The History of Burnby Hall Gardens

Percy and Katharine Stewart.

Percy Marlborough Stewart was born in 1871 and was the son of the Reverend James Stewart, rector of Little Stukeley in Huntingdonshire, and his wife Lucy.

Distantly related to the Earls of Galloway and a second cousin of Winston Churchill, Percy was one of 14 children.

A gifted scholar, he attended the King’s School at Ely and went on to study Hebrew at Cambridge University, becoming a tutor in the subject at Pocklington School.

Through their shared equestrian interests, Percy met Katharine Bridges née Priestman, the daughter of a Durham coal magnate, who lived in nearby Bielby, and, in 1901 they married and leased The Elms in Pocklington. The house was subsequently purchased, re-named Ivy Hall and, a little later, Burnby Hall.

Percy and Katharine completed a number of alterations to the estate, most notably the creation of the Upper and Lower Lakes in the Gardens for fishing. In 1935, the Stewarts introduced Hardy Water Lilies (Nymphaea) into them, beginning what would ultimately become the National Collection that is enjoyed today.

Between 1906 and 1926, Percy and Katharine completed eight world tours, covering North America and Canada, Africa, India and the Far East, Europe, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, and they brought back many souvenirs and trophies which now form the Stewart Museum collection. These provide an eclectic mix of statuary, hunting trophies and curiosities.

During World War One, Percy served in the army in administrative and training roles, achieving the rank of Major, a title he used for the remainder of his life.

Katharine died in April 1939 and Percy remained at Burnby Hall for the remainder of his life. He lived until the grand old age of 90, assisted in later life by his faithful housekeeper Miss Tibbott.

Both he and Katharine had no children and, in 1912, decided to leave the estate in trust to the people of Pocklington when they died.

On his death in 1962, these wishes were complied with and the Stewarts Trust was established in 1964 to run Burnby Hall Gardens and to administer the Stewart Museum collection.

Both remain as a lasting tribute to the generosity of Percy and Katharine Stewart.

Golden Jubilee Restoration Project (2016 – 2019).

Between 2016 and 2019, thanks to National Lottery players, a £640,000 National Heritage Lottery Fund grant was awarded to the Stewarts Trust to undertake a substantial Golden Jubilee Restoration Project in the Gardens.

This comprised the desilting of the Upper Lake, the repair of substantial cracks in its edges, and the regeneration of the water lilies within it.

The Backhouse designed Rock Garden was also fully restored, an Edwardian summer house and its adjoining potting sheds renovated, and a water lily propagation tank and bespoke Learning Zone added to the site, all ensuring that the fantastic legacy of Percy and Katharine Stewart can be enjoyed by future generations.

Upcoming events


Start date: October 23, 2021

End date: October 31, 2021

Time: 1000 - 1600

Join us for spooky fun in the Gardens for Halloween. We have spooky characters in the Gardens all week and, on Wednesday 27th October, join us for the Rusticus Wizarding Adventure from 11.00 in the Gardens.

Rusticus Wizarding Adventure!

Date: October 27, 2021

Time: 1100 - 1500

Come on a journey into the secret places of Burnby Hall Gardens to find where the wild wizards dwell! Be ready for anything as you get caught up in an exciting adventure to help save the mortal world this Halloween! […]

Magical Springtime

Date: April 18, 2022

Time: 1100 - 1530

Join Rusticus Arts for a springtime celebration. Further details to be announced in early 2022.

Shepherd Group Band

Date: April 24, 2022

Time: 1400 - 1600

The creation of the Upper Lake in 1904.