The Environment Trust runs the Kitchen Garden in Marble Hill Park, Twickenham, TW1 2NL. It is a volunteer-led gardening heritage project supervised by Stephen James.

Kew blue beans Kitchen GardenThe project is a tribute to the heritage of market gardening in South West London. It is a practical resource for growing produce, education and engaging the community in heritage conservation.

The Garden is the result of the amazing efforts of regular volunteers, corporate partners including CISCO, and community plot-holders. It was created in 2013 as a living and working tribute to the enterprise of local market gardeners and nurserymen over more than a century. There are ten community plots managed by local people who have no growing space of their own and a further two plots that are looked after by parents and staff of local pre-school nurseries. A large part of the garden is worked by dedicated volunteers.

As a Kitchen Garden, the main focus is on growing fruit and vegetables. Heritage fruit trees and bushes are a major feature and there is a great variety of produce throughout the year.

We look after all the volunteer groups who work in the garden, providing tools, expertise and support to help everyone enjoy the experience of tending the garden and growing their own food. We also run corporate volunteering days and educational events.

If you are interested in volunteering at The Kitchen Garden in Marble Hill Park yourself, or arranging an event for your organisation then we would love to hear from you. Please contact Stephen James.

The project receives financial and practical support from: Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, Heathrow Community Fund, Squires, Marble Hill Society and Tesco Bags of Help, as well as a large number of individual donors and volunteers, including the people who have enjoyed our food produce.

Visitors are always welcome. The garden is open to the public at the same times as the House and Park.

About the site

The Kitchen Garden in Marble Hill Park occupies about one third of an acre of theNE corner of Marble Hill Park in Twickenham.

In the 18th century, when Marble Hill House and Park were created, the area now occupied by the Kitchen Garden is known to have contained the stables, an orchard, a fruit and vegetable garden and later a fowl yard and farm buildings, with the basic layout remaining intact until the late 19th century when it was absorbed into the main park.

Read more about the history of Marble Hill Park and House.

Read more about the history of market gardening

See all our pics on flickr

The Kitchen Garden and Local Heritage

Kitchen Garden Marble HilThe Kitchen Garden is a tribute to the heritage of market gardening in South West London. Throughout the 19th century, the economy of Middlesex was dominated by the need to feed London’s booming population. Parishes along the river, and those within easy walking distance of the hungry markets of London, became centres for commercial agriculture.

Over time the rapid expansion of London’s urban area forced out market gardeners from central London into the southwest suburbs, and a number of Enclosure Acts allowed common grazing land to become market gardens. Farmers became horticulturalists, and farms became market gardens and orchards.

The arrival of the railway to Twickenham, Teddington and Whitton in the middle of the-century allowed market gardeners to move away from the river, deeper into Middlesex. In many areas, employment in agriculture exceeded that in trade, manufacturing, and handicrafts.

Gradually, however, as London continued to grow, housebuilding for the new ‘commuter classes’ began, and orchards began to give way to houses. The industry peaked in the 1870s, and then moved to the Hampton area, where large glasshouses allowed growers to produce fruit and vegetables more efficiently. Several of the Hampton nurseries continued to thrive through the Second World War and after, until their land was finally built upon to become Nurserylands housing estate.

South West London was "One Great Garden"

Kitchen garden Marble HillA report for the Board of Agriculture in 1794 described Middlesex from Hounslow to Kensington as “one great garden for the supply of London”.

BRENTFORD – had orchards as early as 1578 and by 1746 there were orchards all the way from Brentford to Ealing. Hugh Ronalds and Sons of New Brentford were nurserymen noted for growing fruit trees and in 1829 grew some 300 varieties of apple. By 1843 Brentford was considered “the great fruit and vegetable garden of London”. About 30 people per acre were employed, twice as many women as men. Typically, soft fruit such as raspberries, currants and gooseberries were grown under apple and pear trees. As the 19th century progressed green vegetables and root crops became important, cabbage widely grown by 1897 and rhubarb in 1917. About 1927, Robert Addey of Ealing Road was noted for growing mushrooms. Factsheet Keens Strawberry was a popular local variety from which the modern strawberry derives.

CHISWICK - had gardens and orchards by 1746 with thefts of vegetables being recorded in 1798. In 1785 Richard Williams specialised in heathers and grew the “Williams” pear. The market gardens spread to the south of Turnham Green and by 1821 included land which was leased to the Royal Horticultural Society. During the 19th century market gardens thrived, which in turn stimulated the growing of osiers in the area for basket making. By the 20th century there were only about 8 businesses though several continued well into the 20th century.

ISLEWORTH & HESTON – Fruit growing started in Isleworth in the 17th century and by the 19th century raspberries and strawberries were the main crops. Flowers such as wallflowers and other fruits were grown on a large scale by the end of the 19th century. Heston’s market gardens were slower to develop as this was an area originally known for wheat production but by 1901, 1000 men in Heston and Isleworth were working on the land, though this had fallen to 434 by 1951.

TEDDINGTON – In the 19th century market gardening enjoyed a period of importance. A large nursery with orchard was founded in 1838 and R. D .Blackmore, author of “Lorna Doone”, had a nursery there. In 1898 another nursery had hothouses growing ferns, lilies, roses and other flowers for cutting. Much of the land was built over in the 20th century though there were still 200 people working in agriculture in around 1921.

TWICKENHAM - In the 1600s fruit trees, plants, roots and flowers were recorded including cherry trees and grapes growing on or near the site of Orleans House. From 1780-1797 raspberries and strawberries were sent to London and by 1801 peas and beans, potatoes and turnips were grown. In 1846 most of the market gardens were on the north and north east of the town spreading to land between Whitton and the Crane. By1899 wallflowers and other cut flowers were often grown under fruit trees. Typically there would be 50-60 acres of fruit and almost 10 acres of flowers. In 1845, 9 market gardeners are listed and in 1911 nearly 400 men worked in market gardens and agriculture. In 1947 there were 13 agricultural holdings.

Local Heritage Food Crop Varieties

Kitchen garden Marble HillLocal areas often became noted for particular produce. Heston was noted for cherries, whilst Isleworth became well known for growing raspberries and strawberries, Wallflowers and spearmint. Wallflowers were also grown in Feltham and Twickenham. Hounslow and Whitton were known for roses, lilies of the valley and other flowers. By the end of the 19th century Whitton was also known for narcissi, apples, plums and pears with some tomatoes and cucumber grown under glass. In Chiswick there were orchards and a variety of vegetables were grown together with osiers, which were used for making the baskets used by market gardeners. Brentford was known as “the great fruit and vegetable garden of London” with cabbages extensively grown by 1897 and rhubarb by 1917 and mushrooms around 1927. In Twickenham raspberries and strawberries, peas and beans, potatoes and turnips were important. It is thought that one of the first commercial producers of forced strawberries was a man called Smith who was from Twickenham and had grown them from before 1850. In Teddington and Hampton, there were nurseries growing cut flowers and pears and peaches were grown in Teddington.

For more information contact Stephen James, our Community Garden Co-ordinator.