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The History of Littlethorpe Manor

The 18th century Manor house, on the banks of the Ripon Canal, seemed lost in the 11 acre grounds when the Thackray family moved here in 1985. The earliest part of the house is circa 1700, with later additions, particularly by General Maister, the Duke of Wellington’s Peninsula Officer. The remodelling had produced a house of great charm and style, but irregular form – a fact that has had considerable influence on the garden.

When John and Christin Thackray bought the estate in 1985, they laid out the garden in an English Arcadia style, with a retaining wall forming a ha-ha leading down to the parkland with a small lake, specimen trees and two copses.

In 1998 we commenced an ambitious new programme of garden development, together with newly appointed Eddie Harland, Head Gardener. The upper garden around the house was enclosed with Yew and Hornbeam hedging and a series of gardens planted to reflect the seasons and to relate the house to its garden setting. The work began with the design and installation of the Walled Garden in 1999, reflecting Mrs Thackray’s interest in ‘the cycle of the seasons’ which has led to the symbolic use of circles as a unifying theme throughout the garden. Further gardens and structures were added over the next 20 years, including the Classical Pavilion adjacent to the pond, completing Mr Thackray’s mini Arcadia and forming the focal point for the central axis of the garden.

Our latest project is the Physic Garden which is in commemoration of Mr Thackray and the family company Chas. F. Thackray. The garden displays medicinal plants used for herbal remedies and plants used in the modern pharmaceutical industry. There is also a monastic garden in one corner dedicated to the cultivation of plants grown by the 11C abbess Hildegard of Bingen. The project should be completed by spring 2022.

The garden today is a mixture of formal and informal elements with contemporary features. The whole is linked together by extensive hedging, providing year round structure and a backdrop to the colour, texture and movement of perennials and grasses through the seasons. It is a testimony to the dedication of the family to create a garden not just for their own enjoyment, but to be shared with our visitors and also to the skill and hard work of the staff and local contractors.

Office and Chimney Pot Gardens