The Clinton-Baker Pinetum at Bayfordbury

Report of a talk given to the Society on 28 June 2016 by Dr Edward Eastwood, Curator.

By Joyce Bunting

First published in Newsletter 129, August 2016

Photo:General view

General view

Clinton-Baker pinetum website

Dr Eastwood explained that a pinetum is a collection of pine trees. Only three species of conifer are indigenous to Britain: Scots Pine, Yew and Juniper. However, the 4 hectare pinetum at Bayfordbury, south of Hertford, contains over 170 species from all over the world.

Photo:Giant Redwood

Giant Redwood

Clinton-Baker pinetum website

Among these are the largest Larch tree in Britain, some splendid Redwoods, and two sapling Wollemi Pines from Australia.

The site is of exceptional historic interest, being listed in the ‘Register of Historic Parks and Gardens’ as Grade II*.


Photo:History of the development of the esta

History of the development of the esta

Clinton-Baker pinetum website

The Pinetum was once part of the Bayfordbury Estates purchased by Sir William Baker, a prosperous City of London draper, in 1755. From the first, the Baker family had a love of gardening and especially arboriculture. 
According to the Estate Diary, the site was first planted with a group of ‘firs’ in 1767. Then in 1837, the year that Queen Victoria came to the throne, Sir William’s grandson, William Robert Baker, developed the site more formally.  The word ‘pinetum’ had come into being by this date.  He planned it in collaboration with John Claudius Loudon, the famous landscape gardener. In 1903, William Robert Baker’s grandson Henry succeeded to the estates and conducted a second major programme of planting, adding a further 60 species to the collection.

In 1945 the Bayfordbury Estates were sold off, and ownership of the Pinetum passed to the John Innes Horticultural Institute. Dr Eastwood’s pictures showed the remains of sheds and tanks still standing where John Innes compost was once made. In 1967, Hertfordshire County Council purchased the estate, to be used by the (then) Hatfield College of Technology and others. In 1992 Hertfordshire University became the owner.

The restoration project

At that time the Pinetum was overgrown with elder, nettles, bracken and brambles as well as self-seeded deciduous trees. The hurricane of 1987 had damaged or brought down many trees. In 1994 Dr Eastwood became curator, responsible for implementing a restoration project based on volunteer labour and gifted capital. The Worshipful Livery Company of Carpenters donated £60,000 to get the project started and a further £30,000 as the work progressed. They visit the site every year.

Photo:Plan of the site

Plan of the site

Clinton-Baker pinetum website

Dr Eastwood persuaded trespassers in the wood - people who loved to be there for recreational purposes – to give time and energy to the project. Restoration and conservation is now carried out by the Friends' Association, with around 250 members drawn from the local area and further afield in Hertfordshire. Working parties number about 8 people every Wednesday and 12-15 on one Saturday each month.

In 2005 The International Conifer Conservation Organisation of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh recognized the Pinetum as a ‘safe site’ and sent twelve rare trees. Specimens from other tree preservation institutions have been added in recent years.

Dr Eastwood explained that improvements include not only the replenishment and maintenance of the conifer collection but restoration of the original landscape features. These include a winter bourn, a grotto, a viewing mound and woodland paths. Open spaces provide lovely vistas with wild flower meadows and wildlife habitats - benefits for future generations. Open days and courses take place at the Pinetum. The land is privately owned, but visits may be arranged.

Dr Eastwood, formerly a Lecturer in Environmental Biology and Natural History, is a resident of Harpenden.


Contact: or write to:

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Clinton-Baker Pinetum at Bayfordbury' page

Clinton-Baker pinetum website

Dr E Eastwood, Curator
c/o University of Hertfordshire
Bayfordbury Campus
Lower Hatfield Road
SG13 8LD

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