Burnby Hall and Gardens


With 2016 racing towards its end I thought I ought to write up about some of the many places we’ve visited around the UK this year. I’ve already posted some of them, as well as a couple of posts about our holiday in Iceland, but I’ve still loads left to do! So I thought I’d start with somewhere we’ve visited twice this year. The first time was in April when trees were only just coming into leaf, and the second in July, when summer flowers were blooming and water lilies patterned and coloured the lakes.

Burnby Hall Gardens wasn’t somewhere we’d set out to visit on our first short break in Yorkshire in April, but we saw leaflets about it in the hotel and thought we’d have a look. And it came as a pleasant surprise. It’s located in the market town of Pocklington in the East Riding of the county.

Map of the East Riding of Yorkshire. Source: Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion. Creative Commons

The Gardens have been described as ‘the jewel in Yorkshire’s crown’ and consist of upper and lower lakes set in nine acres of woodland. There are pathways around the lakes, an ornamental bridge, an aviary, a Victorian garden, a rockery and more recently a stumpery has been added – which I’ll explain about later in the post.

The two lakes are home to a national collection of over a hundred varieties of hardy water lilies which flower between June and August – the reason we visited for a second time in July. The lakes are home to lots of carp and roach which people happily feed with cartons of fish pellets purchased from the shop. The carps’ gaping mouths are very amusing.

When we visited in early April most trees were still bare or just coming into leaf, and blossoms and spring flowers adorned the site. Before I say anything about how the Gardens came into existence, here are a few springtime photos we took:

The site of Burnby Gardens was originally the estate of Major Percy Marlborough Stewart (1871 – 1962) who was descended from the earls of Galloway and the Spencer-Churchills and was the godson of the Duke of Marlborough. The gardens were created when Major Stewart returned to settle at home after eight trips around the world, during which he visited every continent except Antarctica. On some of the trips he was accompanied by his wife, Katharine. He is described in the Burnby Hall and Gardens website as ‘an adventurer, traveller, scholar, philanthropist, collector and environmentalist’. His travelling days apparently started after a remark he made to Katharine:

‘We’re terribly dull people, let’s travel round the world and then we shall have something to talk about.’

Many of the cultural and religious artefacts Major Percy collected can be seen in the museum which is housed in the estate’s house.  Many of these have been recognised by UNESCO as being of national and international importance. (I won’t write about the museum here or this post will become far too long!).

On his death in 1962, having no children and his wife having predeceased him, Major Stewart willed that the Gardens and Collection should be left in trust for the benefit of the people of Pocklington.

Here are some of our summertime photos when the water lilies, in particular, were really beautiful – and the reason we decided to go back to Burnby in July:


To finish with, a little about the stumpery (taken from an information board at the Burnby Stumpery).

A stumpery is a garden feature constructed mainly from the upturned roots of large trees. The roots are artistically shaped and once in place, plants are used to break up the strong lines and soften the angles. Stumperies have been described as ‘Victorian oddities’ and were popular during the 19th century. The stumpery at Burnby was inspired by the one at Highgrove, the main residence of HRH the Prince of Wales. His stumpery has over 95 sweet chestnut trees and covers 9000 square feet. When his father, Prince Philip, first saw it, he is reputed to have said, ‘When are you going to set fire to this lot?’

Work on Burnby’s stumpery started in 2011 with the removal of 40 dead wych elms (dead as a result of Dutch elm disease) and general clearance of the site. Soil bunds were added to give the stumpery some height. A large quantity of oak stumps were provided by a local Wilberfoss timber agent and the Hobbits’ house in the centre was added for interest.

Environmentally, the stumpery provides for many different species of flora and fauna. Amongst many others, the flora includes many ferns and spring bulbs. Amongst the fauna are grey squirrels, shrews, hedgehogs and occasional rabbits and foxes. Many insects, spiders and snails also make their homes here and the log-like cabins provide excellent ‘bug hotels’ and habitats for hibernating fauna.

This a plan of the stumpery (from the same information board.)


… and some photos which are a mixture of ones taken in both April and July. There were quite a few little Green Men around, too.

Well, perhaps it’s time to say, ‘That’s all for now folks.’

28 thoughts on “Burnby Hall and Gardens

  1. Hee, “stumpery”. Everyone should have a stumpery just so you can the word “stumpery” 🙂
    Looks like an amazing place to visit, it’s a good job you saw those leaflets!

