Many people told us about their childhood memories of the Secret Garden, and Libby Pobjee, Eileen Heaton and Dave Barker had their stories recorded whilst sitting in the newly restored garden.
Click on the podcasts to hear their stories.
The 3 Stories
The Mortuary Chapel
In July 2012 we were awarded £50,000 by Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the Dead House in Dean Road Cemetery and the Secret Garden in Manor Road. As part of the project two information panels were produced along with a heritage trail and an education pack for primary schools.
Over 1,500 volunteer hours helped make the project a success. See if you can find the Secret Garden by following the robin markers.
Manor Road cemetery, which contains the Secret Garden, was opened in 1872. The landscaping was in accordance with a winning design by the cemetery superintendent, Leonard Thompson, who is buried in the cemetery. Thompson’s design reflects the unusual terrain in this part of the cemetery, with a series of level areas in the valley bottom, and terraces which are linked by sinuous paths. This part of the cemetery is much less formal, and the design is wooded and flowing, with individually significant trees and substantial stands of trees.
One of the side valleys is known as the Secret Garden, and is designed as a grotto. It contained a large rocky fernery, which is still mostly intact, a pond, formal planting, trees, multiple winding paths round the edges amongst the trees and bushes, and a steep pathway through the middle, with a metal handrail. This area was laid out as a garden as the terrain was unsuitable for burials. At the entrance a hinged stone gate was a significant feature.
In 1882 Joseph Brogden Baker in his “History of Scarborough” reported that “the enlarged cemetery is much frequented, especially on Sunday afternoons, as a place of resort” On 28th June 1950, in the Scarborough Evening News and Daily Post Holiday Guide Supplement, an article entitled “Where does this door lead to?” was published. It describes the Secret Garden as a beauty spot, saying that large rocks were brought up from the seashore to make winding stairways and walls, and describing the hinged stone gate, which formed a “strange doorway to the grotto, where a goldfish pond and exotic alpine plants were put.”
The stone gate was damaged and eventually disappeared, and there was a gradual deterioration until the early eighties. In 1984 a group of venture scouts undertook to clear the garden, and won a national award for their work. Unfortunately this work was not followed up, and the garden gradually became more and more overgrown. A significant amount of clearance work has been done by the Friends group to date, and we’re hoping to get Lottery funding to restore it to its former glory. We’ve already been successful in getting £3,000 from Natwest’s community fund, which is for seating in the garden.
Memories of the Secret Garden
Following the publication of an article in the Scarborough Evening News the Friends group was contacted by a number of people who wanted to tell us of their memories of the Secret Garden, and how it was a special place for them in their childhoods.
“Fifty years ago when I was a young person, the secret garden in Manor Road cemetery was known as the stonegate and rockery. It was deeply hidden by trees and shrubs. The stone gate was large and heavy and hinged to a solid stone post. It took some effort as a child to push it open. Once inside it was magical. There was a stream and small pond. On either side a high rockery spilling over with plants and flowers (and in summer I believe wild sweet peas) A narrow uphill winding path led to a bench seat. My friend and I went to the Convent School. On our way home we would go to the garden and sit on the bench and do our homework. It was a tranquil place and we were rarely disturbed. I’m sure it was a haven for many people. I am so pleased that hopefully, it will be restored to its former glory” Elizabeth Pobgee (letter)
“This place was known as the Grotto and always referred to as such. As a child I lived in Garfield Road where my bedroom overlooked Dean Road Cemetery and I was well versed in the topography of the cemeteries as were all the other kids who lived in that road. Sometimes other folk would go looking for the Grotto and never manage to find it, so well was it hidden. Th Stone Gate was just that, a huge block of stone some three feet high hinged to one of two stone gateposts. The hinges were made of iron and rusted through and the gate fell into disrepair. The steeply sided pond was well stocked with goldfish. A few years after the war the gate was repaired with new hinges but after that the vandals discovered it. The gate itself disappeared possibly in the early fifties, never to return. The place has been in a sorry state ever since and during the scooterist invasion of 1981-82 a white Lambretta was thrown in.” Christine M Holliday (email)
