How the gardens began.

Warley Town is in fact a small village on the western side of Halifax. It dates back many years and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It's full history is described in detail in "The Warley Story" by C. H. Tordoff.

The first Warley House with grounds of some 13 acres was built in 1769 by a Mr. Cook. In 1866 it was bought by a Mr. H. C. McCrea a wealthy damask manufacturer. When he died it passed to his son Mr A. S. McCrea, who became a local benefactor in many ways. On his death in 1945 he bequeathed his house and lands, along with an endowment of £50,000 to the Royal Halifax Infirmary. He had hoped that the mansion could be turned into a convalescent home.

The advent of the the NHS in 1948 meant that hospital endowments passed to the Ministry of Health in London. All applications by the Infirmary to convert and utilise the building had to be approved by the ministry, and such approval was never forthcoming. The main grounds were sold off as grazing land, leaving Warley House and the central gardens of some two and a half acres, to become derelict. This area included various outbuildings, the kitchen gardens and many rhododendron beds. In 1964 the house and outbuildings were finally demolished. Sheep and cattle encroached from adjacent land, the occasional visitor climbed over the wall, but generally the garden went to sleep.

It was in February 1994 that we bought the land with a view to turning it back into a garden. Whereas Mr. McCrea could count on the services of several full time gardeners we felt that a new garden on this site would need to be less labour intensive. As there was no useable entrance at this time the first job was to replace the boarding on what had been entrances with gates and a door. Along the main entrance drive we found that the original cobble setts were still present. There was some six inches of leaf mould on top however! The next job was to tackle what had once been a beech hedge, extending some eighty yards along the south side of the kitchen garden. With no pruning for over forty years, the beech trees had reverted to their natural growth pattern. On top of short curved trunks there was a mass of dead and tangled branches, from which live branches grew skywards in tree-like proportions. It took us three months to clear the base of this hedge, converting it into a row of oddly shaped, but very pleasant, beech trees. At the same time we cleared out a mass of invading rhododendrons, weeds and self sown shrubs, making a path on each side of the line of trees.  A dangerous remnant of wall from one of the outbuildings stood at the top of the drive. It was covered in ivy which had spread into the cavity of the adjoining main wall. At various sites along the main garden wall, ivy protruded and was clearly becoming a potential threat to the wall's integrity. The dangerous remnant was removed and the ivy cut back.

As the first spring arrived, so did the nettles and thistles, so thick in places it was impossible to put a foot down between them. Selective brushwood killer and repeated mowing was required. It was now apparent that a number of trees within the garden were dead. A large weeping elm was the saddest of these. Eight specimen holly trees had also succumbed. The hollies all had loss of bark for some three feet or so at the base of the trunk and canker had apparently set in. Our impression was that the bark had been eaten by the encroaching sheep. Following a visit from the Calderdale aboricultural officer, we made arrangements for the dead trees to be removed.

Clearing the ground beneath the beech hedge had revealed the occasional stump of an iron post. These we now explored further. There were numerous rusting iron fence panels buried in the soil. The stumps were the remains of fence posts but were only the tips of icebergs. Most went down some two feet. All were eventually removed and disposed of.

Over the following years we have gradually attacked most areas of the garden, and have replanted on a large scale. One area of old woodland that was affected badly by dead and fallen trees has been converted into a Japanese Garden. Other areas have been planted with new shrubs including many new rhodedendrons. Hundreds of native daffodils and English bluebells have been planted. Vandalism was quite a nuisance in the early years as we lived some way away from the site. However planning consent for a house was granted, and this was completed in 2006. Management of the garden is now considerably easier, as is the ability to open the garden.

Although deer have encroached into the garden for many years, since 2013 the herd has been getting larger and more of a nuisance.  We now frequently see up to seven at a time in the garden - eating the plants, especially our bank of ivy!  We also have a problem with badgers digging up the lawns, which will need part re-seeding / re-turfing this Spring, 2015.  The rabbits seem to have vanished at present, but we have noticed a few foxes, so perhaps that is the reason!

We look forward as usual to welcoming friends old and new to the garden this year.


Paul & Catherine Hinton