition to the plants themselves) we have to create a fusion of the Victorian planting and more natural woodland and wild flower areas creating different rooms and atmospheres throughout the garden. We’ve only been here a couple years and our garden is very much a work in progress; it is also a playground for us as well as our children. 

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