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An Introduction to the Walled Garden at Harewood House

Heritage Fruit & Vegetables

Recognising the contribution gardeners and farmers made to the war effort

As part of the Seeds of Hope exhibition in the Walled Garden we have been growing an interesting selection of heritage fruits and vegetables that we researched and believe may have been grown here during the First World War.

Old seed catalogues and articles published in the 1918 Gardeners’ Chronicle, a monthly magazine for Head Gardeners, enabled us to develop planting plans and resources from a few of the specialist seed suppliers still growing these old varieties today, such as Thomas Etty, Garden Organic and Pernnard Plants.

In 1914 Britain imported over 60% of its total food supply. British farmers focused on the production of livestock for meat and dairy, a far more profitable and much less labour-intensive product than arable crops.

As the war progressed, the Government became so concerned that Britain may run out of food, in part due to the sustained bombing campaign, that they decided to take action and in February 1917 introduced rationing for the first time and launched a ‘Ploughing Up’ campaign. This ordered farmers to convert pastures into arable fields to produce vital crops such as wheat, oats and potatoes.

In November 1917 the Harewood Estate received its order and the 5th Countess of Harewood actively encouraged her own tenant farmers, gardeners and other local farmers to employ women on the land.

Over the next few months, we will share with you just some of the examples of what we believe would have been grown in the Walled Garden to provide food for the Harewood Estate’s staff, the soldiers convalescing in the auxiliary hospital in the house as well as for sale in the in the local village shops and markets.

With our Kale looking particularly vibrant in the garden this month, the first blog will highlight its virtues and varieties. Read more about Seeds of Hope.

Maria Mahon, Kitchen Gardener