Historic Gardens: Research in Action

Painshill Gothic Temple
Course date(s): 
11 Mar 2015 to 6 May 2015
Wednesdays, 11.00-13.00
Course tutor(s): 
Dr Barbara Simms (course director)
Sarah Couch (Sarah Couch Historic Landscapes)
Dr Sally Jeffery
Michael Symes
Jennifer White (Senior Landscape Advisor, English Heritage)


This course provides an introduction to how archival research findings on historic gardens can contribute to garden restoration, conservation and management. Taught on Wednesday mornings (11.00-13.00), Historic Gardens: Research in Action adopts a case-study approach to the exploration of these relationships through a combination of lectures, seminar-based discussions and site visits.


Course details

Researching the history of a garden or landscape is an absorbing and exciting activity that draws together documentation, maps, paintings, horticulture and other information to tell the story of the garden’s development and the people involved in its creation. The results will be a well-referenced report that describes chronological design overlays and planting and may identify the garden as of significant historic interest. This short course takes researching a garden’s history a stage further by a consideration of how these findings can contribute to a garden’s restoration, conservation and management. It also provides a practical understanding of the range of methodologies currently employed in the identification, protection and care of historic parks and gardens in the UK.


Examination of these issues is made through case studies chosen as examples of gardens restored to different historic periods and under different types of ownership and management. Visits will be made to the seventeenth-century formal gardens at Ham House (National Trust), the eighteenth-century landscape garden at Painshill Park (Painshill Park Trust), and the early twentieth-century garden of plantsman E. A. Bowles at Myddelton House (Lee Valley Regional Park Authority). Sources of evidence for restoration and plans for garden management will be studied in both classroom sessions and with expert guides during site visits.


The course is organised as a term of eight weekly sessions, five to be held in the IHR on Wednesday mornings (11.00-13.00) and three on site visits. Sessions are not yet confirmed but are likely to be similar to last year's course, as follows:


·         1: Researching a garden’s history: how and why (Barbara Simms)

·         2: Protection and care of historic parks and gardens in the UK (Jenifer White); Case Study 1: Ham House (Sally Jeffery)

·         3: Visit to Ham House (Sally Jeffery)

·         4: Seminar on Ham House (Barbara Simms); Case Study 2: Painshill Park (Michael Symes)

·         5: Visit to Painshill Park (Michael Symes)

·         6: Seminar on Painshill Park (Barbara Simms); Case Study 3: Myddelton House (Sarah Couch)

·         7: Visit to Myddelton House (Sarah Couch)

·         8: Seminar on Myddelton House; course overview (Barbara Simms)


There is no formal assessment for this course, but students are expected to contribute to seminar discussions following site visits. The course is open to all who are interested in exploring the practical application of garden history research.