Once forgotten, dilapidated and unloved, the Walled Garden at Scampston Hall has been given a remarkable makeover and thrown open its doors to the public – and to critical acclaim

The secret's out
The secret's out

If you are into achilleas, salvias, monardas and heleniums, then a visit to the newly refurbished Walled Garden at Scampston Hall will reveal these exotic plants in their full glory. More importantly, it will also provide an opportunity to see a prime example of how brick can form the heart of a contemporary development to help regenerate a historic landscape.

Scampston Hall, an 18th-century Regency pile as grand as any you’ll find in this part of north Yorkshire, was designed by Thomas Leverton, with a park laid out first by Charles Bridgeman and later by Capability Brown. It included a four-and-a-half acre walled garden for growing fruit and vegetables, which had until November last year been used as a Christmas tree nursery.

As part of a rolling renovation programme set in motion by owners Sir Charles and Lady Legard, the garden has been regenerated as a visitor attraction.

It now has nine distinct exterior spaces and a new, contemporary-styled visitor centre. There are also new areas of reinstated brickwork to the historic 3.5 m high perimeter wall that had, in places, completely toppled over.

The star of the development is undoubtedly the bold, new, red brick visitor centre. The little pavilion’s west elevation has a pared-down classical formality and a monumentality that seems to belie the building’s 10 m by 35 m footprint. Yet the remaining elevations provide contrast and diversity as they in turn satisfy operational and functional requirements.

The lobby, cafe–dining area, public and staff toilets, kitchen and ancillary areas seem to work well enough at providing leisurely respite and a spot to contemplate the garden. But there is a lot going on for such a small building and this extends to the construction, which can be best described as hybrid.

The building’s lightweight steel frame supports a double sawtooth rooflight arrangement that floods the cafe area with natural light. But in places the roof is also supported on solid brickwork, such as at the main entrance, where cavity construction was thought unnecessary for a largely unheated lobby.

The long glazed cafe elevation is fully openable for the summer months. Only the eastern end of the building is cavity work; the rear wall needed only to be a light, steel framed construction due to its proximity to the existing grade II-listed wall with which it is parallel. A lead flashing bridges the 150 mm gap between the two.

New brickwork to the wall and the visitor centre matches the existing work, which is in Scotch bond – a garden wall-type bond normally comprising five courses of stretchers laid in between header courses (see “Technical”, pages 14-15, on brick bonding). In this case, the header courses project by 10 mm from the face of the brickwork to give a subtle articulation and attractive horizontal shadow lines that run along the length of the wall face.

A wire-cut brick in this application might have been inappropriate. Instead, the delicious handmade brick used has enhanced the overall design and successfully bridged the old and the new. It forms the heart of this eye-catching development, which was the deserved winner of the Best Refurbishment category in the 2004 BDA Brick Awards.

Project team

Client Sir Charles & Lady Legard
Concept architect Caroe & Partners
Project architect Bramhall Blenkharn
QS Turner & Holman
Structural engineer Maltech
Brickwork D Lumley
Heating HF Brown & Sons
Landscaping Piet Oudolf