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.

He was a gifted scholar and attended the King’s School at Ely where he won the Potticary Gold Medal for academic achievement. He subsequently studied Hebrew at Cambridge, 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.
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, with Percy using his trips to hunt, shoot and fish.

He had many adventures, including narrowly avoiding death when he was charged by an elephant!

He and Katharine brought back souvenirs and trophies which now form the Stewart Museum collection. These provide an eclectic mix of statuary, hunting trophies and curiosities.

When war broke out in 1914, Percy was travelling in Russia. Having borrowed money from his brother Herbert to get him home, and having been detained on suspicion of being a spy at Odessa, which needed the help of the British Consul to resolve, he immediately volunteered his services on his arrival back in the United Kingdom.

But 43-year-old Percy was too old for active service and spent the war in training and administrative roles, achieving the rank of Major, a title he retained 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.

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

All Events and Band Concerts cancelled until 30th September

Start date: March 20, 2020

End date: September 30, 2020

Time: 10:00 x 16:00

Owing to the current Government advice on social distancing, the Gardens are closed until further notice and, whilst we anticipate re-opening in early July, all planned events and band concerts for 2020 are cancelled until the end of September.

Pumpkin Festival

Start date: October 26, 2020

End date: November 1, 2020

Time: 1000 - 1600

Join us for spooky goings-on in the Gardens! Follow the trail and visit the Pumpkin display throughout the half-term week. Enter a carved pumpkin in our competition. Further details to be announced in 2020.

Children’s Halloween Activity Day

Date: October 28, 2020

Time: 1100 - 1500

Rusticus Wizarding Adventure! Enjoy a Rusticus Adventure with a spooky fun atmosphere as we dabble in witchcraft and wizardry this Halloween at Burnby Hall Gardens! Bring out your magical side, give your wizard some wiz, your pixie some dust, and […]

The creation of the Upper Lake in 1904.