Generous donation helps Dyrham Park transform its garden

Part of the garden transformed at Dyrham Park through the ongoing project

Ambitious plans to transform the garden at Dyrham Park have been given a boost thanks to a £100,000 legacy from two local garden enthusiasts.

The gift, left to the National Trust by the estate of Stella and Jack Satchell, will enable the garden team to recreate a 17th-century parterre on the West terrace in front of the 300+ year old house. It will also allow the Trust to install an iron framework around the perimeter of the Avenue and plant over 120 heritage cider apple trees pruned in the espalier design of the 17th century.

Following a major conservation project to replace the leaking roof in 2015/16, work began on a five-year project to create a ‘21st-century garden with echoes of the past’. Inspired by the 1710 Kip engraving depicting a grand Dutch-influenced water garden, the garden team is taking elements of this to give visitors a flavour of the 17th century while not simply recreating the former garden.

The garden at Dyrham Park has a rich history, from its elaborate 17th century splendour to the addition, in Victorian and Edwardian times, of a kitchen garden, rockeries and pleasure grounds. When the National Trust took on Dyrham Park in the 1950s, the garden had fallen into a sorry state and needed a lot of work.

Mr and Mrs Satchell, who lived in Bath, were life time National Trust members and enjoyed well-kept gardens, country walks and tending to their own garden before ill health set in. They were regular visitors to National Trust places in the Bath and Wiltshire area, including Stourhead and Lacock. The couples’ family decided to give the generous gift to Dyrham Park after visiting the garden and learning of the exciting ongoing plans.

Garden and Park Manager Dale Dennehy, who has worked on Dyrham Park’s garden since the 1990s, explained: ‘Early plans focussed on tidying and creating a setting for the house and the garden team started to make improvements year on year by laying out the hard landscaping to create the bones and access of the new layout. Area by area, year by year the garden was created, moving from the formal spaces into the informal gardens around the water.

‘Our ambition now is to create ‘21st-century garden with echoes from the past’. We want to develop a new approach to conserving and developing the garden, capturing the formality of Blathwayt’s great home and the formality of the baroque period. The new designs will be influenced by the previous garden, from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.’

As a conservation charity, the National Trust relies on income from membership and entry fees as well as donations, legacies and other fundraising efforts to enable it to care for the places under its stewardship. The garden project relies on funding to enable the work, so this gift will allow the team to make a great step forward with its plans. The crucial support from Mr and Mrs Satchell will fund work in two particular areas, the Avenue and the West Terrace.

National Trust volunteer Mary Farrell in the garden at Dyrham Park

The Avenue was the main entrance to the estate at the time of Dyrham Park founder William Blathwayt. Visitors would have entered through the iron gates and proceed up the Avenue to be greeted at the house. The new Avenue beds and planting reflects the formality of this great entrance to Blathwayt’s home, with tree removal and planting, topiary and seasonal planting the donation will help fund the Versailles-inspired iron structures needed to support fruit trees, including cider apple trees. The cider apples themselves are part of a collection gifted to the National Trust in its ambitions to save and care for rare and heritage fruit trees which are being lost across the country.

Mr Dennehy, who is currently overseeing a month-long celebration of the garden with garden-themed events and activities at Dyrham Park, said: ‘The designs for the West terrace layout will take inspiration from Blathwayt’s great parterre of 1710, in the ‘Best East garden’. This was to the east of the house where the park now sits. We have also drawn inspiration from the Royal Dutch Palace of Het Loo in the Netherlands, where Blathwayt had an apartment in his role of Secretary of State to William III. The Parterres at Het Loo feature coloured gravels, hedges and topiary. This Dutch influence will be evident as we develop other areas of the gardens and courts around the house.

‘Now that the scaffolding has been removed, our aim is to create a new design to bring out the grand formality of the Baroque era in an area of the garden where it can only be seen from within the terrace itself or from the windows of the house which is how parterres were meant to be viewed.’

A spokesperson for the Satchell family said: ‘Their garden was their pride and joy and I think they would be thrilled with the plans. Everyone will pass the parterre on the way into the house and it’s an area that currently looks a bit neglected; it’s great to think that mum and dad’s support will provide enjoyment for so many.’

Dyrham Park General Manager Tom Boden added: ‘We’re so pleased to receive this amazing support for Dyrham Park. It is hugely appreciated and is going to make a massive difference to the garden project and the property as a whole. Thanks to Mr and Mrs Satchell, the gardens at Dyrham Park will be improved considerably and this gift will inspire more people to enjoy, to linger and to relish our contemporary interpretation of the historic gardens which have gone before.’

Every year, many people decide to leave a gift in their Will to help the National Trust’s vital work looking after buildings, gardens and land across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. More information about leaving a gift to the National Trust is available at:

Dyrham Park is situated just off junction 18 of the M4 – 8 miles north of Bath and 12 miles east of Bristol. The park is open daily from 10am-5pm (last entry one hour before close). More information is available at:

1 Comment

  1. Lucy Lincoln   •  

    It’s so fantastic to see money invested in some of the South West’s lovely gardens. The re-creation of a 17th-century parterre will really help keep the character of the gardens. Hopefully the development of the garden will help it to attract new and old visitors and make sure that it is well preserved for the future.

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