A walk along the main path in Tresco Abbey gardens takes us through an archway between trees and eventually up gentle steps, past the fountain, to a small garden house on the upper terrace. This is the Shell House. It takes its name from the interior murals which comprise imaginative pictures and patterns constructed with care and skill using shells found on the Isles of Scilly. (See also my previous post, Tresco Abbey Gardens)
Tag Archives: Tresco Abbey Gardens
Tresco Abbey Gardens enjoy an international reputation and are particularly noted for the collection of subtropical plants and trees. There are 20000 plants and it is claimed that more than 300 will be in flower on any day in the year. There are plants from South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and S E Asia. Many of the plants could not survive in Cornwall, just 30 miles away.
The garden was initially created by Augustus Smith. In 1834 Smith was granted a long term lease for the Isles of Scilly by the Duchy of Cornwall and became Lord Proprietor. He built his home amid the ruins of a priory – hence Tresco Abbey.
Smith was an enthusiastic gardener and recognised the possibilities offered by the mild climate of the Scilly Isles. He maximised this potential by constructing walls and terraces and by planting trees to protect his plants from the excesses of any Atlantic gales.
Augustus was a bachelor and when he died his estate was inherited by his nephew, Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith. Successive generations of Dorrien-Smiths have, to this day, each made a significant contribution to the development of the Gardens.
With so much to choose from, I hope the following selection will suffice as an appetizer!
The world famous gardens at Tresco Abbey on the island of Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, are bisected by a long straight path culminating in a flight of granite steps leading up to an imposing classical head. The steps are known as Neptune’s Steps and seem to confirm a classical connection, but there is a double deception here. Despite appearances, the head is not a stone sculpture but is made from wood, and the subject is not of classical origin but represents Father Thames. It is, in fact, the salvaged figurehead of the SS Thames, a 500 ton paddle steamer that sank on the Western Rocks (just off the coast of St Agnes) in 1841.
The story of the loss of the Thames is tragic and is an example of the hardship and dangers experienced by seafaring communities in the 18th and 19th centuries. The event was fully recorded by the minister of St Agnes at the time, the Rev George Woodley, and can be read on http://www.tresco.co.uk/what-to-do/abbey-garden/valhalla_thames.aspx
In a corner of the Abbey Gardens there is a museum of other figureheads from vessels wrecked in the waters around the Isles of Scilly. It is known as Valhalla and I have written about it in a previous post (see https://lagill6.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/shipwrecks-and-valhalla/)