IN 1927 some 609 gardens “of quality and interest” were opened up to the public for a shilling per head.

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The programme was launched as a fundraiser for the Queen’s Nursing Institute and was designed to celebrate “gardening and giving”.

Now 85 years on and the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) is still running.

It is celebrated its latest anniversary by presenting Hatfield House with a commemorative plaque to “acknowledge and celebrate” the Salisbury family’s contribution made to the NGS over the years.

On May 28 1927, their West Garden was chosen as the first ever park in the scheme.

It was then followed by many others including Hertfordshire’s St Paul’s Walden Bury in Whitwell and Benington Lordship just outside Stevenage.

A spokeswoman for the scheme said: “Since 1927, NGS has grown to become the single largest benefactor for not only the Queen’s Nursing Institute, but also Macmillan, Marie Curie and Help The Hospices. Other beneficiaries of the NGS include Cross Roads Care, Perennial (The Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Fund) and the National Trust.

“Hatfield House, ancestral home of The Marquis of Salisbury, opened its gates to the public on May 28, 1927 and set in motion this great charitable tradition.”

Lady Salisbury said: “It’s a great honour and pleasure to be giving this plaque and we also want to say thank you to the gardeners who have made a success of this garden.”

Hertfordshire-based NGS gardens raised £63,753 in 2011 and this year there will be 70 garden openings across the county – ranging from small cottage gardens to urban spaces, formal estate gardens to woodland walks.

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