Home > About York Gate Heritage Project

About York Gate Heritage Project

National Lottery Heritage Fund logo

York Gate Garden was created between 1951 and 1994 by one family, Frederick and Sybil Spencer, and their son Robin. They had no formal training in horticulture but in their spare time, turned one acre of farmland in Adel, Leeds, into a beautiful Arts and Crafts style garden. Since the death of Sybil Spencer, the garden has been in the care of Perennial.

The York Gate  Heritage Project was the result of a grant made, in 2016, to Perennial by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project aimed to research the history of York Gate and the Spencer family, and to investigate their significance in the history of gardens as a whole. An archive was created to catalogue and conserve items belonging to the family, and a digital archive to make them easily accessible.

The project has been carried out by volunteers. An exhibition showing the story of York Gate can be seen in the 300 year old former Stables.

York Gate Heritage Exhibition

This material and much more is available to be viewed in the four Collections within this digital archive: Family History, Fred Spencer’s Journals, Oral Histories and Garden History, in addition a book “Heritage of York Gate” by Val Crompton is available to purchase*.

*Unfortunately this book is currently out of print

York Gate Heritage Project – Family History

Accounts of research, carried out by a volunteer, into the Family Histories of Frederick Spencer and his wife Sybil (née) Armitage. 

Photographs and documents which complement this research can be found in the Spencer and Armitage Family Photographs Collection (click here to go to this Collection), and the Family Documents Collection (click here).


York Gate Heritage Project – The Journals of Frederick Spencer

Four journals kept by Frederick Spencer between 1939 and 1963, which are in the care of Leeds University Special Collections, have been photographed and transcribed by two volunteers for this project. They start in wartime, and record both national and international events and also his personal and family life. Later journals describe the purchase of York Gate and the early years of the garden’s development. Click here to view them.


York Gate Heritage Project – Oral Histories

The Oral History volunteers set out to find people who knew the Spencer Family, or who visited York Gate in their lifetime.  They recorded interviews with them, to capture a permanent record of their memories. Extracts from written transcripts can be found here. Audio files of the full interviews and transcripts can be found here.


York Gate Heritage Project – Garden History

A group of volunteers have researched the history of the creation of York Gate Garden by the Spencer Family, including their methodology and influences, and also the significance of their work within the history of gardening as a whole. Click here to view their findings.