The Heritage of York Gate Garden

In 2016 we were awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since then we have been delighting in a volunteer led research and interpretation project to capture the unique history of the house and garden, demonstrating its importance in garden history. In the final year of our project you will see the fruits of our labour emerge in and around the garden presented in various ways.


York Gate Pre-Garden
York Gate, just after its purchase by Sybil and Fred Spencer. Sybil’s horse, Moonshine, can be seen in the foreground.

When Frederick Spencer bought York Gate in Adel near Leeds in 1951, it was nothing but a house surrounded by farmland.

He laid down the bones of the garden, but after his death in 1963, it was his son Robin who took over the development and design.

Inspired by some of the outstanding gardens of the Arts & Crafts movement such as Hidcote, he created in just one acre, a garden which by the early eighties was regarded by many as one of the best small gardens in the world.

York Gate in the 1980s
The same view back to York Gate 50 years later, this time with the garden having been created and reaching maturity.

Like Hidcote, York Gate is divided up into a distinct number of ‘garden rooms’, using yew and beech hedges. What makes this garden exceptional is the exquisite detail Robin incorporated within each part, while using his great skill to unite them into a coherent whole through a continuous succession of vistas and focal points.

Robin died suddenly and prematurely in 1982 at the age of only forty-seven. For the next twelve years his mother, Sybil nurtured the garden. A gifted plantswoman, she continued to develop the fascinating plant collection, which remains today.

On Sybil Spencer’s death in 1994, York Gate garden was bequeathed to Perennial. A programme to develop areas in need of restoration is ongoing but the charity will continue to maintain the garden in sympathy with the Spencers’ design and in accordance with Sybil Spencer’s wish that it will continue to attract visitors for both education and pleasure.

Thanks to the generous Heritage Lottery Fund grant, you can now see and hear elements of the York Gate story in our photographic exhibition, our volunteer tours, our Heritage of York Gate book, and much more. The York Gate Garden Archive has been in progress since 2016, to access our catalogue, or view any of our archive material please contact



We would like to thank everyone who visited in spring and summer 2018.


1st – 9th December 12.30pm – 4.30pm   FREE ENTRY

Enjoy free entry to the garden, with festive treats in the tea room, seasonal gift shop, local craft mini market, Complimentary mulled wine and Christmas cake, heritage tours, and craft demonstrations.


Our next open days will be in February for the snowdrop special event.

16th – 24th February 12.30pm – 4.30pm


Garden Season Spring/Summer 2019

Open between 1 April – 30 September 2019

Monday 12.30pm – 4.30pm

Tuesday 12.30pm – 4.30pm

Wednesday 12.30pm – 4.30pm

Thursday 12.30pm – 4.30pm

Friday – closed

Saturday – closed

Sunday: 12.30pm – 4.30pm

Our popular Tea Room is open throughout the garden’s opening times, you can enjoy light lunches and afternoon teas, or a selection of freshly home baked cakes, including a daily gluten free choice.

Please park on Church Lane and walk through the church yard, then straight on to come out opposite the garden gate.

Visitor groups are welcome but please book first. Contact us at



York Gate Leaflet 2018