The Biddulph Valley lies in the moorlands of Staffordshire, about 25 miles
south of Manchester, near the headwaters of the mighty River Trent. The
river flows south to Stoke, then east to Nottingham and beyond. An ancient
village, Biddulph numbered perhaps 20 people in Saxon times. It was then
laid waste by the invasion of William the Conqueror in 1069, only to make
a remarkable recovery over the next couple of centuries.
In Old English, the name Biddulph means "by diggings," implying that the
mineral riches of the valley were discovered long, long ago. It was the
same geologic phenomena that created the Pennine Mountains that also
created the ridges of Mow Cop and Biddulph Moor, where rich deposits ripe
for quarrying and mining developed over the course of eons. And so Biddulph
and the Industrial Revolution were made for each other. Coal mines went down,
iron foundries went up, and railway lines ran across the valley.
A local industrialist named James Bateman used the fortune he inherited
from coal and engineering to develop an extraordinary garden at Biddulph
Grange in the mid-19th century. For over three decades Bateman and his wife
Maria worked at their gardening with great enthusiasm, and even greater
imagination. The result was a mixture of formal layouts, and a series of
unique areas designed to have distinct national characters, including the
"China," "Egypt," and "Glen" gardens. Each of these areas housed plants
imported from different parts of the globe, with a special emphasis on flora
from the Americas and the Far East. Intensifying the exotic allure of the
gardens, each of these separate spaces was also connected by a series of
tunnels and secret paths.
All this splendor cost large amounts of money and commitment, which,
along with the damp weather, eventually became too much for the Batemans.
In 1872 they sold the estate to another industrialist named Robert Heath.
Heath's son in turn donated the house and estate for use as a hospital in
1921, in which use it continued until 1991. The National Trust acquired
the garden in 1988 and it was opened to the public in May 1991, following
three years of restoration.
The restoration of the garden by the National Trust has followed James
Bateman's extraordinary concept faithfully. Many of the garden's most
exotic features have been reinstated and restored. Hundreds of yews for
hedges have been replanted and many unusual trees, shrubs and plants put
back, reversing the ravages of time since the garden's heyday. Today
Biddulph Grange draws visitors from all over Great Britain and beyond.
To learn more about Biddulph and Staffordshire, visit: freespace.virgin.net/nigel.machin/biddulph/index1.htm.