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Quex Walled Garden, Kent

Quex House near Margate was developed as a natural history and ethnography museum in the twentieth century. It now attracts 40,000 visitors a year. The gardens of the manor house remained as the grounds of the museum. Their central feature is a walled garden with Victorian and Edwardian glasshouses. There are elements of other structures dating from the sixteenth century to the 1930s. acta was commissioned to prepare a conservation plan, explore the possibility of HLF funding, provide costings and review the options for a horticultural outreach project based at the garden.

The glasshouses were rapidly assessed for their history, condition, approximate restoration and repair costs, and potential uses. Their development had to be reconstructed from manufacturers’ catalogues, diaries, old photographs and the study of similar buildings on other sites. New uses were sought, such as teaching and catering spaces within accurately restored structures. A fully functional Edwardian walled garden would have had a substantial environmental impact. We therefore explored the opportunities for a modern low-impact garden through the use of photovoltaic glass, rainwater harvesting and similar measures.

The restored walled garden will offer many opportunities for people of all abilities to learn gardening skills. At the same time, there has to be a good standard of presentation for general visitors throughout the year. Our scheme, while providing specialist demonstration features, created a simple, easily maintained landscape. Volunteers, educational groups and people with special needs can fit in and carry-out worthwhile projects while an enjoyable visit for the general visitor is also assured.

The museum has excellent teaching facilities a short distance from the garden. The plan identified ways that the walled garden could be used for teaching science, history, geography, art, and design and technology within the National Curriculum.

  1. Many original features survive, such as this melon house, boiler pit and chimney. The walls and screening vegetation create a mild frost-free environment
  2. The owner of the estate in the mid-nineteenth century was an early photography enthusiast, so that there are valuable early images
  3. The regular attendance of skilled volunteers enables quite intensive cultivation
  4. The vinery survives and the peach house seen in the foreground can be reconstructed
  5. Most of the original structures and many of the original fittings remain
  6. Much of the charm of the garden comes from the way that plants like this summer hyacinth are crammed into odd corners