Trentham is steeped in history and a famous landmark in the local area. Discover the layers of history that have created The Trentham Estate.


Rich With History

Originally a priory site, the estate moved into private ownership when the church was devolved. The estate's first hall was built in 1599 on the priory ruins, was replaced by Richard Leveson in 1633 with an Elizabethan style mansion. The largest yew trees in the Italian Garden and Eastern Pleasure garden appear to be from this period.

Look at the girth of some of the trunks and their grid like layout characteristic of medieval gardens. Because Yew was toxic to livestock it was only grown within walled enclosures which at the time were churchyards or gardens.

Inspired by French Trends

The English landscape architect Charles Bridgeman (d 1738) influenced the layout of Trentham Estate with features still seen today including three radiating avenues, the deer lawns, Georgian boat tunnels, and small boating lake, a causeway and a canal in the baroque style.

Look for wide geometric rides/ straight wide pathways running from the west end of the hall and from the ridgeline in North Park through the woodland. There are some huge surviving trees from the Lime Avenue in West and North Parks, have a go at measuring. Your arm span is equal to your height. Measure at chest height. 1 meter = 100 years approximately!

In 1759 the English landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was engaged by Granville, 2nd Lord Gower to alter Trentham Park. The parterres, walks and walls of the 18th Century Pleasure Garden were swept away, replaced by the mile long serpentine lake with a single island, Brownian mounds with tree planting, lawns, sweeping gravelled walks and a shrubbery and bowling green and woodland walks. A sweeping drive from the new Palladian gatehouses (Monkey Forest Entrance) extended up the west side of the lake, across the deer lawn flanked by a series of Ha Ha, then across to the west of the remodelled hall. Many of the gardens largest trees date from Brown’s plantings along with the lake and mounded view points. In 2016, the tercentenary of his birth, Trentham was selected as being unique in representing an urban Brownian landscape restoration, as part of a National Lottery Funded interpretation project with English Heritage. You will find a trail which takes you around the lake he created as the centrepiece to his work here and can learn more about his vision and techniques.

The serpentine, curved shape of the lake is a trademark Brown trick to create different vistas as you walk around the lake. The lake create a large reflective surface as the central feature to the garden, reflecting the sky, making the garden feel larger.

The Italian Renaissance

George Granville 2nd Duke of Sutherland engaged Charles Barry in 1833 to redesign of the hall and the layout of gardens. At the time the Italian Renaissance style was in vogue resulting in the Brownian lawns being transformed with a series of formal terraced garden rooms. Several loggias, fountains, balustrading and steps, clipped topiary, classical sculptures and urns were combined with formal lawns and intricate plant displays. The lakes north shore was given an ‘Italian Lakes’ makeover with the addition of the balustrading and sculptural focal point and additional boat tunnels with the lake seeing the addition of the 4 islands we see today.

Several eminent designers were consulted including William Nesfield commissioned to layout the fountains, some of which had spectacular structures in their centres elevating the water jets. At Trentham had a nationally influential head gardener George Fleming who joined the estate in 1841 noted for his horticultural innovations including colourful Ribbon Bedding displays and the design of the 100m long rose clad trellis walk.

The impact of the industrial revolution and rapid expansion of the five towns that form the City of Stoke on Trent impacted upon the River Trent. Heavily polluted it fed into the lake and garden fountains. A diversion to its current course through did not eliminate the strong smells swept across the garden and the Sutherland family moved residence to their other estates. In 1898 one loggia was relocated to the Sutherlands residence at Lilleshall whilst another went to Dunrobin castle to become the centre piece to the family’s burial ground. The family abandoned the hall in 1907 and were unable to secure a purchaser so demolished it in 1912.

You will see all the structures that were remaining in 1996 have been restored and are now protected as Listed Features. The lost planting beds and pathways have been restored using Charles Barry’s original plans and archaeological surveying.

Conversion to a Pleasure Garden

In 1910 the gardens were opened to the public and by 1925 the addition of motor launches, rowing boats and a miniature railway were added. In 1931 Trentham Gardens Ltd was formed to manage the gardens, with a lido and ballroom added to its attractions.

During the war Trentham was home to military camps built in West and North Park, with many of the buildings bases still visible today. All of the banks were evacuated from their London offices to Trentham’s ballroom along with key employees to operate the National Clearing Bank. You will see a sculpture commemorating that time situated on the Western Pleasure Garden Lawns.

In the 1980s the Sutherlands sold Trentham Estate to John Broome who planned to create a holiday centre with lodges. Unable to gain planning consent a Camping and Caravan Park was created across the Deer Lawns of the West Park with the addition of roadways and facilities. Much of the garden sculpture and features were lost during this period. and the estate was then further impacted by mining subsistence, causing the lake to be damaged.

As a result of the mine damage the estate was then sold to the National Coal Board in 1984. The lido was lost to the subsidence and the lake had to be remodelled to protect it from the same problem. You can see the modern sluices on the East side of the lake. The majority of the gardens borders were put to lawn to reduce maintenance costs, it even saw touring car rallies speeding across the Italian Gardens and down the lakeside footpaths.

The estate was sold in 1996 to St Modwen. Following significant investment in restoration it was reopened to the public in 2004.