I have created a recipe for Hestercombe compost, which includes oyster shells, soot and dry cow manure.

~ From the diary of Tom Collier - one of the gardeners pictures in the photograph.

Hestercombe has issued a public plea via ITV to help identify the team of gardeners from this photograph, taken over 100 years ago on the Hestercombe estate.

A recent breakthrough meant the organisation was able to identify 8 of the 17 people in the image.

Thanks to his granddaughter, Julie Foster, who sent Hestercombe his garden notebook, the organisation were able to identify George Thomas Collier in the photo (seated front row, extreme right).

This lead the Chief Executive for Hestercombe Gardens, Sir Philip White MBE, and Lead Archivist, Kim Legate on a quest to name the remaining men and piece together their lives.

Philip White, said: “It's quite easy to find out about the owners of an estate like this but actually to find out the social history and the stories of the people who worked here is often much more difficult.

"So we're really keen to find family photographs, journals, letter, postcards even and anything which helps fill in the gap about the staff who worked here.”

Philip White took an interest in solving the mystery when he realised there was a family connection to it.

He said: “I had a really strong emotional response to the place when I came here but it wasn't until sometime afterwards I discovered from my uncle that his son had been one of the gardeners here.

“It was my uncle who pointed out to me which of these characters was my own great-uncle and ever since we've been trying to discover who all the other gardeners were in that photograph.”

The Great Uncle of the current Chief Executive of Hestercombe is one of the gardeners in the 1914 photograph.Credit: South West Heritage Trust

The photograph was taken just before the start of the First World War. Sadly, out of the 17 pictured, only four of the people went back to work on the estate in 1918.

Head gardener Claire Greenslade said discovering how gardeners used to work is fascinating.

“We've got quite a lot of females in our gardening team, which just wouldn't have happened back then,” she said.

Gardeners at Hestercombe used to mow the lawn with a pony.

“But it would be really interesting to see what their backgrounds were, what their training was and its also interesting to see the different ways they worked.

"There was more of them, but then perhaps they didn't have the machinery we have. Back then they would have had horses with leather shoes on and they would have pulled the mowers, so that would have been quite different.”

Since being featured on ITV, there have been two significant leads and a further two men identified. Hestercombe will release a follow-up of the story later on this year, revealing the identities and stories of these men, many of whom did not return from World War One four years later.

Anyone who recognises one of the gardeners from the photo or may have information is urged to contact Lead Archivist, Kim Legate at kimlegate@hestercombe.com


Notes to editors

Press Office: heatherchristian@hestercombe.com
View the ITV feature here

Hestercombe Gardens

The Hestercombe Gardens Trust is an independent charitable trust, famous for its unique collection of gardens which span three centuries of garden history and design. The Formal Garden is hailed as one of the finest examples of the world renowned partnership between garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Hestercombe House and Gardens has undergone acclaimed restoration works and continues to develop and grow giving visitors a stunning setting to explore, learn and relax.


HGT 3 10 Hestercombe Gardens Grounds Staff April 1914

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