The Wentworth Timeline
The garden centre’s history began in 1976 but its origin story has its roots firmly planted much farther back in time.
A large part of our unique site occupies the former great kitchen garden and pleasure grounds complex of Wentworth Woodhouse built in the 18th Century by the Fitzwilliam family.
Created under the supervision of renowned York architect John Carr, the kitchen garden’s principal role was to provide an abundance of fresh fruit, herbs, vegetables and cut flowers for the house throughout the year, whilst the pleasure grounds were enjoyed by both the family and visitors alike.
A golden period ensued until, as with many country houses, a combination of family tragedies and crippling inheritance taxes brought about the decline of the dynasty. Inevitably, much of the cultivated area fell into disrepair after WWII when the gardens had to further endure a merciless open-cast mining assault in the late 1940s.
The creation of a garden centre in 1976 was a natural fit and in large part, the salvation of the site. My family took over the ownership of Wentworth Garden Centre in 1983 and a committed programme of continuous investment and restoration was set in train. We have always held a fiercely independent philosophy and maintain that it is always better to ‘paddle our own canoe’ as an outlier, rather than to follow convention at the risk of stymieing creativity.
The formative years were hard graft. Compost deliveries had to be unloaded by hand until mechanisation arrived on the scene some years later and the elements tested our resolve, particularly during the winter months.
We soon realised that we could share our unique location with a wider audience by creating a garden centre with a difference that held appeal for a broad spectrum of customers, not least families. One of our first major projects was the creation of an adventure playground shortly followed by our Family Farm. Both have been updated and improved over time, with 2019 seeing the installation of a natural sand and water play area complete with pirate ship!
Catering has always been a mainstay of our business. From humble beginnings where four plastic tables sufficed, accelerated growth and necessity led to the creation of ‘The Walled Garden’ restaurant in 2009 and more recently, ‘The Bothy’ in 2020.
Our retail operation today is housed in a charmingly eclectic collection of buildings that have grown with us over time, setting us apart from the usual garden centre format found throughout the industry. The past four decades have seen the garden centre and accompanying historic gardens, develop into a thriving, independent enterprise with strong ties to our past and a contemporary outlook for our future.
We employ excellent people and only work with the very best suppliers to bring together fresh and exciting products, ideas and experiences. Through its diversity, the garden centre has come to mean many things to many people – a place to shop, eat, and meet friends and family whilst remaining a place to discover and explore.
Reflecting on over forty years in the horticulture industry, we couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve achieved as a family. I would like to thank our loyal customers for choosing to shop with us, and our dedicated staff for their support in creating the destination garden centre we first envisaged when we started out on this path in 1983.
We are not a member of any buying group or garden centre chain. We are a long-standing, family-owned independent and as such care passionately about our customers and their satisfaction. It's a policy that has seen the centre evolve from a tiny village operation into one of the largest garden centres in Yorkshire today.
The Airey Family