About

I am an environmental and medical historian focusing on post 1750 Britain at Newcastle University. My recent Wellcome Fellowship, The Garden as a Laboratory, merged the history of medicine, health and science, with that of the landscape and environment. The research from this will be published as a monograph, The Doctor’s Garden: Medicine, Science and Horticulture in Late Georgian Britain by Yale University Press in autumn 2021.

Other areas of expertise include the design and use of nineteenth and twentieth-century English hospital and asylum gardens, cold bathing as a healthy activity in the eighteenth-century landscape garden and the role of medical practitioners in the Victorian parks movement. By examining the creation and use of green and blue spaces in relation to changing medical concepts, my research crosses the disciplinary boundaries of medical history, landscape history and history of science.

I am also developing sensory history projects on the role of pine scent in health and wellbeing, and birds as co-producers of sensory spaces in hospital settings. Another new strand is the history of walking and path making in twentieth century Britain in relation to gender, health and diversity, which I am developing with colleagues at Oxford Brookes and Exeter Universities.

Before arriving at Newcastle in 2019, I was a Senior Lecturer in History at the University Chester, a Wellcome Fellow in Medical History & Humanities at King’s College London (2013-15) and a Research Fellow on the Leverhulme funded Historic Parks & Gardens of England project at the University of Bristol (2007-2012). I have also worked as a museum assistant, writer and editor for Usborne publishing and as a Research Facilitator for Oxford University.

I am also currently leading two networks:

One funded by the AHRC with Sarah Bell of Exeter University is Unlocking Landscapes Network: History, Culture and Sensory Diversity in Landscape Use and Decision Making (2020-2022). This network is being shaped by a project steering group, including colleagues from Exeter and Bristol Universities, Historic England, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the Sensory Trust, Sense, and Natural Inclusion. By bringing together academics, practitioners and policy makers, ‘Unlocking Landscapes’ will bridge traditional policy silos. We aim to complement management and decision-making approaches that foreground biodiversity with a focus on human diversity. Through the network, we will consider the complex ways in which landscapes become meaningful to diverse individuals and groups through their senses, personal memories and shared histories.

The other network is funded by the Wellcome Trust, ‘MedEnv: Intersections in Medical and Environmental Humanities’ (2020-2022) with colleagues at Liverpool and Bristol Universities. Our ambition is to lead research in this field from an historically-informed humanities standpoint and to develop future research collaborations to consider the rich nature of human and non-human interrelationships and their impact on health and wellbeing. 

Pine Fresh: From the Therapeutic Pine Forest to Toilet Duck

Edward Lear, 1812–1888, British, A View of the Pine Woods Above Cannes, 1869 (Watercolour and gumming with pen in brown and blue ink, and scraping out, over graphite on thick, rough, cream wove paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection) We have all come across pine as a scent used in everything from … Continue reading

Peevish bees

John Hunter, known for his surgery and his legacy in the form of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, also conducted other botanical and natural history experiments as recorded within his letters and published articles. Notable examples which were conducted in his garden at Earl’s Court, and include an attempt to culture … Continue reading

William Curtis and the London Botanic Garden

The first challenge with any new research project is working out exactly where to start. I knew three things about the apothecary, William Curtis (1746-1799): 1. He was plant demonstrator at the Chelsea Physic Garden. 2.He had a botanic garden in London. 3. He was the instigator of a popular journal which became known as … Continue reading

Guest feature for the VAHS blog

I have written a piece for the wonderful Voluntary Action History Society blog on the C19th National Healthy Society and their interest in green open spaces. You can read about it here… For our March feature, Clare Hickman of King’s College London writes for us on the National Health Society. She explains how this association of doctors and … Continue reading

Putting history in its place – Lichfield

Anyone who has been schooled in the dark arts of garden history by Professor Timothy Mowl will be aware of how vital it is that you visit the place on which you are working wherever possible. Sometimes this is just to get the scale of the landscape, or its relation to other features within the … Continue reading