These are a rare survival of Victorian gardens used by townsfolk who lived above their business and had backyards filled with workshops, wash house, privy and a stable. If they wanted to grow plants they had to rent a plot of land, called a detached plot, which was usually on the edge of the town. In many ways they were the precursor of todays allotment. The Hill Close Gardens in Warwick are a rare survivor of the once common detached plots found in most towns and cities but which have now disappeared under housing or have become overgrown and lost.
In 1845, Hill Close pasture land on the edge of Warwick began to be divided into garden plots which the local tradesmen rented. It is a lovely site on a south west facing slope adjacent to Warwick Racecourse.
The gardens would be used for both pleasure and production and families expected to be there for many years. They grew flowers, vegetables and fruit. Some people even kept pigs and poultry here. Others had a lawn and were designed for leisure rather than food production for the family. Many of the gardens had a shed. Some of these were substantial brick constructions.
Other gardens even had a summer house, designed for leisure rather than tool stage, with a small fireplace. These have all been carefully restored.
In the early C20th part of the gardens were sold off for housing along Linen St and St Paul’s Close. The rest were left and became overgrown and neglected. In 2000 a Trust was formed to restore the remaining sixteen gardens, using volunteer help. The history of the families who owned the original plots has been researched and there is a small information board beside each garden.
All the plots are surrounded by tall hedges, making them feel secluded and private. A network of narrow paths gives access to the different gardens.
Each of them is very different. Some like Plot 17 have quite a modern feel with gravel and grass. Several plots are growing vegetables which grow well on the sheltered south west facing slope. Others have soft fruit and small orchards.
There are seats scattered around the gardens and this is a wonderful place to sit on a warm summer’s day. Even though it is only a few minutes walk from the centre of Warwick, it feels miles away in the countryside.
I came across these gardens almost by chance when researching things to do in Warwick. They are not widely advertised which is a shame as they really are a wonderful find. The gardens are open daily from 11-5 (or 4 in the winter months. Entry is £4. There is a small cafe which is open at weekends and Bank holiday Mondays. There is also a very good plant sales area. There is pedestrian access off Bowling Green St or car access from the racecourse where there is a pay and display car park (free for the first two hours).
There are lots more pictures “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/gardens/england/west_midlands/hill_close/index.html