Where Is Misselthwaite Manor from 'The Secret Garden' located?

Cover illustration of 'The Secret Garden' first edition, published by Frederick A. Stokes Company in 1911, via the Library of Congress. 

Mistress Mary Lennox, Quite Contrary traveled twice by sea to get to the Eeyorish home that is Misselthwaite Manor: first over the oceans from India, then over the moors in Britain.

"It's not the sea, is it?" she asks Mrs. Medlock about the vast emptiness of the English moors on her approach to the fictional house. 

The last two of the four movie adaptations of Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden" kept it close to the source material and were filmed near the famous North York Moors in Yorkshire, England. (There is incidentally a village named Thwaite in the Yorkshire Dales.) 

The latest one, released in 2020, had Duncombe Park as its location for Misselthwaite Manor. As in the novel, the opulent home sits on vast parkland, estimated to take up as much as 300 acres (120 hectares), on the edge of the moors near the civil parish of Helmsley. The house, built in 1713, sits in a nature reserve with a large collection of birds of prey. 

For the 1993 version, the Misselthwaite Manor location was another Yorkshire moors neighbour: Allerton Castle in the village of Allerton Mauleverer. While the garden itself was a $180,000-soundstage in England's Pinewood Studios (in addition to filming locations like Fountains Abbey), Allerton Castle posed inside out as the manor in the Maggie Smith starrer. 

The current Tudor-gothic revival home came about in the 1840s after extensive remodeling of the original Georgian structure for owner Lord Mowbray. Like Misselthwaite, Allerton was an "immensely long" house, as Mary would say. 

Allerton Castle (above) as Misselthwaite Manor in 'The Secret Garden' 1993 (below). Photo above taken by Graham Hogg

It appears that the 1949 "Secret Garden" was shot at the MGM studios, as was typical for flicks of the era. But the next adaptation, made for TV by Hallmark, was shot on location in a castle familiar to many binge watchers today. 

From Downton Abbey to Misselthwaite Manor, Highclere Castle has played many 'characters.' Taken by Gary Bembridge with Sony DSC-HX200V

Yes, they filmed Misselthwaite Manor in Highclere Castle for the 1987 version (which shares Colin Firth with the 2020 version). Better known today as the fictional "Downton Abbey," Highclere evolved, like Allerton, from a much older building and was built in its current style in the 1840s. The property changed hands between the sixth and seventh earls of Carnarvon around the time of the movie production. 

Ninety years earlier, Burnett became a tenant in what scholars regard today as Misselthwaite Manor in real life: Great Maytham Hall in Kent, almost 290 miles south of the moors (but just a two-hour drive from Highclere Castle). 

Great Maytham Hall as seen from the High Weald Landscape Trail in Kent, England. Taken with a Kodak DX4530 by Davis Anstiss

For the next 10 years or so, Frances imagined Mary, Colin and Dickon frolicking in the country house's bramble- and ivy-ridden garden. She was led to this garden by a robin, much like her fictional character. 

The Great Maytham Hall garden (above, taken by Stephen Nunney) in Rolvenden Layne, Kent inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett to write 'The Secret Garden' 

She only started writing the novel in the US, specifically at her Plandome, Long Island mansion. First serialized in "The American Magazine," the story was compiled into a book by F. A. Stokes Company and published in 1911.

It's probably a reach to call her American home Misselthwaite Manor IRL, but hey, the "whole world is a garden," she says so herself.


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