The Secret Garden, Serles House

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    United Kingdom (Map)

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About the Artist/Site

One of the highly ranked landscaped gardens in England, the secret garden of Serles House in Wimborne in the south of England is also worth attention from the perspective of art environments.

The garden at Serles House was created by Ian Willis, who settled in Wimborne Minster in 1981 after purchasing the property. Serles House, located along Victoria Road, dated from the early 1890s, and had hardly changed over the years. After his purchase, Willis began to transform the garden at the rear of the house into an English-style garden, embellished with a terrace, sunken garden, summer house, fernery, kitchen garden and orchard. But, in addition to these more standardized and expected enhancements, he also adorned the garden with decorated structures, sculptures, objets trouvés and other creations.

One of these creations is a small grotto, which Willis constructed at aged fifty. He richly decorated it with various types of shells, such as those known as St Jacobs shells; on a pedestal the grotto includes a representation of the Greek god Pan with his flute.

Other sculptures in the garden include an engaging construction of planters depicting Irvine, the planter man, and a sculpture representing a head of Priapus, known in Greek mythology as the god of fertility. A number of sculptures made by Robin Noscoe (1917-2002), formerly director of art at Canford School (near Wimborne), found a home in the Serles House garden after Noscoe’s death.

The site also includes some sixty historical artifacts, such as old cannons dug up from the Solent river, iron memorabilia from old hotels and theaters around Dorset, and a dovecote made from an old wash tub.

All objects are described in a small booklet that is available for visitors to the site. It is open through the UK National Gardens Scheme on Sunday afternoons during the summer months. 

~Henk van Es

Map and site information

47 Victoria Road
England, United Kingdom
Latitude/Longitude: 50.801999 / -1.994334


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