HANDS OF HOPE

Enabling people and communities to lead healthier and happier lives by connecting them to nature and each other

History

Hope Farm Community Garden

History of the site

The site lies within the southern part of the village of Hawkhurst, Kent. It is on the eastern side of the A229 and is a large part of the former grounds of Hall House, a large post-medieval residential complex that has been significantly modified, comprising woodland, pasture, and the old walled garden.

The House itself was built sometime within the fifteenth century although it has been substantially altered over subsequent generations and may have been originally known as The Wool Master’s House. There is a story that goes in Tudor times, there was a large dwelling where Hall House now stands known as “The Wool Masters House”. Apparently, they used to dam the stream in the Gill Woodland to create a large shallow pond in which to wash the fleeces. The current woodland bank was part of the dam for the stream and the old pit which is now a pond, is where the earth was dug to make the dam.

The first OS map indicates an enclosure close to Hall House which may have been an earlier walled garden. Whilst neither the house nor the accompanying grounds are listed, they are deemed to be of regional heritage and horticultural interest; a recent survey undertaken by the High Weald ANOB, established a hedge species dating back before the Battle of Hastings.

The walled garden is part of a horticultural and farming complex around the house. Dating from 20th Century, it first appears on the 4th Ed. OS map, and is a good illustration of diversification from farming to horticulture.

The current structure was constructed sometime around 1910 to provide produce for Hall House kitchens. Shortly after WW1 the house was purchased by Lillesden School with the garden supplying the canteen and kitchens. During WW11 a bomb destroyed local cottages as well as a large part of the wall, with the rubble remaining untouched for several years

In 1967, the house was bought from the school by Colin Holmes, who grew mostly tomatoes and lettuces in the polytunnels and glass houses, the remnants of which can still be seen. He also kept a gaggle of geese to keep the grass down!

In around 1980 the garden was taken over by a mushroom business believed to be run by a family called Guntrip. In 1987, the Great Storm claimed some large trees which fell and crushed two ends of the wall. The house itself was destroyed by fire and stood derelict for 10 years until developers acquired the site and created apartments where the house once stood. The walled garden remained hidden and neglected, in all that time until it was rescued by Hands of Hope.

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