Barnsley Gardens, A Bittersweet Love Story

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Adairsville, Georgia and toured the hauntingly beautiful, Barnsley Gardens with two good friends. I’d been there before, but it was many, years ago. The story of Barnsley Gardens is a bittersweet one.

From the Barnsley website online:
“Behind Barnsley Gardens Resort’s storybook setting is a true story filled with as many twists and turns as a work of fiction. The original manor, called Woodlands, was an estate built by a man—Godfrey Barnsley—for the love of his life, his wife Julia. Godfrey Barnsley began construction on his Italianate villa in the 1840’s in the north Georgia foothills, on land that had once been inhabited by the Cherokee Indians.

Godfrey Barnsley

Julia Barnsely

Both the home and its elaborate gardens were formed by the work of Andrew Jackson Downing, a pioneering landscape designer and proponent of Italianate and gothic revival architecture. Julia never saw the completed home, as she fell ill and passed away.

Through the years, the estate has witnessed much history and intrigue, including the Civil War. Today, it emerges as an award-winning destination resort, welcoming guests into a uniquely historic landscape that still echoes with the vision of Godfrey Barnsley.

Below are some historical highlights. To learn more, visit the Barnsley Museum, which is open daily. There you will hear fascinating stories of love, loss and even murder compiled by Barnsley’s Historian and Museum Director, Clent Coker.

• 1824 Godfrey Barnsley comes to America from Liverpool, England. He becomes one of the 10 most affluent men in the South through the shipping business and cotton trade.
• 1828 Barnsley weds Julia Scarborough of Savannah.
• 1840s Barnsley purchases some 4,000 acres of Northwest Georgia land to build Julia a grand mansion.
• 1845 Sadly, Julia, mother of six, dies of a lung ailment and Barnsley ceases construction of the estate.
• 1846 Barnsley returns to the estate and Julia’s spirit appears to him in the formal garden, instructing him to finish the estate for their children and future generations.
• 1848 The estate and gardens of Woodlands are eventually completed, with gardens modeled after the architectural designs of Andrew Jackson Downing, and a luxurious manor house featuring modern plumbing, marble from Italy and France, and furnishings from around the world.
• 1861-1865 The Civil War rages. Situated directly in the path of Sherman’s advance, the estate witnesses a battle on May 18, 1864 and suffers irreparably during occupation of troops commanded by U.S. Gen. James McPherson.
• 1906 A tornado damages the home, tearing away the roof.
• 1906-1942 Descendents of Godfrey and Julia occupy the estate until it is auctioned in 1942. The gardens and manor house fall into disrepair.
• 1988 Prince Hubertus Fugger purchases the estate, reviving and expanding the Historic Gardens so that more than 200 varieties of roses thrive. The remains of the Manor House Ruins are restored and Barnsley Gardens Resort is born.
• 1991 Barnsley Gardens opens to the public as a historical gardens and museum.

Today Barnsley is a new kind of resort destination, with luxurious cottages, world-class amenities, attentive service and quiet serenity. Amenities include an 18-hole championship golf course, three restaurants, the Outpost and a full-service spa.”

This is the view as you’re walking toward the ruins of the beautiful manor home. Do you see it there in the distance?

The home is more visible now. This is such a gorgeous area…truly beautiful!

Sad that this is all that’s left…

Here’s what it looked like in 1890 before the roof was ripped off by a tornado and the house began to fall into ruin…

And here it is today…

They were setting up for a wedding scheduled later that evening. You’ll see a lot of tables, chairs, lanterns, etc…. in preparation for the wedding.

Hauntingly beautiful…

Here’s where the wedding will take place…

An actual wedding at Barnsley…pic is from the Barnsley Garden website…so romantic…

Not a lot was blooming in the perennial garden this day….

I’d like to go back again later in the season to see what might be blooming then…

Do you see the headstone off to the right? That belongs to Colonel Earle who is buried in the back garden behind the home. He was a good friend of Godfrey’s and he was killed riding to the home to warn the family of approaching northern soliders. Mourning his friend, Godfrey buried him behind the manor home.

