Iford Manor had a former life as a 15th-century wool factory. Today it belongs to the Cartwright-Hignett family, who have restored the gardens designed by Harold Peto.
Records show that there’s been a building on the Iford Manor site since the 11th century, and the current building is over 500 years old. It was originally a wool factory owned by the Horton family. Though the Hortons had a successful business, the Hungerford family took on ownership in the 18th century, followed by three generations of the Gaisford family. They are the ones we have to thank for the hanging woodlands and some of the trees in the garden. One of the following owners, Harold Peto, made the most significant changes to the estate. He loved to travel and took inspiration from his trips abroad to bring back antique furniture and artefacts for the house. But the most obvious impact of his travels was on the garden itself.
Peto was a renowned garden architect and designed the gardens in an Italian style, with terraced slopes, cypress trees and pools of water. The Grade II listed cloisters and Casita pavilion will make you think you are walking through an undiscovered part of the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Peto lived at Iford from 1899 until his death in 1933, and the property was bought by the Cartwright-Hignett family in 1965. William and Marianne Cartwright-Hignett, the current owners, have added their own touch to the garden, restoring and extending the original design and adding a Japanese Garden with the help of Troy Scott Smith, who has previously worked as Head Gardener at the Courts Garden in Wiltshire.
As you walk through the gardens you’ll see a mixture of formal flower beds and stonework which contrast with the softer, wilder beds and hedges. It’s no wonder, then, that the estate was chosen as a key location for the 2020 film The Secret Garden, featuring Colin Firth and Julie Walters. You can round off your whimsical walk with a scone and tea in the Housekeeper’s Tearoom at the end.