Skeeby gardens to open for hospice charity

Val and Ian Hepworth at their home in Skeeby which will be open to the public to raise money for St Teresa’s Hospice.

The owners of an historic garden are helping to regrow a charity’s coffers which were blighted by the Covid pandemic.

Val and Ian Hepworth will be opening their gardens by appointment to help St Teresa’s Hospice through troubled times.

The couple moved into the 17th century Manor House, at Skeeby, near Richmond, 40 years ago and ever since have been restoring the gardens, originally planted by the influential Pease family, who were notable Quakers, bankers and founders of the railways.

Visitors are being invited to book a slot for the open event which will run from June 24 to 27.

To meet Covid guidelines they will be accommodated in small numbers which they can arrange by contacting the Hepworths on 01748 822617.

Hand washing facilities and hand sanitisers will be available to ensure safety.

The garden features steps, slopes and uneven ground, so wheelchair access is limited. Parking is in the village car park or at the front of the house.

There will be guidance notices in the garden and Val and Ian will be on-hand to greet visitors and answer questions. Tea, coffee and cakes will be available for donations as well as a plant stall with proceeds going to St Teresa’s Hospice.

Val said: “We are involved in the community and have staged many events over the years. Charities really need help since the lockdown and St Teresa’s Hospice has had it really tough.”

St Teresa’s Hospice needs to raise £3m a year to provide free in-patient and community care for people living with life-limiting illnesses and their families in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.

The pandemic saw countless fundraising events cancelled and its charity shops forced to close because of lockdown regulations.

An emergency appeal, launched at the start of the pandemic, is still running and donations can be made at

A grade II* listed building, Manor House enjoys a rich history. An early 17th Century farmhouse on the site of a medieval home, reputedly linked by an underground passage to Easby Abbey, folklore suggests that stone for the abbey was quarried there.

The quarry was subsequently laid out as a garden by Miss Evelyn Ada Pease (1876-1950) from 1939 and later by her niece Dr Mary Ethelwyn Pease (1892-1981) before Val and Ian took on the task.

Miss Evelyn Pease was the youngest daughter of the Darlington MP Arthur Pease and granddaughter of Joseph Pease, one of the originators of the first railway.

During the 1st World War Miss Evelyn was commandant of the Richmond Auxiliary Hospital, while her eldest brother, Arthur Francis Pease (1866-1927), was director of the N E Railway, chairman of Pease & Partners Ltd and was created 1st baronet in 1920.

Dr Mary Ethelwyn Pease was his second child and came to live at Manor House in 1956 when she retired from medicine.

The 1½ acre gardens, sheltered by walls and hedges, features courtyard, herbaceous and mixed borders, soft fruit and the quarry garden, known as The Dell. There is also a pond, shrubs, bulbs and perennials, leading to ‘The Glade’, with some newly planted trees and shrubs, and ‘The Valley’, which was originally the sunken track leading from the quarry. There is a terraced shrub rose garden, ornamental trees and a conservatory/greenhouse.

“The gardens have a lovely vibe and we hope as many people as possible book a visit,” said Val, the lead trustee for the Yorkshire Gardens Trust’s conservation group.

St Teresa’s chief executive Jane Bradshaw added: “We are so pleased that Val and Ian have decided to help us out this way by opening their wonderful gardens to the public for four days.

“As we strive to recover from the pandemic their help is really appreciated.”