The Trust is indebted to Dr Christine Hodgetts, whose research informs much of what follows.
A newly emerging middle class was beginning to appear in the late 18C and the early 19C. Previously there had been landowners, including the squires and the clergy, at the top, with tenant farmers and labourers at the bottom, and not much between. As tradesmen and shopkeepers began to acquire wealth, they wanted relief from the noise, smell, and disease of rapidly growing towns. They wanted privacy, pleasure and peace, and this was not to be found in gardens attached to their homes, if indeed there was even the land available in the crowded towns. They sought out gardens detached from their houses, but near enough to enjoy. Available land could often be found just outside the city walls.
Detached gardens sprang up around many towns and cities, and of course most have since vanished under houses, factories and roads. A few remain – for example:
Birmingham had thousands in the 1820’s. One group, called the Guinea Gardens, remain in cultivation as allotments quite close to the Botanic Gardens. The land is owned by Birmingham City Council. In the 1970’s they unfortunately demolished the summerhouses on safety grounds.
Coventry has a group of once detached gardens, now allotments, on Stoney Stanton Road.
Nottingham has a large group in the St. Annes area north of the city Centre, known as Hunger Hills. Most are operated by the City Council as allotments.
At Hunger Hills, you can see hidden in the trees is a deserted summerhouse.
Intelligent landowners began to realise that a parcel of land close to town had a rental value as pasture of about £4 / acre. Split into 1/8 acre plots and sold as detached gardens for rental at £1, the value was doubled to £8 /acre.
Here in Warwick, Mr Edward Wilson of Exhall, having acquired Hill Close in 1844 as a legacy, decided to increase his income from the land by dividing it into detached garden plots, which he did in 1845. He offered his tenants:
Here is an example of a well-off resident of central Warwick who owned Plot 10 at Hill Close Gardens.
The rest is history – our history.
When Hill Close Gardens was thriving in the 1890’s, Warwick was still a market town. Sheep, cows and pigs would be driven weekly to the Market Place. The town was crowded, filthy, and noisy.
This image of Linen Street, alongside Hill Close Gardens, has a posed appearance. Are the children local? Clearly visible is the high wall beyond the buildings at left foreground and behind the wall are the Gardens. The wall has in it only one single entrance for the Gardens’ owners and tenants. No doubt it is firmly locked – those children can’t get in to scrump apples!