Garden History

At the University of Chester I teach on the MA in Past Landscapes and Environments. As well as offering introductory sessions on historic gardens & public parks, environmental history and sensory history, I also run an optional MA option, Designing British Landscapes: from Stowe to the Olympic Park. This covers a wide range of historic landscapes and explores areas such as women and gardens, the park as a public space and institutional gardens.

My background in this area comes from my time working with Professor Timothy Mowl on the Historic Gardens and Landscapes of England Project funded by the Leverhulme Trust at the University of Bristol. In 2008 we co-wrote the Historic Gardens of England: Northamptonshire. 

Northamptonshire is a county passed by, a narrow scarf thrown diagonally over the waist of the country. Consequently, travellers hurry across leaving the real county behind, happily un-touristed – a lost pre-war England. It is a hunting county, littered with lodges and forest clearings; a richer Cotswolds, multicoloured in villages with dark, golden iron and oolitic silver limestone. Here is our native Da Vinci Code mystery in the crowded recusant symbolism of Rushton’s Triangular Lodge, next to the most sinister of cold baths, sunken in a shadowy grove of springs.

Stoke Park’s twin garden temples are Michelangelesque designs, worked up in faithful proxy by Inigo Jones: the most perfect High Renaissance pavilions in Britain or even in Italy. Nothing at Kew equals the sultry orchidaceous poetry of the domed Palm House in the Italian Garden at Castle Ashby, poised above a deep octagonal fish pool. Thanks to the inspired initiative of Gervase Jackson-Stops, an imaginative Rococo-style maze of vistas and classical and Gothick pastiche has grown up around his restored Georgian Menagerie at Horton. In another contemporary response, that sad loop of islanded waters with Princess Diana’s temple at Althorp has become a garden Lourdes to her memory, peopled each day by pilgrims to royal nostalgia.

Other writing on historic gardens

2011 ‘Guinea Gardens, Allotments and a Public Park’ in Historic Gardens of Warwickshire by Tim Mowl and Diane James (Bristol: Redcliffe Press, 2011), 179-200

2010: ‘Taking the Plunge: Eighteenth-century bath houses and plunge pools’, invited article for Historic Gardens, Cathedral Communications, 37-4


2010 – June 2011: Member of the curating team for ‘Capability’ Brown and the Landscapes of Middle England’, Compton Verney, Warwickshire, June-September 2011


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