Many believe Barnsley Gardens is haunted…you can read more about that HERE and HERE.

Looking out what would have been the front door…

Let’s go down and get a closer look at the boxwood parterre gardens…

There’s a huge fountain in the center…you can just barely see it in this pic. A lot of the ghostly sighting have taken place in this garden.

This pic is taken from the Barnsley Garden site…it shows the fountain in the parterre garden.

If you travel to Barnsley Gardens (now a 5 star resort) and wish to stay overnight, you will most likely stay in one of these darling English styled cottages. They line narrow little streets in sort of a mini-village on the resort. They are really cute and are all very different in appearance.

More information about Barnsley Garden is available in a book by Clent Coker,
Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands and at the Barnsley Gardens Resort website.

Bonus Pics:

A friend who went on the Barnsley trip sent along a few additional pics to share. Thanks, Ed…

The parterre gardens and fountain:

Mom and Dad swan with their baby, sooo cute!

Have a wonderful weekend!

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  1. Blue Artichoke Interiors says

    Wow! That is gorgeous and what a wonderful place to be married. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Donna @ The House on the Corner says

    So beautiful!! Thank you so much for the story ~ you really know how to make your readers feel like they are there with you. I would love to visit here one day.

  3. Graceful Moments says

    Well, I see you were up our way visiting this lovely place. I live not too far from there. They have done a wonderful job of restoring the gardens and making this a great place for all sorts of events, year round.
    Great post and beautiful photographs!

  4. Tara@JustDevineStyle says

    What an amazing story. I love the history it looks like a lovely place. That is one thing about the west coast we don't have near as many historical sites and amazing stories. Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

  5. What a wonderful place and photos. I loved the story of this magical places' history – so romantic and sad.

    Thankyou so much for sharing with us all.

  6. Olive Cooper says

    Thanks bunches. I reside in Georgia and could easily visit this historic site.

  7. This looks like a great place! Too bad the house couldn't be saved!

  8. How interesting! Sad and sweet at the same time.

    Thank you for taking us along.

    From Virginia

  9. Cranberry Morning says

    I love stories like this. Even the remnants of the original are so beautiful!

  10. Such a gorgeous place, and how sad that it has fallen into disrepair. I love that it is a wedding site.

  11. What a beautiful place, but it seems so sad. I'm glad they have refurbished the gardens and are having events there.


  12. Mom on the Run says

    It's such a beautiful wedding venue….if we didn't live two blocks away from the Marietta Garden Center, I'd make the girls have "destination" weddings there!

    Also, thanks for your Met Monday parties. I've had great fun unveiling my seven month saga of redecorating all the public areas of the house one by one!

  13. It looks very beautiful for a ruin. Wow.
    I am glad it is put to good use.

  14. It looks very beautiful for a ruin. Wow.
    I am glad it is put to good use.

  15. Glenda/MidSouth says

    Thanks for the tour. I enjoyed reading the history behind it all.

  16. Katie@LeBeauPaonVictorien says

    Even though the house is gone and not much remains, it's still beautiful and breathtaking! And the spirit of the place seems to live on…..amazing! I like the arbor where they have weddings, but I think a wedding inside the ruins of the house would look amazing as well!

  17. My Ugly Garden says

    What a lovely place. It seems to me, several years ago, I saw this place featured on one of those haunted travel shows. It was said that Godfrey and Julia could be seen walking in the boxwood garden together. I will have to take a drive up to see these beautiful gardens next time I visit my folks in Atlanta. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos.


  18. Sherry @ No Minimalist Here says

    I visited years ago and thought the ruins and gardens were beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
    xo, Sherry

  19. Susan, I was not familiar with Barnsley Gardens and appreciate you sharing its story. It is both sad and sweet at the same time. And what a lovely venue for weddings. I will make plans to visit now that I know about it.

