Barrow Castle was built in 1851 so 2001 was its 150th anniversary. We don’t know who built or owned the house originally but do know that it was built on the site of an earlier one which burnt down in a fire. The Coach House is about 100 years earlier in date and it seems likely that it was built at the same time as the earlier house. The clock on the coach house was made in 1782. We do know who bought the house in 1890 as we have the auction details. It was bought by Mr Ware of Ware’s Nurseries. He ran a nursery business here until it was taken over by his manager, Mr Tichmarch, who married Mr Ware’s daughter, thus keeping it in the family. Many local people remember the house and the nurseries from their time when the house was a dark and forbidding place with coats of armour in the hallway! In the 1960’s the Meering family bought the nursery business and made changes to meet modern day realities. They started what is now Hilliers Garden Centre. We bought the house in March 2000.
The nurseries extended throughout the fields in the valley and much of it was under glass. The greenhouse in the walled garden is all that remains of this time. Once there were green houses all along the right hand wall of the garden but the tumble-down shed is all that is left of them. Fruit trees here were once inside the greenhouses, just as there is still a peach and a nectarine tree in the present one.
We have started the process of restoring the walled garden to some of its former glory and hope it may some day look similar to the way it would have looked originally. The earlier Victorian owners were clearly followers of Victorian garden fashion particularly in building a “Gothic Garden” with arches, fossilised rocks and a “Hermits Cave” still evident in “The Nuttery”. They also constructed a Victorian Conservatory when the house was rebuilt in 1851 which had just become fashionable following the Great Exhibition of that year.
The owners of the nurseries, and presumably the earlier Victorians, were evidently very interested in plants and trees as there are many interesting specimens. These include a Dawn Redwood Tree which is near to the entrance to the walled garden. This tree was thought to be extinct and only known through fossilised remains until some were found in a Chinese temple in the 1940’s.
The local area has a very ancient history. It was originally called barawe or BYREGE and was probably a medieval fortified hill. Archaeological excavations in 1954 and 1964 found iron age, Roman and medieval artefacts. Woden’s Dyke runs through the fields opposite the house, and the Roman Fosse way runs at the top of the valley.