The Friends of Cressing Temple: Helping hands

PUBLISHED: 12:43 11 July 2016 | UPDATED: 12:43 11 July 2016

The viewing platform in The Tudor Walled Garden

The viewing platform in The Tudor Walled Garden


The gardens of the historic Cressing Temple Barns near Braintree have benefitted greatly from an active and interesting Friends group. Philippa Pearson meets these Friends with benefits

Blossom from heritage East Anglian apple treesBlossom from heritage East Anglian apple trees

Set up in 2013, the Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens support, conserve, develop and protect the wonderful Walled Tudor Garden and other gardens at this important site of significant historic interest near Braintree

With its origins in the 12th century and links to the Knights Templar, Cressing Temple has two of the finest Templar barns in Europe and is a site rich in archaeological history. Working closely with Rebecca Ashbey, the garden’s horticulturalist, the Friends group provide financial and practical support for plants, materials and specific projects, and their contribution is welcomed by Essex County Council Country Parks who manage the site.

During Tudor times, a merchant’s manor house stood in the grounds, which had a walled garden built in 1623. In 1987 this garden area just contained some vegetable plots and old fruit trees, but by 1996, the garden was faithfully reconstructed using painstaking research to create an authentic Tudor garden that would have stood in this area. Enclosed by its original Tudor brick wall, its centrepiece is a brick fountain with four spouts symbolising the rivers of paradise from which water trickles along a rill to a Tudor brick built fishpond.

A wooden viewing platform provides a vantage point from which to enjoy the parterres and the rest of the garden. Through much research, planting in the Tudor Walled Garden is true to mediaeval and Tudor gardens and includes a knot garden with box hedging, a nosegay garden, arbour, medicinal plants and a vegetable garden. Nearby, a Flowery Mead is a carpet of cowslips, primroses and flowering bulbs in spring followed by wildflowers in summer. There’s also The Cullen Garden, named after Frank Cullen, a seedsman who owned the site from 1913-71. This garden planting was laid out in 2005 and is planted to encourage beneficial insect and bird life, with nectar-rich flowers throughout the year and bird feeders. The Jubilee Orchard, planted in 1993 with help from the children of Cressing Primary School, has 40 varieties of apple tree native to East Anglia and is one of the most significant collections of traditional apples in the region.

Examples of the old species of rosesExamples of the old species of roses

Recent projects organised by the Friends group have included putting down brick paving at the northern end of the garden with grant aid from the Essex Heritage Trust and repairs to two garden gates.

‘We’ve enabled Rebecca to buy many sundry gardening items,’ says Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens chair, David Andrews, ‘which has made her work easier and enhanced the appearance of the garden. We have also supported the work of bringing the bread oven in the farmhouse back into use, making possible a baking enterprise which is working in partnership with our fundraising.’

The Friends have also funded a trainee gardener under the WRAGS scheme organised by the Women’s Farm and Garden Association.

Volunteers are always welcome to help in the gardens and with the running of the Friends. There’s the opportunity to become involved with gardening, DIY, plant propagation, plant sales, organising fundraising events and marketing.

The Friends of Cressing Temple

For further information about the Friends of Cressing Temple and to book garden tours, contact Rebecca Ashbey at

Garden tours take place once a month and group tours are by arrangement.

Plants are for sale at only £2 each, with proceeds to the Friends.

Don’t miss Apple Day on Saturday, October 9, for a celebration of apples, cider and the gardens with music and other activities.

Visit the gardens

Cressing Temple, Witham Road, Braintree, Essex CM77 8PD. 01376 584903.

Open daily from 10.30am to 4.30pm, but check the website in case private events are taking place. Entry is free.

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