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Helmingham Hall Gardens

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Helmingham Hall Gardens Summary


Helmingham Hall Gardens Description

Helmingham HallHelmingham and the Tollemache family have been together for many hundreds of years. The Hall and the old oak trees that you see today have seen much of the history of England pass before them, and many generations of the family.

The Tollemache family has lived in Suffolk from shortly after the Norman Conquest to the present day. Their home for the first 400 years was at Bentley, near lpswich, and although there was a proud boast, "Before the Normans into England came, Bentley was my seat and Tollemache my name", it now seems certain that the family came over from Avranches on the Normandy coast. Their name was spelt Talemache, meaning ‘purse bearer’, and it is recorded that Hugh Tollemache was Purse Bearer to Henry I.

They remained at Bentley as squires and knights throughout the turbulent years of those early centuries, fighting for both Henry II against the Welsh and Edward I against the Scots and quite often against their neighbours to retain their lands, Two Tollemache knights from Bentley fought at the Battle of Crécy against the French in 1346.

However, in 1487, John Tollemache married Elizabeth Joyce, the heiress of Helmingham, and his son Lionel also married a Joyce. further cementing the union, and so they moved to Helmingham where the Joyce family home of Creke Hall stood. John Tollemache and his wife proceeded to pull this down and build Helmingham, completed in 1510, as it stands today. surrounded by its deep moat, serene gardens and deer park.

When John Tollemache started work on Helmingham in 1480, it was built in traditional half-timbered style with an overhang to the upper floor both outside and inside the courtyard. There have been a number of changes in external appearance, hut the basic form of a courtyard manor house has never altered, and many of the brick chimneys arc original, although all have had to be repaired over the last two centuries.

It must have been some years after the family moved to Helmingham that they started work on the gardens, but old maps and drawings show that the original shape of the main walled garden predates the house by many years; it was most probably of Saxon origin and constructed to protect stock from marauders. There was a wooden palisade to protect the garden from the deer until the present garden wall was built in 1745.

The gardens consist of an historic walled kitchen garden, magnificent herbaceous and spring borders, wild flower garden, a herb and a knot garden, including a large collection of old fashioned roses. It is listed grade I by English Heritage.

There are two rose gardens at Helmingham, both formal, but very different in character. The main garden is on the west side of the house, while the second garden, to the east side of the house, was laid out in 1982. The intention was to create something that was close to the kind of garden the family might have had in Tudor times, but one that would include old, scented shrub roses. The garden is laid out in a pattern combining the square, the circle and the cross in three decorative themes. Some years later, it looks as if it must have always been there.

Take an Online Tour of Helmingham Hall Gardens by going to their Website.

The Park

The Park encloses 400 acres and has large herds of both red and fallow deer. Every year the stags grow antlers which they shed in the spring and, as they mature, the antlers grow to huge proportions. The deer have been in the Park for many centuries - the earliest mention of them is in 1660. In the archives there are reports of the Mound being used by the Helmingham Volunteers to practise their musketry during the Napoleonic Wars, but the Monument itself was constructed in about 1860, from the bricks of an ornamental seventeenth-century walled arboretum on the site, which had fallen into disrepair.

John Constable, whose brother was steward of the Tollemache woodlands, lived for some time at Helmingham Rectory, and painted a number of versions of A Dell in Helmingham Park. The oak tree in that picture, with its singular curved trunk, still stands. Some of the famous Helmingham oaks in the Park are estimated to be up to 900 years old, and many have immense girths, but the splendid oak avenue leading up the front drive was planted about 1680. This avenue and many trees in the Park suffered terribly in the great storm of 1987; a large replanting scheme is being carried out so that future generations will see little change.

Opening Times - 2013


  • 1st May - 15th September: Tuesday -, Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday, 12 - 5 pm (also Bank Holiday Mondays)

Admission Prices - 2013

  • Adults - £6.00
  • Child (5 - 15 years) - £3.50
  • Groups (30+) - £5.00

More information on the garden can be found on The Gardens Guide.

Further information including opening times and prices

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Additional Info for Helmingham Hall Gardens

  • YesParks
  • YesGardens
  • YesGroups
  • YesDogs allowed
  • YesWeddings
  • YesDisabled Access
  • YesRefreshments
  • YesPicnics
  • YesConferences
  • YesFilming
  • YesGifts
  • YesNursery
  • YesShop
  • YesCar Parking

Heritage Groups

  • YesHistoric Houses Association

Credit Cards Accepted

  • YesMastercard
  • YesVisa
  • YesDiners Club
  • YesDelta
  • YesSwitch
  • YesJCB

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