The Manor of Bicton was originally known as Buckinton. It was land granted to John Janitor by Henry I for his services at Exeter Castle. The estate passed through several families before being sold to Sir Robert Denys who enclosed a deer park and re-built the house. His daughter married Sir Henry Rolle and the property became inherited by the Rolle family.
During the period that the Rolle family owned Bicton, many of the features that we can see today were developed. In 1957 Bicton House, the lake and Home Farm were sold to Devon County Council for use as an agricultural and horticultural college and in 1961 the decision was made to restore the existing gardens to their former glory after neglect during the war years. It was two years later that the gardens first opened to the public. The woodland railway was created as both an attraction, now that a Manor House no longer provided a feature, and also an interesting way for visitors to view the gardens and get to the Hermitage summer house at the far end of the grounds. In 1986 Bicton was given to a charitable trust.
Today the 63 acre, Grade 1 listed gardens are owned and run by Simon and Valerie Lister who bought the Bicton in 1998. The main attractions are still preserved and the gardens look as great as ever.
Photograph: The Gardens in the early 1960's. ©Jarrold & Sons Ltd.