Woodfall Gardens is situated near the village of Glasserton, in Galloway in SW Scotland. The cottage and gardens were built on the orders of Admiral Keith Stewart, the second surviving son of the 6th Earl of Galloway, who was given possession of the 2000 acres comprising the Barony of Glasserton in 1767. He built a new house, brought in English farm workers with all the new technology of the time, built a square of elegant farm buildings, and established the parklands, woodlands and garden.
Admiral Keith Stewart died in 1795, by which stage all building projects were finished. His widow remarried soon afterwards, and his 11 year-old son James succeeded him, but the house was let and the contents were sold. James married above his station and eventually became Governor of Ceylon. He finally sold the house and grounds in 1819 to Stair Hathorn-Stewart at the neighbouring Physgill estate.
The full letting particulars in a 1795 Dumfries newspaper included:
“The pleasure Ground is extensive and the whole Walks are in perfect good order. The gardens contain some acres of ground, and are inclosed with Brick-walls, which are sixteen feet high, and well stocked with the choicest fruit trees.
The Vinery, Peach, and Nectarin Houses, as well as the Melon Beds, have lately been put in the most complete order, and produce great quantities of the choicest fruit.”
The walls still stand today, containing an estimated 1.5 million hand-made bricks. They enclose an area of about 3 acres, divided by internal walls of similar height into 3 separate one-acre gardens.
The garden was in its heyday from its inception until the start of the first World War. It was the job of the head gardener to provide fruit, vegetables and cut flowers for the House and Estate, as well as maintaining “Pleasure Grounds” for the family. The Glasserton estate was sizeable - the 1851 census showed 11 house staff, a head groom, 6 men, 16 general labourers, and a poultry maid. A head gardener with 2 apprentices were also listed, but it is probable that general labourers assisted them - a rule of thumb at the time was a man and a boy for each acre of kitchen garden.
During the Great War, many men from Glasserton lost their lives. The gardens were still worked between the wars - some living today still remember this period of the garden’s history - but the estate and house had far fewer staff. Glasserton House itself was occupied by the Army during World War II. After that, the trustees of the property found the rates burden to be too great, and the whole building was razed to the ground in 1948. Nothing now remains to show where it once stood, save the terraced lawns.
The former gardener’s cottage, with the gardens, renamed as Woodfall Gardens, was sold off by the Glasserton & Physgill Estate approximately 35 years ago. For a number of years, the grounds remained a wilderness, but over the last decades, David & Jenny Eckford dedicated much time and effort to clearing the land and re-establishing a “pleasure garden” with beautiful, unusual and often scented shrubs, trees and flowers. This work was continued by Lesley and David Roberts until January 2012. We are continuing this re-vitalisation work.