The Historic Gardens
On completion of work on the house, Francis Place was commissioned by Thomas Barlow to landscape the garden. From the bird's-eye view of Middlethorpe drawn by Francis Place in ca. 1705, Barlow seems to have wanted a formal baroque layout of the kind he would have seen ornamenting the villas of Rome, but the flat terrain of the Vale of York made this difficult. In front of the house was an oval pond in the centre of a sunken parterr surrounded by borders. To the west of the house were two terraced walks edged by trees that had been clipped into pyramids. Statues of Barlow earles sat on top of the gates, which were set into the south garden wall. To the south east were two walled gardens - one planted as an orchard, the other containing the dovecot built in 1681 for £105 for a previous owner, Sir Henry Thompson. The dovecot was rescued from dereliction in 1980, and a new cupola was added based on tthat shown in Place's drawing.
In the mid-eighteenth century Francis Barlow deformalized the garden following the taste of the time. He replaced the south garden wall with a ha-ha - a concealed ditch which allowed views out over the sweeping lawns to the countryside beyond. He seems to have also built the ice-house, the remains of which were revealed to the north-west of the house in the 1980s.
Although the house was tenanted during much of the nineteenth century, the garden seems to have been well maintained. Certainly, there were regular campaigns of tree-planting. We can enjoy the results in the cedars and North American red oak, which are now reaching maturity.
In the 1980s the garden was restored to suggest something of its original formality. Walks were re-created with urns providing eyecatchers. Trees were planted to screen the main road. A new lake was dug at the south-east end of the garden to mitigate the periodic threat of the Ouse flooding. The ha-ha was repaired, the dovecot rebuilt and the walled gardens replanted with fruit trees, herbaceous plants and herbs.