HISTORY OF WEMYSS CASTLE GARDENS
There is little record of the development of Wemyss prior to the 17th Century, but in these grim times of feuding and quests for personal power Wemyss Castle remained a defensive building with no apparent desire for aesthetics beyond the castle walls.
By the late 17th century, afforded by wealth founded on coal and salt, the family extended their home and laid the beginnings of a designed landscape with formal enclosed gardens and wooded parkland. These are recorded in a painting by the Dutch artist Jan van Sypen c.1720.
Subsequent custodians of Wemyss - many drawn away from their home as soldiers and sailors - halted further development of the parkland for much of the next century.
In 1790 General Wemyss employed Walter Nicol son of the Head Gardener at neighbouring Raith Estate to improve his walled garden. Nicol set to work with lavish plans for heated walls, pineapple and mushroom houses, with the intent to provide stone fruit in almost every month of the year.
The price of this attempt at one-upmanship was said to be 100 tons of coal per annum which even to a coal owner seemed excessive and Nicol was soon asked to find other employment. Nicol’s experience at Wemyss was formative and led to a succession of treatises on gardening including The Gardeners Kalendar (1810) and The Scotch Forcing Gardener (1797).
The walled garden continued to be cultivated extensively by subsequent generations but the advent of the First World War constrained gardening to the provision of vegetables and landscaping around the Castle. After the Second World War gardening took second place to the renovation of the Castle. On completion of the architectural work, the garden continued to produce vegetables and cut flowers for the house but was not expected to be a showplace. With a dwindling workforce the Walled Garden was effectively redundant by 1993.