Bridge of Allan Garden Diaries, 1862 – 1921

The recent good weather has seen everyone get out into their gardens and enjoy the sunshine so the ‘Document of the Month’ for June is two garden diaries that we hold at the Archives.

The Archives is very lucky to have these planting diaries for gardens in Bridge of Allan. The oldest one is for the garden at ‘Coneypark’, 121 Henderson Street and appears to have been kept by a succession of gardeners working at that property. The other volume was kept by John Bruce, Gardener at the Allan Park Hotel and Mineral Well in Bridge of Allan.

The diary for ‘Coneypark’ 121 Henderson Street has a front section in which the gardener has carefully drawn plans of the various areas of the gardens which were then annotated with details of plantings and yields over several years.

This plan shows the walled garden areas with the various fruit trees that were planted over the years with notes on the type of fruits, flavours and how good the harvests were over a number of years.

There are also a number of detailed plans of the drainage arrangements for the various areas of the garden, drainage being a very important factor in garden planning.

The rest of the diary is arranged by year. Here is the section for March to May 1868, 150 years ago, showing what the Gardener was planting, how the plants were growing and other jobs he was doing around the garden such as grass mowing and fence building.

Coneypark was built in the early Victorian period in a Jacobean style. The house was extended around 1914 and the plans for that extension are held at the Archives as part of the Bridge of Allan Burgh collection.

The diary for the gardens at the Allan Water Hotel in Bridge of Allan kept by John Bruce consists of entries by date for the years 1920 and 1921. As well as being the Gardener at the Hotel, John Bruce looked after the mineral well in Bridge of Allan at this time and lived in the cottage at the Mine Well

John Bruce makes a note of the weather and all of the jobs that he does around the gardens including notes of what he was planting. Both vegetables and flowers were grown and it is interesting to note that he was growing melons in the ‘melon bed’, along with the usual potatoes, turnips and peas and other vegetables we are accustomed to see in Scottish gardens. Details of flowers and shrubs planted are also given in the diary.

The entries shown are for April, May and June 1920 and 1921 to show what John Bruce was doing in the Hotel garden at this time and what the weather was like in Bridge of Allan around 90 years ago. The volume was given to us by John Bruce’s Great Nephew, who used to visit Mr Bruce with his mother when he was a boy.

The Allan Water Hotel was built as a hydropathic hotel between 1861 and 1864, taking advantage of the spa nearby to offer accommodation and health treatments in luxurious surroundings. The Hotel had beautiful grounds and gardens and is now a listed building. The Allan Water Hotel was converted into flats in the late 1970s and is now known as Allanwater Apartments.