“Re; the Secret Garden. I remember the garden in question very well from my childhood days, early 1940’s, when I lived in Prospect Road. A little friend of mine discovered it one day while playing around and showed me. It had a thick stone slab door and a little path which led to a sheltered place with a stone seat. There was a fountain with water trickling down surrounded by beautiful wild flowers and plants. The discovery was magical at our age and as we were so young we had regular trips to the Secret Garden, taking our dolls along with us, pretending it was only our garden. After school we could not wait to go there as it was so lovely and no-one ever seemed to be there. When I had my own four children in the 1960’s, I also showed them this special secret garden that I had long forgotten about over the years. It was not in the same condition and was overgrown and mossy and vandalised, however the stone slab door was still there, hidden among the overgrowth, but it was hanging off. It was very sad to see this special place no longer in its glory. It would be lovely to see it come to life for others to enjoy.” Hazel Marsay (via Scarborough Evening News)
“I have recently seen a few letters in the letters page of the Scarborough Evening News about the Secret Garden in Manor Road cemetery. I used to go there many moons ago (about 46 years ago I think) looking for newts and tadpoles. I remember it as a very special place. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos, just memories. Last year I was talking to my husband about it (he used to go there too) and I suggested that we try and find it. We had a good look around but couldn’t find it so left disappointed. Today we decided to have another look and we found it. It looked so sad and unloved. We stood there for a while and looked at the remains of the pond with its scattering of beer cans and cigarette packets, and tried to remember how it was. I had just said to hubby “What a shame, there’s nothing here now is there?” when a squirrel bounced along and sat looking at us as if to say “I’m here!” This special place deserves to be restored, and I would love to be involved. If I can help in any way please let me know. Good luck with this, and let me know if we can help” Liz Blades (email)
“Happy memories as a little boy of 6/7 or thereabouts playing in the Hidden Garden on sunny days and sitting at the side of the little pond watching newts etc swim around. I remember there were wild strawberries in abundance all around that area, though very small were delicious. The entrance was through a big stone gate that was on hinges and could be opened and shut no problem by me and my pals in those days 1946/7 onwards. The gate was I believe York Stone (as I know now) and had a flat bar bolted onto the hinges. There was if my memory serves me right a small bench to sit on. In the holidays we used to spend hours down there. It was to us the “secret garden”. Our respective mums would do us some jam sandwiches and tell us to be back for teatime. Those were the halcyon innocent carefree days when you made your own amusement and had so much fun. Oh how the children of today really miss out. I will take a look down sometime soon, without the jam sandwiches!!! Pip Waller (email)
“I first learned of the secret garden when I was quite young, as my Mum used to play there with her little sister. Mum showed it to me when we moved back to Scarborough in 1975. I used to take my little sister Tamzin and little brother Gareth there for walks. We used to go into the graveyard via Manor Road over the bridge near the church, and play hide and seek amongst the tiny, magical pathways, exactly the same as my mum described doing when she was young. We always looked around carefully to make sure that no one saw us opening the tiny stone gate and slipping inside, where there was the prettiest grotto, with a pond that had green covering it. We honestly believed there were fairies there, and pretended to be those girls who hit the papers in the twenties pictured with fairies. It was always so quiet and we thought that no one ever knew about it but us. Two weeks ago I took my granddaughter to the Secret Garden, no stone gateway and a pond full of mud and rubbish. Azura looked at me as though I was mad. No Secret Garden and no fairies!” Wanda Dransfield (email)
One lady also sent a drawing which showed how she remembered the Secret Garden. This drawing was published as part of a newspaper article and the following letter was later printed in the Scarborough Evening News:- “Thanks you for the feature on the “Secret Garden” in the Dean Road Cemetery, and for showing my funny little sketch. We used to call the garden “Stonegate” and my friend Susan Williams and I played adventure games there after school. We would push the heavy gate open and step into a magic place, climbing the steps into the small tunnel and run along the little narrow paths which surrounded the pond. No-one would have dreamed of causing damage to that special place in those halcyon days over 50 years ago. How marvellous it would be to see it restored and loved by another generation, and I hope that the dedicated group of people involved are given lots of support” Beryl Scruton
Trees and Planting
There are a number of unusual and interesting trees in the part of the cemetery surrounding the Secret Garden. These include Japanese cedar, western hemlock, coast redwood, Austrian pine, monkey puzzle, giant redwood, wych elm, purple myrobalan plum, cristate beech (possibly the tallest in Yorkshire at 67 ft), Deodar cedar, tree of heaven, and highclere holly. There are many ferns continuing to grow in the 15ft high fernery which is formed by curved rocky banks immediately inside the entrance to the Secret Garden The overgrown remains of box and fuschia plants indicate that the planting in the garden was typical of Victorian gardens. One respondent to requests for memories of the garden talks of eating wild strawberries, which fits with the description given earlier of alpine planting.