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The Victorian Kitchen Garden – BBC TV 1987

10 minutes from the Introduction to Victorian Kitchen Garden.

The Victorian Kitchen Garden

The Victorian Kitchen Garden was a 13-part television series produced in 1987 for BBC Two (Must see. Mike). It recreated a kitchen garden of the Victorian era at Chilton Foliat in Wiltshire. The presenter was the horticultural lecturer, Peter Thoday, the master gardener was Harry Dodson.

Harry James Dodson (1919 – 2005) was an English gardener who became a celebrity as a result of the BBC television documentary series, which featured his professional expertise and his reminiscences.

In 1947 he was appointed head gardener at Chilton Foliat, growing flowers and vegetables for the household in an extensive walled garden, with heated greenhouses and 200 yards of cloches. By 1967, the cost of maintaining the garden had become too high for its owner. He made it over to Dodson, who ran it as a commercial nursery.

The series began in the largely derelict walled garden at Chilton on a freezing January morning and followed Harry and his assistant Alison as they recreated the working kitchen garden.

Purchase the video set here.

The work involved many repairs from replanting the Box (Buxus) edging and replacing the gravel walks to reglazing the cold-frames [2]and repairing the magnificent Victorian wood-framed, brick-based glass-houses. The team were determined to use plants that the Victorian head gardener would have had available, so there were many hours of scouring old and modern catalogues and many disappointments. But the plants were found eventually. And then there were the tools and techniques, and this was where Harry came into his own. He had used many of both and could produce many of the tools from various cobwebbed corners of the service buildings.

You can watch the first 10 minutes of every episode on YouTube. See here (right column) and choose the month starting in January.

January in the Kitchen Garden.


Harry Dodson Obiituary

Harry James Dodson, gardener: born Byfleet, Surrey 11 September 1919; married; died Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire 25 July 2005.

When England’s great houses and gardens began to disappear towards the middle of the 20th century, the career structure of their indoor and outdoor servants crumbled with them. Some head gardeners went into the horticultural industry or public parks, others took on jobbing work, while a fortunate few, such as Fred Streeter and Percy Thrower, found their niche on radio and television.

It was not until Harry Dodson was in his mid-sixties that he, too, became a media personality. In 1947, aged only 28, he had been appointed head gardener at Chilton Foliat, on the Berkshire/ Wiltshire border, growing flowers and vegetables for the household in an extensive walled garden, with heated greenhouses and 200 yards of cloches (which he later increased to 400 yards). But, by 1967, the cost of maintaining the garden had become too high for its owner, Lt-Col John Ward. He made it over to Dodson, who ran it as a commercial nursery.

See the complete article here.


1 David G { 12.06.10 at 3:41 pm }

I’ve managed to watch a few of these via YouTube, and they are delightful – a precursor to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.

I wish they were available in Canada….

2 mike jones { 03.13.11 at 4:10 pm }

Harry Dobson has been the benchmark of standarsI’ev try to follow ! thank you Harry Dobson

3 methyl { 04.20.11 at 8:37 pm }

I just ordered these from and they run on my mac in the USA without problem with encoding (you don’t have to change DVD regions at all) by using the application VLC: The application is free and works on windows and mac osx. They are delightful!

4 bruce { 10.29.11 at 1:47 pm }

Thank you so much methyl.

5 Kilometres { 11.27.11 at 5:29 am }

My mum is the above mentioned Alison.
does anyone know who owns the garden now??

6 Ian Mowat { 01.30.12 at 11:43 am }

I first heard about the victorian kitchen garden 4 years ago anmd ordered the dvd. I watch it regularly and try to follow Harrys methods where possible. He is like an uncle to me although i never met the man. Sadly he is no longer with us.I wish there was more like him.

7 Stephen { 01.01.13 at 4:05 pm }

I was lucky enough have had some correspondence with Harry and he was always a authoritative but kind man who always tried to be accommodating. Sadly missed but still an important part of my gardening life!

I also met Peter on a few occasions when I worked at the Eden Project in Cornwall. :)

Recent updates on Bing Maps shows the section which housed the green houses and planting area shown in the TV series has now been levelled… The end of an era, thankfully in Cornwall we have Heligan which still echoes such head gardeners as Harry.

8 Kim Bowen { 01.20.13 at 7:22 pm }

I am very disappointed that this and so many other BBC video’s have been jerked from YouTube.As of 1/20/2013. I did not know they were available on DVD before now. I love the video’s and would be glad to buy them if they were available on Amazon. US . The shipping from the UK to the US is as much as the DVD set themselves. I think the YouTube video’s were a selling point for us in the US. Now most of us will be forced to forget it and move on, leaving behind something so good. Very sad Day.

9 Dave Hodges { 04.12.13 at 3:38 am }

Hi” It was such a sad shame to of found out that Harry sadly passed away in 2005, He was my true inspiration of a first class gardener” I had the Privilage of meetin harry back in 1988 along with Assist” gardener Alison at the time” at Chilton, At the time we had a walled kitchen garden 2acres in worcestershire, But sadly due to ill health it had to be taken over by a family friend, It was in our family for over 80yrs, Well” it was a pleasure to of watched Harry on Tv”& to meet him, He will always be sadly missed in the world of Gardening, .