Built about 1130 The Manor, Hemington Grey is one of the oldest continuously inhabited houses in the country. It was the home of Lucy Boston from 1939 until her death in 1990 and the setting for her Green Knowe children's books so going round the house and garden visitors feel that they are walking into the books, as many of the toys and other features mentioned in the books exist.
The house, particularly, is a magical place for children to visit. In the winter Lucy Boston sewed exquisite patchworks. They form the only collection of this calibre worldwide which can be seen in the house where they were made. During the second world war, Lucy Boston gave gramophone recitals in the Music Room (which is virtually unchanged from when the house was built). The recitals were for airmen based locally and the old EMG gramophone is played during the tour.
When she bought the property the land in front of the house was a field. In the Autumn of 1939 she planted over two hundred trees and shrubs plus, beside the towpath along the River Great Ouse which borders the garden, she planted a further one hundred sweet briar plants. Many of these were washed away in the 1947 flood.
During the war years gardening took a back seat although she did plant eight yew bushes on either side of the path to the house, with the idea of creating topiary shapes - inspired by Levens Hall which she knew well as a child.
After the war Lucy seriously applied herself to gardening, planting old roses at a time when these were out of fashion, irises and herbaceous perennials. She was advised in her choice of roses and irises by Graham Stuart Thomas who was at the Cambridge Botanic garden at the time. In his first book on shrub roses he had a photograph of La Reine Victoria at The Manor.
The eight yew bushes bordering the path to the house were made into crowns, orbs and the dove of peace to celebrate the Queen's Coronation. In the early 1950's another twelve bushes were planted with the intention of making them into chess pieces. These now stand in squares of purple leaved ajuga and grey leaved stachys to represent the black and white squares of the chess board.
Bordered by a moat on three sides and the River Great Ouse on the other, the garden is four acres with one acre deliberately left wilderness as a haven for wildlife. It is divided into different sections, including the hidden garden with splendid mature yews.
There are large herbaceous borders full of scented plants with plenty of self-sown annuals intermingled. The atmosphere is of carefree tranquillity which means there are weeds as well as planned plantings. It is not a manicured garden. Lucy Boston's philosophy was that it would be a pity if one won against the forest and wild flowers waiting to take over.
It is a perfect garden for accompanied children to explore both because of the books and because of the different spaces with many paths to follow.
Opening Times: -
Garden: all year, 11am - 5pm (dusk in winter).
House: tours daily at 2pm during May (advance booking advisable) or tours all year round by appointment
Garden: £6 adults, £5 seniors, children free.
House & Garden: £9 adults, £8 seniors, £5 students, £3 children
Partial disabled access only - please contact us for further details.
Parking nearby in village.
The Manor is located beside the river in Hemingford Grey. Walk along the towpath to enter via the garden gate.