Victorian vision, beauty and extravagance

The origins of the Larmer Tree grounds

General Pitt Rivers first created the Larmer Tree Pleasure Grounds in 1880, shortly after inheriting the Rushmore Estate. Designed as a sanctuary to enlighten, educate and inspire his estate workers and guests, he took great pride in creating a unique space to share with them.
 
Committed to carving out his own path, both in land and in life, General Pitt Rivers was the first in the UK to open his privately owned gardens to the general public. By 1899, the Larmer Tree Pleasure Grounds were welcoming over 44,000 visitors a year.
 
The Singing Theatre was used for plays and poetry recitals, while the field adjoining the gardens was transformed into a racecourse, lawn tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. Evenings saw hanging glass lamps lit with candles – also known as Vauxhall lights – illuminating the gardens for open-air dancing.

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“Quite the prettiest sight I ever saw in my life”

– British novelist and poet Thomas Hardy, 1895

How Larmer Tree got its name

Llama Tree, Larma Tree or Larmer Tree?

Larmer Tree is said to have taken its name from a 10th century wych-elm tree on the grounds. First spelt ‘Lavermere’ (‘Laver’ originating from the Anglo Saxon word ‘laur’ meaning ‘laurel’ and ‘mere’ meaning boundary), the tree’s placement later indicated Parish and County boundary lines.

Rooted in history, looking to the future

A new generation

Fast-forward to the present day and Larmer Tree continues to be enjoyed by visitors from Wiltshire, Dorset and beyond. Its magnificent gardens and beautifully restored historic buildings make for a popular attraction, artistic events space and award-winning luxury wedding venue with accommodation.

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Map of the grounds

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Timeless

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Wedding & Events Venue Manger

Meet the team

Amy Reid

Wedding & Event Coordinator

Lauren Griffiths

Wedding & Event Coordinator

Francesca Bethell

The Gardens Team

Head Gardener

Paul King

Gardener

Steve Condick

Housekeeper

Rachael Sheppard

Laura Dean Photography

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A look back on the history

The original Larmer Tree, a 10th century wych-elm tree, starts growing.

901AD-1000

King John hunts in this area many times, meeting with his huntsmen under the branches of the Larmer Tree.

1189-1216

General Augustus Lane Fox inherits what is known as the Rushmore Estate. Changes his name to General Pitt Rivers, as specified in the conditions of his inheritance.

1880

The newly named General Pitt Rivers begins creating the Larmer Tree Pleasure Gardens. Its 11-acre grounds and collection of buildings are opened to the general public.



1880

The original Larmer Tree, now rapidly decaying at this point, has an oak tree planted within its trunk.

1894

steeped in history and beauty

General Pitt Rivers passes away and the Larmer Tree gardens are closed, only opening occasionally for specific events.

1900

Michael Pitt Rivers, the General’s great grandson, sets to work restoring the Larmer Tree gardens to their former glory, including tackling the laurel-swamped gardens, building repairs and restorations.

1991

The Larmer Tree gardens reopen to the general public.

1995

Michael Pitt Rivers plants a new Larmer Tree, marking the new Millennium, shortly before his death in December 1999.

1999

Artist William Gronow-Davis, Michael’s lifelong partner, inherits the Rushmore Estate. He continues Michael’s conservation and restoration work of the Larmer Tree grounds.

2000

the magic of Larmer Tree

65ft folly

William Gronow-Davis builds a 65ft folly at Larmer Tree. It’s the tallest folly to be built in England for 100 years

2009

William Gronow-Davis passes away

2015

Anthony Pitt-Rivers succeeds William Gronow-Davis as head of the family.

2015

Anthony Pitt-Rivers hands Larmer Tree and the Rushmore Estate over to William Fox-Pitt as head of the family. William, along with his wife Alice, are passionate about continuing the General’s work in maintaining the magic of the Larmer Tree for future generations to enjoy. 

2023

The first Larmer Tree Festival takes place

1990

The first End of the Road festival takes place, which continues annually at the gardens.

2006

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