  20. Hi Susan…Loved your garden photos and the swans, too. Why can't some group rebuild that fabulous mansion? That's a shame it's in disrepair. It could be so GORGEOUS! Thanks so much for sharing. Take care. Sincerely, Susan

  21. lifeinredshoes says

    Sad story, but even though it has fallen into a state of disrepair, it is hauntingly beautiful.

  22. Susan, even in ruins this home is a lovely place. What a romantic venue for a wedding. Thanks for sharing your trip with all of us. ~ Sarah

  23. Wow Susan…this is beautiful! Thank you for sharing the pictures and history of this place.
    I enjoyed your post today…as usual.

  24. What a lovely place for a wedding! Such a shame that the home couldn't be restored, but a wonderful story. Thanks for taking us along!! XO, Pinky

  25. The Catnap Cottage says

    Yes, it is a lovely place with an intriguing past. I live very near Barnsley and visit their spa frequently. My favorite place is inside the bamboo forest they have – it is magical! Glad I stumbled on your blog! 🙂

  26. tales from an oc cottage says

    Oh what a cool place for a wedding!

    m ^..^

  27. Christi @ A Southern Life says

    What a wonderful place! I love a house with a story!

    Christi @ A Southern Life

  28. Hi Susan~ thanks so much for sharing this beautiful place…what a setting for a wedding! I look forward to reading more~ I am a new follower!

  29. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Linda…thanks so much and welcome! 🙂

  30. I enjoyed the story though really sad. How tragic to see a once beautiful house looking like that….Christine

  31. Thank you for all of those beautiful pictures! And, the historical background! I'm up in the Northwest, and we finally had 2 days in a row of sunshine. Fantastic post to happen upon, I was totally in the mood to see the sunshine and beautiful wedding. 🙂

  32. I DON'T LIVE VERY FAR FROM B.Gardens I haven't been there in years but went on a tour when they started to make numerous changes. it's beautiful. have a good day. Rose

  33. Kelee Katillac says

    So romantic! I might want to get married again there!

  34. It seems to me that true romance is often mingled with great tragedy. That's certainly the case with the story you've shared today.

    What a hauntingly beautiful place! It's wonderful that it's open to the public and being used for weddings and other special events.
    Thank you, Susan, for taking us along! Just another reason to visit BNOTP faithfully! Always fascinating to follow your adventures and share in the inspiration you provide!

    Hope you have a great week!

  35. Dreamy beautiful!

  36. What a wonderful post. I've been to a wedding at Barnsley. You're right, it is a little sad and at the same time absolutely beautiful. Nice pictures of the ruins.

  37. Dear Susan, what a lovely place. So romantic. And makes a gorgeous background for a romantic wedding. Very touching story, too.
    Greetings, Johanna

  38. Hauntingly beautiful is right! What a gorgeous enchanting place! I'm glad that I took Vicki's advice from "Graceful Moments" to stop over and have a peek. Wonderful post! Love Di ♥

  39. dixie warner says

    For seven years I lived in nearby Rome, Ga. After moving back to Texas, I made it my mission to take my girls back to Rome for a visit. Of course I had to take them to visit Barnsley Gardens… I have so many beautiful photos of the ruins, gardens, and lake with the swans… it is truly a beautiful place… I wish someone had rebuilt the house, but then, it would have removed the mystic of whole place.

    • I know, I was so sad the first time I visited and found out the house was more or less gone. But you’re right…it does ad to the mystic. I’m glad there are at least photos of how it once looked. It is a beautiful area!

  40. Barnsley Gardens is absolutely beautiful any time of the year, but it’s just stunning in the spring when all the the azaleas, tulips and jonquils are in full bloom. Walking the grounds of Barnsley in the spring is a heavenly experience. It’s one of my favorite places! Thanks so much for all the wonderful photos, and for bringing back so many nice memories!

  41. Judy Marlow says

    Thanks for the lovely tour. I remember visiting there with friends from Rome, GA. If I remember right we ate in a restaurant there.

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