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A beautiful walled rose garden at Burton Hall near Chester

PUBLISHED: 00:02 11 November 2013

Rose garden

Rose garden


A walled rose garden is just one attractive asset at the historic and beautiful Burton Hall

Imagine Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs meeting up with Griff Rhys Jones’ Restoration. You’d expect something pretty special. Come along to Burton Hall, south east of Chester, and you’ll find exactly that.

The property was built in the mid-sixteenth century as a private residence for wealthy landowner, lawyer and politician John Werden. The hall fell into local farming ownership in the late nineteenth century before suffering extreme neglect to the extent that ten years ago it was derelict. The top floor had been sealed off with a vast hole in the roof and was only habitable by wildlife. Wattle and daub walls were crumbling through death watch beetle, woodworm, dry rot and wet rot. An ideal Griff Rhys Jones venue.

Meanwhile there was no sign of a garden. It was an unloved ruin in a field with no paths or driveways. There were no drains, electricity or sewage. John and Helen Rowton, a couple with a history of renovating Cheshire properties, emerged to buy it with lofty ambitions. An ideal Kevin McCloud venue.

The work on Burton Hall is finished and it has been magnificently restored as a luxury property. The Rowtons sourced local materials and labour whenever possible, consulting with conservationists and inserting their own design flair. The gardens exploit their Elizabethan heritage with formal planting areas and harmonise with the hall while also incorporating contemporary ideas.

The Rowtons directed a massive amount of work to ensure that everything they used contributed to the authenticity of the project. ‘I have put research into every nail and screw in this building’, says Helen. And that attention to detail is evident everywhere. The genius is that it’s also a luxurious home with every modern convenience taking advantage of the space. A magnificent annexe, a luxury home in its own right, fits in perfectly with the architectural style giving additional living space for visitors.

The walled rose garden is awash with scent and colour, but perfectly planned – Helen admits to an addiction to graph paper when working out her designs. She also confesses to having very little knowledge of garden design when she embarked upon the project and freely admits to a litany of expensive mistakes. But no-one could take on a project of this magnitude without getting some things wrong.

And the work won’t stop, because the owners have a restless energy to improve. The hall is a rather angular design and the next project is to soften the lines. It will be challenging to do this without climbing plants which would attack the authentic mortar used in the reconstruction or planting deep and risking damage to the underground installations which were carefully buried in order to keep the utility functions out of view.

There’s a private garden full of herbs and traditional flowers including unusual additions such as sea holly. Other features include a traditional pond at the foot of the grounds which has dragon flies dancing above it, a formal fountain, a huge lawned area, fantastic views towards Peckforton, herbaceous planting against the long walled areas, outdoor eating spaces...where do you stop?

They should make a television programme about it.

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