Workhouse Museum Gardens

A volunteer gardener

It’s rare to find a surviving workhouse garden. The Ripon workhouse kitchen garden has been carefully restored and brought back into use. 

The garden is maintained by a team of volunteers who use Victorian horticultural practices but with a 21st century attitude towards the environment and a sustainable future. 

About an acre in size, the garden lies on a slope behind the Workhouse Museum site, with both original and access paths for all visitors to be able to enjoy the variety of vegetables, fruit and herbs that are all sourced from Victorian or older varieties including Fellside Hero potatoes and Dog’s Snout apples.

Heritage variety flowers

Conserving rarer varieties 

We are working with Garden Organic and the Heritage Seed Library to ensure older vegetable varieties do not become extinct.

We regularly grow heritage varieties from the Heritage Seed Library and bulk up seed, which we return for distribution across the UK, as part of the Seed Guardian scheme.

As well as the kitchen garden, you can find several other gardens on the Workhouse Museum site.  

Front garden   

Enjoy the scent from Mrs Sinkin’s pinks – a fragrant variety bred by the Master of the Workhouse in Slough and much admired by Queen Victoria. We also grow heritage sweet peas including Matucana and Painted Lady.  

Master and Matron’s Garden 

In 2020, a collection of spring bulbs were planted exclusively using varieties that were available in 1890. These provide a lovely display of blousy Greuze and Couleur Cardinal tulips, to scented white City of Haarlem hyacinths, and miniature Lenten Lily and W.P. Milner narcissi.  

These complement a design using perennials that would have been popular amongst Victorian gardeners: hollyhocks, lupins, delphiniums, angelica, gypsophila, asters and helenium. Our aim is to replace all modern varieties with those that can be dated back to the 19th century.  

Heritage vegetable garden 

If you’re a keen gardener, you will recognise many of the varieties of fruit and vegetables we grow in our gardens today, as many of the Victorian favourites are still widely available – like the ever-popular Bunyard’s Exhibition broad beans or Painted Lady runner beans. Some varieties have had a name change: the Fellside Hero potato variety was renamed King Edward upon his coronation in 1902.   

We also have a wonderful collection of heritage apple and pear trees. There are many apple trees of local provenance such as Yorkshire Dog Snout, Ribston Pippin and Grandpa Buxton. In the spring, the blossom is beautiful and the apples are a marvellous sight in the autumn, when they are harvested and made into juice, which is sold in the shop.  

There are also a number of Victorian rhubarb varieties, including Prince Albert, Victoria and Hawke’s Champagne.   

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