This most extraordinary garden, internationally significant for its great age and enduring beauty has been lovingly crafted down through the generations. Its timeless beauty distilled. Living history that continues to amaze and inspire all who experience it.
The garden as we know it today dates back over 300 years, but the building itself is much older. The original Pele Tower and Hall at Levens were built between 1250 and 1300. That moated and fortified structure was one of a chain of such buildings locally. They provided the area with defensive power and stability in troubled times of border conflict.
The de Redman family, owners since 1170, sold the property to the Bellinghams in 1562 and it was they who converted the grim mediaeval shell into the comfortable Elizabethan home we see today. In 1688, the estate changed hands again, to pay for Alan Bellingham's gambling debts. Colonel James Grahme acquired the property, and the old tradition that Levens was won with the turn of the Ace of Hearts probably has some foundation in fact.
Grahme had done well for himself in Court Society, He was ‘Keeper of the Privy Purse’ and ‘Master of the King’s Buckhounds’. But when his King, James II abdicated he was on the wrong side of the 'Glorious Revolution', out of favour and out of a job. He therefore set about improving his newly acquired house and lands at Levens. He brought with him another victim of the change of regime, the frenchman Monsieur Guillaume Beaumont, one time gardener to James II, who had been responsible in part for the wilderness garden at Hampton Court Palace.
It was at this time that the South Wing and Brewhouse were added to the building, and work on the gardens commenced. Although Monsieur Beaumont advised many owners around the country on the layout of their gardens, only Levens survives, and has been visited and admired from that time on.
It was laid out formally, influenced by the Dutch style of that William and Mary period. But taste in garden design soon moved on as the natural landscape became more important. Nearly all these old formal gardens were ripped out and replaced during the 18th Century. At Levens, lack of fashion conscious male heirs throughout much of its history, and the fact that this was seldom the family's main home both contributed to this garden's survival. Despite financial pressures, this most labour intensive of gardens has been maintained, and the unique creation of Grahme and Beaumont preserved for the admiration and amazement of all.