    1. Yes, I love the word ‘stumpery’! I thought I’d better explain what one actually is, just to avoid confusion. I agree, we should all have one. Haha. We always find places we didn’t know about on most of our little breaks. Most come as a lovely surprise.Thanks, Ali. 🙂

  2. Burnby is a lovely place, especially when the water lilies are in flower. They are so delicate and colourful and attract a lot of visitors. Thank you for liking my post Shivangi.

  3. This garden is a treasure, Millie. Major Stewart has left a very generous gift. Stumpery is a new word that I really like 🙂 Beautiful place, and you missed nothing in your photographs. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Inese. Burnby Gardens are quite something, especially when the water lilies are in flower – and I agree, it was a very generous gift on Major Stewart’s behalf. The word ‘stumpery’ seems to be a new one to all of us. It was to me, when I first visited Burnby. It’s one of those words that make me smile when I hear it. 🙂

  4. Those lilies really were gorgeous on your second trip — I share your happiness that you went back for more! I love the idea of the stumpery too, and what a fabulous word that is. It sounds like it should be used as an adjective, e.g., “I don’t know about that Jack, he’s a bit too stumpery for my taste.” 😉

    1. Haha. That’s a great use of the word stumpery! It’s a funny word and tends to make me laugh, but I suppose it suits its real meaning, too. All those tree stumps provide wonderful habitats for so many species. I’ve see lots of bug hotels in other places, but not as parts of stumperies.

    1. Hi Susan! Burnby Gardens is a lovely place to spend a few hours. There’s a nice little cafe to have something for lunch, and teas and coffees at other times, and feeding the fish (or just watching other people do it) is so funny. Those mouths open so wide that people just drop the pellets right in! 🙂

      1. Sounds like a really fun day. You are my armchair travel guide. LOL. I’ve missed you. I was on medical leave for a few weeks after my precious dog, Guinness died. Something new with me…Come and visit my website, Susan’s Thoughts and Musings (https://susansthoughtsandmusings.com) The new website houses all of my 4 blogs. It was just too difficult managing four websites. Love ya..:)

      2. Hi Susan. It’s lovely to chat to you again, too. I’ve been ‘off’ WordPress a lot this year, as well. Sometimes other things just have to come first. I’ll be popping over to your blog tomorrow to have a look at your new set up. I couldn’t cope with two blogs, let alone four! You were very brave to keep four going as long as you did.
        So sorry about your dog. It seems a long time ago now, and I hope your health is a lot better after your medical leave. I can understand how losing Guinness hit you so badly. I’ve known other people in similar situations. We’ll chat again tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve done. You’re so techno savvy compared to me. I’m a real Dimbo with it all! Keep smiling. ❤

  5. i could probably spend hours here and disappear into the twilight, love the word stumpery, learnt a new word today so yay! The lake seems perfectly still like nothing dare disturb its serenity. Lovely post Millie!

    1. Yes, the lakes are really the centre of attraction of the Gardens. In summer there are the water lilies, and at other times there are the carp to feed. Most children love goldfish, especially ones as big as these. The lakes definitely exude an air of serenity. Thank you, Gina.

    1. Thank you, Murielle. We enjoyed both visits as each had something different to offer. The spring flowers were lovely in April and the water lilies were so beautiful in July. I’m wondering what it looks like now, with all the autumn colours. We might just have to pop along and have a look! 😀

    1. Hi Jack. Lovely to see you here. So now you know why my book is only coming along very slowly. I think I’ve been exhibiting my rebellious streak this year and just getting out and about as much as I can. We aren’t getting any younger and I have this urge to see as much as I can before I ‘pop my clogs’ as we say in Lancashire. After our first visit to Burnby in April, it was inevitable that we should simply have to see the water lilies in flower!
      I realise you’ll be reading procrastination between the line here – and you’d be right! But I’m getting back on track now that winter’s on its way, and looking forward to reading when its published.

      1. Haha, my clogs are quite firmly stuck to my feet right now, bur I’m not looking forward to next year’s birthday. The thought of it is enough to make my hair turn white overnight! But, on a positive note, I don’t feel old at all!
        I’m really impressed that you’ve finished your first draft, Jack, and you’ve inspired me to ‘get on’ with mine a bit faster. No more little holidays for a while. Keep well and write lots, Jack. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I love beautiful gardens, too, and have visited quite a few over the last couple of years. Burnby is unique in having the water lilies, though, which make it quite special in the summer.

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