West Dean sunken garden wins award

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THE Sunken Garden at West Dean has won the Sussex Heritage Landscape and Gardens Awards 2014.

The garden has recently reopened after a six year period of restoration.

Situated at the eastern end of the spectacular Harold Peto designed Pergola, the Sunken Garden gives the area an intimacy and sense of shelter, in marked contrast to the spaciousness of the surrounding lawns.

The award was presented by Rt Hon Lord Egremont, DL, President of Sussex Heritage Trust.

The judges said: “Very well executed using quality materials. We especially approved of the metal edges to the grass and we recommend the West Dean Sunken Garden is awarded a Sussex Heritage Trust plaque.”


Thought to have been built around the late 19th century, the original Sunken Garden replaced a late Victorian rose parterre.

A complete rebuild was required due to the unmortared walls collapsing, uneven paving and steps and the tiered planting being heavily infested with weeds. The restoration process allowed for the expansion of the proportions of the garden so that they are more in keeping with the grandeur and loose formality of the Pergola structure to which the Sunken Garden is inextricably linked.

“The restoration of the Sunken Garden at West Dean was one of the most demanding projects that the Gardens team has undertaken in the last two decades and it is very gratifying to see that effort and commitment on behalf of all the team rewarded with the award of a Sussex Heritage Trust award in its Landscape and Garden category,” said Jim Buckland, gardens manager.

“It will sit very nicely alongside the two other Sussex Heritage trust awards we have received in the last decade for the redevelopment of the Victorian walled kitchen garden, now recognised as exemplary in its field, and the rebuilding of an early 19th century rustic summerhouse in the spring garden.”

The whole project was carried out in-house by the Gardens team using the original wall stone and other hard landscape materials. The garden was completed, turfed and planted up in spring 2013. The new planting has been designed to be perennial, to give a long season of floral interest and fragrance throughout the summer months and reflect the nature of the space.


Over the past two decades Head Gardeners Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain, with the support of a small permanent gardens team and volunteers, have redeveloped the 90 acres of grounds and arboretum to bring the 19th century gardens into the 21st century. Now a showcase of horticultural variety and quality the award-winning gardens include many interesting architectural delights and unique features. Highlights include a 300-foot Edwardian Pergola designed by Harold Peto, 16 restored Victorian glasshouses, a Walled Garden, a Kitchen Garden, orchards, ornamental gardens, spring, wild and woodland gardens, aboretum and the newly restored Sunken Garden.