Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Haggerston’s Place in Horticultural History (NU043435)

Many who visit the caravan park at Haggerston are somewhat disappointed at the paltry remains of the old castle. A tower and rotunda are all that survive of the edifice today – both Grade II listed buildings, but somewhat swamped and degraded by their current predicament.

The structure’s original inhabitants, the de Hagardstons, supposedly came over with the Conqueror. A castle is known to have existed at least as far back as 1311, but a succession of fires have blighted its history leaving historians bereft of much in the way of paperwork on which to base their work. It is speculated, however, that there was a stronghold of sorts occupying the site from the late 1100s. In subsequent centuries the old place passed down and through a succession of landed families – you know, the usual story – but the original name stuck, which is more than can be said for the castle walls themselves.

The 1880s saw the Haggerston estate pass into the hands of one Christopher John Naylor; and when the said individual later inherited his uncle’s fortune he switched his name to C.J.Leyland and moved from his Powys home up to Haggerston. From 1893, Leyland set to work revamping the castle/house and gardens, which included the planting of six new hybrid trees called Cupressocyparis Leylandii, which had been recently developed on a small scale by his brother back in Wales.

Another fire (in 1911), and Leyland’s death (in 1926) hastened the almost complete demolition of the castle – and its sale – by the mid-'30s. However, Haggerston’s great legacy became a horticultural one. In 1925, a firm of commercial nurserymen rediscovered the old leylandii, recognised their potential, and began marketing them as Haggerston Grey leylandii. Other nurseries – as well as the Forestry Commission – jumped on the bandwagon, enthused by the tree’s fast-growing properties. Many other hybrids have since been developed, and it was for many years the biggest selling item in every garden centre in the UK.

So if you’ve an issue with your neighbour’s rampant hedge, blame Northumberland’s Haggertson Castle, and its overzealous former owners.

1 comment:

  1. I love a place with some history behind it. Thanks for sharing an account of the wonerful history behind the caravan parks at Haggerston.