Raby’s Walled Gardens are now open for visitors to experience the hard work that has gone into creating the re-imagined space. From world renowned designer in Luciano Giubbilei and the visions of the Lady Barnard, to our own team of hard working Raby gardeners, this passion for gardens and growing reflects the generations of green fingers seen in the history of Raby Castle.

Raby Castle, Park and Gardens













Our first records of the development of the gardens begin in the early 1700s, on a map which shows an orchard and kitchen garden on the north-facing slope outside of the gatehouse of the castle. Prior to this, there would have been a garden from around the medieval period used to grow plants for the kitchen and for medicinal purposes.

One of the most significant developments of the gardens was around 1780, when the village of Old Raby was moved from the location of the current walled gardens to a new site across the road from the castle. In 1755, a landscape gardener called Joseph Spence was invited by the 1st Earl of Darlington to visit Raby and provide advice on development. He advised the location of old Raby village was the perfect spot for walled gardens due to its’ south-facing location.

Passion for growing: A daughter of Henry Vane, 1st Earl of Darlington, was Lady Anne Vane, who was born in 1726 and grew up at the castle as the walled gardens were being developed. This could have inspired her later interest in botany and the study of plants. She developed an influential name for herself in botanic circles, recognised for her expertise at the time by famed Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus and having the plant ‘Monsonia’ named after her.

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During the 1800s the walled garden was a hive of activity, home to pine pits, vineries and heated conservatories as exotic fruits became popular.

Raby Castle. Park and Gardens Blog












OS map of the gardens laid out in the 1850s.

An article in the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener from a visit to Raby in 1878 talks of 1400 strawberry plants, three peach houses, four pine pits, two plant stoves, a ‘range’ of vineries and a mushroom house… and that isn’t all!

Passion for growing: The 4th Duchess of Cleveland, who lived at Raby during the latter half of the 1800s, was noted as a collector of rare plants. Her passion for tropical plants is evident in her Handbook for Raby Castle, which she wrote in 1870:

What a study they are!  Some of their great leaves look as if they were moulded in lustrous bronze; in others the eye plunges into the deepest, richest green depth sand folds of velvet; some are lined with a crimson down, or spotted with gem-like pink tears; some pure white, with delicate network tracery of green – innumerable varieties of beautiful combinations of colour!

She also talks of the challenges faced when growing such plants in the North East of England:

The climate is not very favourable, the springs are rough and cold and the summers uncertain; it can be exceedingly hot, but never for long together.  The winters are severe, and no tender plant will live out of doors…

Raby Castle Park and Gardens, County Durham












Image of the conservatory from 1898.

The 1900s saw land repurposed during the wars for productive planting, and Land Girls are recorded as working in the gardens. They are later re-designed with an emphasis on leisure, and towards the end of the century are remodelled for ease of visitor access, culminating in the Rising developments recently completed which pay homage to the historic developments alongside a modern planting design.

Passion for growing: Lady Sylvia, the 10th Lady Barnard and the current Lord Barnard’s grandmother, added her own touches to the landscaped gardens during the first half of the 1900s. A keen gardener, she had a passion for herbaceous borders, designed to contain plants that flowered right through the year. This interest in having a garden which provides focal points throughout the year is mirrored in the current landscaping scheme, created by the current Lady Barnard alongside renowned designer Luciano Giubbilei.
















None of the above developments could have been achieved without a dedicated team of gardeners bringing ideas to fruition. These often large teams were led by a Head Gardener, an important figure who had overall responsibility for the gardens and was encouraged to be innovative and knowledgeable in their fields of expertise.

Employed in the Raby gardens around the 1850s, James Roberts was described as ‘one of the best modern writers on the vine,’ and was a renowned grower of grapes. However, he was also known for the use of unusual techniques when attempting to improve the growth of his vines, some of which the rest of the horticultural community didn’t always agree with. This included the use of animal carcasses, or carrion, in the soil.

Mr. Wesctott, Head Gardener for around 30 years in the second half of the 1800s, won many awards for his growing. In the 1868 Bishop Auckland Flower Show, he exhibited stove and greenhouse plants including pineapples and grapes, which were described as ‘the very sense of perfection,’ and in 1872 Mr R. Westcott was ‘again unapproachable.’

While this may seem like large boots to fill for the next Head Gardener, James Tullett did not disappoint. Head Gardener for another thirty years until the 1920s, Tullett again won several prizes for stove plants and fruit. A highlight of James’ career must have been the Royal visit in 1905, when King Edward VII visited Raby Castle. ‘His Majesty went away with a bunch of the famed “Raby carnations” with him. This, of course, all stands to the credit of Mr J. Tullett, the head gardener.

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James Tullett (centre) with his gardening team.

If you spot our gardeners around, ask them questions, see how they work, and appreciate the effort and passion that goes into creating these new gardens alongside the work that continues to maintain them.

Raby Castle, Park and Gardens

Raby Castle, Park and Gardens

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