Over the intervening years the estate has seen many name changes, changes of ownership and of land use. For those with a historian’s eye for detail there are many clues as to the estate’s past history: in the gardens, tearoom and the architecture of the main house itself.
The current manor house shows architecture from different time periods, the oldest dating back to renovations in 1634. In 1910 the property was sold at auction to Louis and Carlota Oppenheimer. For Carlota, the estate offered a canvas on which to create her vision of a garden. A talented gardener, Carlota was influenced by the garden designer, Percy Cane. Her ideas were bold. Indeed, it was Carlota who created Green Walk and introduced the rhododendrons to the bluebell wood. It was she who introduced the thatched wooden pavilions dotted around the estate. Under her guidance the gardens reached their peak during the world wars, when Carlota ran a team of fourteen gardeners.
During World War II the Oppenheimer’s moved out of Waltham Place and it became the home of De Beers diamond sorting office following the bombing of their London offices. Once hostilities ended their son, Raymond moved into Waltham where he remained for the rest of his life. A keen golfer and a top breeder of English bull terriers, Raymond did not inherit his mothers love for gardens. The borders were laid to grass and the gardens entered a time of torpor.
Upon Raymond’s death in 1984 the estate passed to Raymond’s nephew Nicky Oppenheimer and his wife, Strilli. As committed conservationists their goal was to restore the gardens and bring the farm back to health. Under Strilli’s guidance thefarm was certified organic in 1984 and biodynamic in 2006.
Work began to replant the gardens and return them to their former glory. Julian Seymour and the Sandwich Nursery were retained to rehabilitate the walled gardens and Long Border, lifting the grass from the beds and replanting. New gardens were created below the Long Border - the Winter Garden and the New Garden - to establish a link between the formality of the clipped yew hedges and the natural landscape of meadows beyond. Many original features were retained, such as stonework and metal work, linking the past to the present. Since then, there has been steady progress towards the gardens we see here today. Many hands have played a part in creating Strilli’s vision of a naturalistic garden, not least her collaboration with Henk Gerritsen. The result is a garden rich with wildlife, living and breathing, with natural cycles allowed to play out firmly at its heart.
What’s on at Waltham place
Flora, fauna, food and philosophy
Walks, tours & events
With walks, tours and events running throughout the year, there are many opportunities to visit Waltham and experience the life of this vibrant farm and gardens.