Abbey House Gardens

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Abbey House Gardens Malmesbury.jpg

Abbey House Gardens is a country house garden in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England, covering acres (20,200 m²). Privately owned, the gardens—but not the house itself—are open to the public seven days a week from late March until late October. It is one of the main tourist attractions in England's oldest town, Malmesbury.


Abbey House dates from the 16th century, built on 13th century foundations, with some evidence of a substantial house on the site as early as the 11th century; in the 'basement' there also is a Saxon arch.It has been extensively renovated and extended since, particularly in Tudor times.

It was connected to Malmesbury Abbey, next door, and its 'basement' is thought to have been the infirmary of the famous Benedictine abbey. It is a Grade I listed building.

In 1539, Malmesbury Abbey was sold by Henry VIII to a local clothier William Stumpe, who also bought the site and lived in it himself. In 1542, he rebuilt the home in the Tudor style, using the foundations of the 13th century Abbot's house; the old section of the house remains mostly unchanged since then.

The house and its grounds were handed down through the Stumpe family, which by the time of the English Civil War had married into the Ivey family.

The house remained in private hands and was bought by Captain Elliot Scott McKirdy during the 1920s, who enlarged the house to its current size of 12,637 square feet (1,174.0 m2), by adding a nursery wing and servants' quarters, keeping the same exterior style.

The house was bought in 1968 by The Deaconess Community of St Andrew, who ran the home as a base for parish ministry and as a home for its elderly sisters and guests until 1990.

Present day[edit]

Abbey House Gardens Malmesbury 2.jpg

In 1994, Abbey House was bought by Ian and Barbara Pollard, who had previously owned and run Hazelbury Manor, another mansion near Box in Wiltshire. They set about transforming the 5 acres (20,000 m2), and opened the gardens to the public in 1996.

In 1998, a large skeleton was unearthed in the gardens, close to the site of the ruined Lady Chapel of Malmesbury Abbey. The find was featured in the TV archaeology show Meet the Ancestors, whose experts recreated the skeleton and speculated that it was probably a 13th-century monk or abbot who walked with a limp and had a toothache.

In 2001 and increasingly in 2002, the gardens were brought to wider public attention, particularly through the acclamation of Alan Titchmarsh, who devoted an episode of the BBC TV programme Gardeners' World to Abbey House Gardens, broadcast in June 2002. On the week of transmission, the Pollards were featured in that week's edition of Radio Times.

As well as the gardens, the Pollards also became known as 'The Naked Gardeners'. Both Ian and Barbara, particularly Ian, spoke freely of their love of naturism, and were often featured in newspapers and magazines pictured naked among the foliage of Abbey House.

The couple became, for a short time, the resident gardening experts on ITV's This Morning, but the timing was not good: within a few weeks the show was struck by the sex scandal that engulfed presenter John Leslie, and suddenly the couple's 'Naked Gardeners' label did not fit.

In August 2005, and followed again with more similar events in 2006, Abbey House Gardens hosted what was thought to be the first 'Clothes Optional Day' at a major inland British tourist attraction. Naturists from all over the country flocked to the gardens, and as many as two-thirds of the visitors that day enjoyed the gardens in the nude. Similar clothing optional days are held regularly a few times a year.[1]

The gardens cover 5 acres (20,000 m2) and include over 10,000 different plants.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jones, Liz (26 August 2012). "Would you Adam and Eve it? YOU columnist Liz Jones bares all". Mail Online. Retrieved 2016-09-11. 
  2. ^ "Abbey House and attached rear wall". Images of England. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°35′06″N 2°05′51″W / 51.5849°N 2.0974°W / 51.5849; -2.0974