Once home to generations of the aristocracy, Birmingham’s Grade II* listed Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens are now surviving on a “hand to mouth existence”, trustees behind the land have warned.
With dwindling numbers of volunteers and funding from Birmingham City Council cut completely, the heritage site could soon become another victim of the age of austerity.
David Bennett, vice-chairman of the management committee, said funding from Solihull Council had also dropped by 10 per cent to £45,000 this year.
Any further cutbacks would leave the gardens “dead in the water”, he claimed.
“We lost all of Birmingham’s funding last year and, of course, we’ve had a 10 per cent cut in our Solihull funding this year,” he said.
“That pays for the paid staff, which is two or three gardeners and a lady in the office. Without that core funding, the place is dead in the water.
“We always get support from other charities and they are all suffering so charities that have funds to dispense have got less than they had.”
Financial pressures have also meant the trust is more reliant on volunteers to keep up the painstaking restoration of the garden to its original Baroque style.
The 10-acre walled gardens strives only to include plants and flowers available in 1680 to 1762, when the estate was owned by the Bridgeman family.
The last resident was Lady Ida Bridgeman, Dowager Countess of Bradford, who lived at the hall until her death in 1936 and was often visited by Queen Mary.
While the trust has maintained the grounds since 1985, it does not own the hall, which was originally built for Sir Edward Devereux in 1599.
Mr Bennett said the charity was desperate to recruit more people to carry on the work of the current 130-strong team and keep the gardens open.
“We need more manpower in the gardens, and we would like more members,” he continued.
“Some of the volunteers spend one afternoon working in the coffee shop and some of them just do car park duty. We have probably 15 or 20 volunteer gardeners.
“The problem is they are getting older and can therefore do less, and there are fewer of them. We have great difficulty attracting youngsters.”
Mr Bennett said new members could learn valuable skills including gardening, carpentry and teaching from the current group.
There is also a programme of special events for members of the public to enjoy the gardens including a rare plant fair on Sunday, May 1.
He urged people to get involved to save the gardens, which has 12,000 visitors a year as well as school tours.
“It’s a historic garden - it’s a haven of peace. Like all heritage sites, once they are gone, they are gone and we can’t re-create it again.”
The trust is looking for anyone who can help with the visitor centre, DIY, coffee shop and special events, as well as guides, gardeners, car park attendants and receptionists.
*For more information contact the Castle Bromwich Hall and Gardens Trust on 0121 749 4100 or visit www.cbhgt.org.uk.