History of the Old Pond Garden

CABAHS members meet every month at Charlton House and most people know a bit about the history of this fine Jacobean house (built 1612). But a lot less is known about the walled gardens to the side of the Library, even though they are almost as old as the house.

OPG Gate

Doesn’t this make you think of The Secret Garden? Go through the gate and stand in a 400 year old garden…

An early view of the gardens is shown on a map by Thomas Reynolds, from 1784, which  shows a layout with much the same footprint as it is today and called “Floral gardens” (C)

reynolds-plan-for-charlton-park close up

Great detail about the gardens is given in an article by the 9th Baronet Sir John Maryon-Wilson, who was a botanist! He wrote to the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener in January 1885, and he tells of Gaillardia, Phlox, pinks, violas and other showy annuals, a fig tree and pear trees up the walls.

Most references to the walled gardens by the house suggest they were “productive gardens” rather than the traditional kitchen gardens you might expect. So they have probably mostly been used as floral cutting gardens, for herbs and tender vegetables and seed raising. The main kitchen gardens were to the south of the house where Canberra Road now stands.

The house and gardens were sold to Greenwich Council in 1920 and have been used as a fantastic community resource, park and sports fields ever since. Local people will remember when the Old Pond Garden had an actual pond in it, as shown in this photo from the 1950’s (courtesy of our member Andrea). See how many benches there were, and the tidy bedding areas at the back, it was a lovely place to sit and play.

Andrea in the Pond Garden

The Old Pond Garden fell into disrepair and was last planted up in 2005, by professional garden designers Fisher Tomlin & Bowyer, when the pond area was replaced with a sea of lavender, and the surrounding plants included sculptural bronze Phormiums and low maintenance plants such as Achillea and Sedum.

The Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust took over running the House, gardens and the park as far as the Ha-Ha from 2014. Below is a picture of the garden in February 2020, when CABAHS started to look into a volunteer scheme for it.  Some lovely Hellebores out, and much evidence of the sedums pushing through, but definitely in need of some tender loving care! The volunteer scheme is still going strong, with sessions twice a week (Tues 2-4 and Thurs 10-12) for anyone to drop in and help. See our Diary pages for latest news.

OPG Feb looking at CH

Next: A year in the life of the Old Pond Garden, 2020-21