Today work finally started on our neglected and overgrown Edwardian kitchen garden to restore it to a new Community Kitchen garden at Polesden Lacey. After three years of planning, meetings and discussions, we have made our first physical steps to reaching our goal. Seven overgrown lime trees, planted in the 1980s were removed in the Old Kitchen Garden and cleared to make room for vegetable beds and fruit trees. The local pre-school then came and had a mini-party to celebrate the start of our exciting latest project.
The three- acre site was previously the kitchen garden of Mrs Greville, the world-famous Edwardian hostess. She used it from 1908 until 1942 to produce and supply lavish food for her famous weekend parties which were regularly attended by royalty and celebrities of her time. Visitors included Edward the seventh, George V, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and the garden writer Beverley Nichols. And of course George V1 and the late Queen Mother had their honeymoon at Polesden Lacey, and would have had romantic strolls right through the kitchen garden and dined on the food produced from here. Mrs Greville’s kitchen garden also fed her household and garden staff. In 1910 there were around 180 servants so you can imagine how productive the garden had to be. Food was also sent up to her London house in Charles Street by train.
In the 1980s the site was sadly planted as a monoculture, with rows of lime trees and subsequently the site has gradually become neglected, due to lack of interest for the public. (see photo below)
A community kitchen garden will breathe life back into the site and encourage and inspire a new generation of budding gardeners and cooks. It is hoped that not only individual local volunteers will get involved but also nearby schools and societies. So far about 50 people have signed up to become a ‘Polesden Lacey community Kitchen gardener’.
This is a photo of Mrs Greville’s kitchen garden in 1929 by Churchill's wife, Vicountess Churchill.
So what is a community kitchen garden? It is an area where the community can grow their own fruit and veg alongside like-minded people. The benefits include making new friends, a supply of healthy produce and learning new skills, all in the stunning and historic setting. The amount of ‘work’ or ‘hours’ that a person puts into working on the plot, will be exchanged for fruit, veg and cut flowers produced in the garden.
The wide range of fruit and vegetables planted will increase the biodiversity and create a richer environment for wildlife. There may also be some individual allotment plots available subject to demand.