| Runnymede’s 120-year-old garden a labour of love for volunteers keeping Hobart’s history alive

November 18, 2017


2017-11-18 21:00:00


November 19, 2017 08:00:00

New Town, just north of Hobart, is a hilly suburb dotted with old, grand-looking buildings and the remnants of the large gardens that once surrounded them.

One of the grandest buildings is Runnymede, a National Trust property bordered by sports ovals and mid-1900s brick homes.

The sandstone villa is hidden from view on the street by its 120-year-old garden.

The garden is often used for functions, from weddings to wakes and birthdays, and is maintained by dedicated volunteers who come every Tuesday to mow, prune, weed and keep things green.

“It’s not a formal garden as such, it’s a garden that blends in with the house and gives some nice lines,” Nigel Kidd, garden volunteer and coordinator, said.

“It did once run right down to the Derwent River, but over time … they needed to sell off the land to exist.”

A short history

Runnymede was built between 1836 and 1840 for Robert Pitcairn.

He named the property Cairn Lodge but did not do much with the garden before it was sold to Francis Nixon, the colony’s first Anglican bishop.

Bishop Nixon’s wife Anna set out establishing a garden around the house, planting a number of trees which form the backbone of the garden today.

She chose exotic trees such as the Norfolk Island pine, New Zealand laurel, English walnut and Mexican hawthorn, as imported plants were popular at the time.

The Nixons left Tasmania in the 1860s and the property was bought by Captain Charles Bayley, who named it Runnymede after his favourite ship.

The Bayley family lived at Runnymede for 100 years until the last two sisters in the house, Hally and Emma, sold it to the Tasmanian government for the people of the state to own.

“The Bayleys had quite an imprint on this property,” Mr Kidd said.

“Emma particularly … she was a centenarian here, she was pretty amazing.

“Obviously being in this sort of environment is good for longevity.”

While the Nixons planted exotic talking-point plants, the Bayleys put more practical plants in the garden.

“We’ve got a lovely quince, almonds, a mulberry tree, we’ve got a pear tree down there,” Mr Kidd said.

The garden established by the Bayleys was a useful one but also a playful one, with plenty of bright flowering cottage plants which were used as a source of income after World War II.

“The cutting garden was roses and lavenders and lupins, various plants that were suitable for cuttings,” Mr Kidd explained.

“Emma and her colleagues produced jams and pickles and flowers from this garden and set-up the Flower Room.”

The Flower Room, which today runs as a not-for-profit in central Hobart, was started by Miss Bayley and other Hobart women as a way to bring in an income from selling produce from their gardens.

Runnymede volunteers continue the tradition of using the garden as a source of income for the maintenance of the property, holding plant sales twice a year using plants propagated from the grounds.

Volunteers also run tours of the gardens, which are bookable online, explaining the history and how they work to keep the 120-year-old garden going.








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