The Story of The Alnwick Garden
The growth of The Alnwick Garden has been an incredible journey, and there’s still so much more to come
Visitors to The Alnwick Garden are wowed from the moment they step through the 16th century Venetian gates.
The space, the structure and the beauty of the landscape laid out before them offers a view, which is now famous, that can be appreciated every day, in every season.
Less known is the story of how The Garden came to be the community backbone and space of beauty it is today.
Following the death of Harry 11th Duke of Northumberland in October 1995, Lord and Lady Ralph Percy became the 12th Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. The family’s life was transformed overnight as they moved with their four children from an idyllic family home in north Northumberland to the majestic Alnwick Castle.
Adjacent to Alnwick Castle, behind 1770’s brickwork and wrought iron gates, was a 12 acre walled garden used as a tree nursery for the Forestry Dept. The space had become derelict with the exception of a few larch and spruce trees sitting amongst the 19th century tree plantings and yet to the Duchess it was a place of beauty and potential. In March 1996, Jane 12th Duchess of Northumberland presented an idea, a vision, to the then Estate Clerk of Works for The Northumberland Estates, Ian August. The vision is what we now know to be The Alnwick Garden.
Her vision was bold, daring and, to a lesser man, terrifying. But Ian was captivated not only by the proposed plans but by the enthusiasm and excitement of the Duchess. The project would be difficult, drawn out and there would be a lot of people to convince. That glimmer was enough for the Duchess, with Ian working alongside her, to ensure The Alnwick Garden would be completed and successful.
The Alnwick Garden is a charity. The Alnwick Garden Trust which operates The Alnwick Garden, has delivered incalculable benefits to the rural surroundings of Alnwick. From much needed employment opportunities, work experience and tourism revenue for the local economy, to outreach programmes to provide services and support to disadvantaged youngsters and their schools, and to older people often isolated and in need. To many individuals, The Alnwick Garden is a lifeline and it is truly beneficial, in a myriad of ways, to the local community.
On a stone in the entrance to the Labyrinth is an inscription “Only Dead Fish Swim with the Stream”. Despite many easier routes presenting themselves throughout the projects development, the Duchess has stayed loyal to her vision. Compromises were never made at the expense of the vision. From planning permission to fundraising, it has been a challenge from day one.
Collaborative working is a key element to the success of The Alnwick Garden. This was never to be accredited to one sole designer. Instead leading designers in their field were brought in to deliver excellence in all areas. The main structure of The Alnwick Garden is designed by world-renowned Jacques Wirtz and his son Peter Wirtz, with features such as the Labyrinth, the Serpent Garden, sculpture, lighting and water technology being delivered by specialist designers.
The project has developed in phases and is now two thirds built. Still to come in the final phase are new and exciting gardens, a state-of-the-art play area adjacent to the Treehouse, groundbreaking lighting, advanced water technology, extraordinary interactive sculpture and many other exciting features.
Fundraising is ongoing, and everyone can help. Donations to The Alnwick Garden Trust have been invaluable ranging from major sponsorship of the three charitable programmes to donations towards plants and trees and Gift Aid on a day ticket. There are naming rights opportunities and we are fundraising for the final £15 million needed to complete the project. We are always grateful for any donation of any size. Any financial contribution makes a difference to what we can deliver.
It is time to complete the job
If you are interested in helping and would like more information about making a donation to The Alnwick Garden Trust, buying a membership or a day ticket, please visit our Buy Tickets page.
To find out more about the story so far, ‘The Making of The Alnwick Garden’, a history of the project written by Ian August is available to purchase from The Alnwick Garden Gift Shop as well as book shops nationwide.
Throughout the summer months, The Alnwick Garden offers guided tours. For more information please visit our Group Visits page.
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