Visit to Kilver Court by Friends of Steeple Ashton – 26th March 2015

We were greeted at Kilver Court by welcoming staff, and shown to the banqueting room for tea and coffee. We were then introduced to Geoff, a local guide, who told us a bit about the history and people behind Kilver Court Designer Village and Secret Gardens.

The site is situated in the heart of the Mendip Hills, in Shepton Mallet. The factory was originally built to serve the mill industry at a time when wool production was thriving in Somerset and Wiltshire. In the late 18th century it was converted to silk production.

Eric Jardine had the gardens designed so that his workforce would have somewhere to relax, and to provide a pleasant surrounding for their work. The factory closed in 1929, but the gardens were later redesigned and the glorious rockery was built using sandstone from the Forest of Dean. The turf came from the Lake District. The Rose Garden is an exact replica of one seen in Paris in 1995. The Charlton viaduct that passes through the gardens was built in 1874 and widened in 1892; unfortunately the line was closed by Dr Beeching in 1966. It is 317 yards long and 50 feet high, and makes a spectacular backdrop to the gardens.

The gardens are still owned by the Showering family; the makers of Babycham; and their cider and perry are still produced in the factory over the road.

The rest of the site is a substantial Designer Village with a number of outlets for London fashion houses, as well as refreshment areas.

Whilst we visited in March, the gardens are open all year round with an ever-changing display of beauty. From March – October they also have a plant nursery on site.

Just a reminder: The Friends of Steeple Ashton AGM will take place at the Village Hall at 7.00pm on Friday, 8th May. All are invited to attend, and then to hear the talk ‘Ring Out Wild Bells’ from Michael Moore, which will follow the meeting at 8.00pm. Join us for these and cheese and wine for just £5.

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