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St Leonards Gardens, East Sussex

St Leonards Gardens is grade II on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. acta prepared conservation and management plans which were the basis for a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The restoration proposals were based on:

  • Accurate reconstruction of original paths, walls and boundaries
  • Tree management to restore the relationship between the gardens and the surrounding Regency villas
  • Replanting in period style.

The gardens are one of the few open spaces in a socially deprived area.

acta were landscape architects for the construction contract. We developed a planting scheme which:

  • Retained the best of the mature vegetation
  • Reinforced the semi-natural character of the edges of the park
  • Reflected the style of Regency planting.

The varied aspects of the garden allowed a wide range of plants cultivated in the early nineteenth century to be grown.

The project won a commendation from the Georgian Society.

  1. The original Regency gardens and the villas that surrounded them are well illustrated in contemporary prints and paintings and were an integral part of James Burton’s St Leonards created in the 1830s
  2. The garden lies in a south-facing valley with a lake formed from natural spring. In the restoration the circuit of paths was reinstated and the links with the surrounding townscape of Burton’s St Leonards enhanced
  3. Two of the key elements of the project were the reconstruction of the sandstone retaining walls, seen in the background on this photograph and the use of short-lived species like the honesty shown here dotted through the planting. This was very typical of Regency landscapes
  4. The mild maritime climate enables windmill palms to flower
  5. Many of the sandstone retaining walls had to be completely re-faced
  6. The garden was a typical Regency subscription one, surrounded by large villas, most of which remain
  7. The narrow dry beds and retaining walls provide ideal conditions for plants like catmint