Wallace at The Dell

A campaign to preserve the memory of Wallace and his ownership of The Dell as part of Thurrock’s heritage.

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We visit a Victorian Garden in a Norwich chalk mine

On 6th April, volunteers visited the Plantation Garden; a Victorian Garden on a 3 acre site in Norwich. It was created from 1856 onward by Henry Trevor in the grounds of his newly built house.

There are a number of interesting similarities with Wallace's garden at The Dell. Both were newly established in the mid-Victorian era in a former mineral extraction site in the grounds of a newly built house. Both are imitations of (or tributes to) other places. However, there are also significant differences.

The Plantation Garden is a formal garden with an Italianate look and terraces. There are numerous mock medieval features - some stonework recovered from other sites but mainly local brick, designed to look like stone as it weathered. There was no attempt to maintain historical authenticity in the architectural features.

More about the Plantation Garden can be found here.




Project volunteers learning about the garden with Roger Connah, chairman of the Plantation Garden Preservation Trust and Marjorie Wilson, volunteer Head Gardener.


A view of the Plantation Garden from the top terrace.

Wallace on the other hand, did not draw inspiration from Italian gardens. Instead he choose a natural feature from the area in which he was born. In a letter to Darwin, he described the grounds of The Dell as "a bit of a wilderness that can be made into a splendid imitation of a Welsh valley in little and will enable me to gather round me all the beauties of the temperate flora which I so admire".

From this description, it seems likely that Wallace's garden was less formal and more natural than the Plantation. Unfortunately, although the house survives, Wallace's garden was lost to housing development. However, the roughly contemporary garden of the neighbouring property - The Elms - does survive, albeit in a very overgrown state.

Update: A few days after our visit, the Plantation Garden was forced to close temporarily as a result of structural damage to the terrace wall following the collapse of an old mining tunnel in Earlham Road.



You can e-mail: JohnMatthews@thurrock-history.org.uk if you would like to help with the project, or if you would like a copy of our booklet.