Women Celebrated by Registered Parks and Gardens

Discover nine of England's remarkable historic garden landscapes, and the women who helped create them. Illustrated with images from the Historic England Archive and Google Street View, this gallery illuminates the roles of women as designers, writers, botanists and craftswomen.

Polyanthus flowers growing between lines of hazel trees in the Nuttery at Sissinghurst Castle, Cranbrook, Kent (1955/1959) by John GayHistoric England

A woman's place

Until the 20th century a woman's role was generally as a wife and mother. She had few rights of property or opportunities for professional recognition or advancement, was discouraged from learning or displaying intellectual prowess and was denied the vote. Some exceptional and advantaged individuals used the garden to assert their interests and build their own reputations but it was not until after the 1920s, when women's rights, suffrage, and access to education were established, that many more women were able to develop careers in garden design, horticulture or landscape architecture. Here we showcase nine women and the garden landscapes they influenced.

Exterior Spring bronze sculpture in the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden, Barnoon Hill, St Ives, Cornwall (2001-08-10) by James O Davies, English HeritageHistoric England

Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture Garden

Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) was one of the most important figures in the development of Abstract Art in Britain. Her sculpture was influenced by nature and she drew inspiration from the dramatic coastline and landscape of Cornwall. Barbara had moved her studio to St Ives in 1949 and its garden provided an opportunity for her to work in the open air, re-enforcing her creative link with the wider landscape. The garden was designed and planted by Barbara and shows her careful selection of plants with interesting textural and sculptural qualities. She found inspiration in the garden which served as a setting for her expanding collection of sculptures. It now contains large stone carvings and a group of bronze sculptures.

Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)
Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, St Ives, Cornwall

In 1976 the Barbara Hepworth's studio and garden opened to the public. It is now the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, part of the Tate Gallery.

Burwarton House, Burwarton, Shropshire (1956) by George Bernard MasonHistoric England

Brenda Colvin: Burwarton House

Brenda Colvin (1897-1981) was one of Britain's most distinguished garden designers and landscape architects. She was a pioneer, dedicated to promoting the profession. In 1929 she helped found the Institute of Landscape Architects (now the Landscape Institute), becoming its president in 1951. One of her early commissions was Burwarton, which has extensive formal gardens and a landscape park, all carefully sited to take advantage of the locality's rugged upland scenery. The garden comprises a series of terraces with steps and gravel walks, which fall away south of the house. In the 1920s Brenda extended them to include a rose garden within a yew hedge. The Burwarton Estate, still one of the county's largest, is not open to the public.

The Italian Gardens at Chiswick House, Chiswick, Hounslow, Greater London (2007-08-29) by Nigel Corrie, English HeritageHistoric England

Eleanor Coade: Chiswick House

Eleanor Coade (1733-1821) was a craftswoman and businesswoman, making architectural decorations and garden ornaments from an artificial stone, which became known as 'Coade Stone'. These statues, urns, and fountains were high quality and dueable, so much that Eleanor's name is still in common use. Several Coade Stone pieces can be found at Chiswick House, London, an early 18th-century villa and garden, largely the design of the third Earl of Burlington. In 1814, landscape gardener Lewis Kennedy created an Italian Garden. It has a formal layout with rows of 'false' acacia tree, box-edged parterres filled with summer bedding schemes, and a path flanked by replica Coade Stone vases. The originals can be seen in the adjacent conservatory.

Eleanor Coade (1733-1821)
Chiswick House, Chiswick, Hounslow, London

Hestercombe House viewed from the garden, Cheddon Fitzpaine, Somerset (1982-06-22) by Dank Silva, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of EnglandHistoric England

Gertrude Jekyll: Hestercombe

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was an artist, craftswoman, writer and garden designer. Through her design consultancy and nursery, she helped transform garden design into a profession for women. She was one of the most influential gardening figures of her age, writing many books and articles in gardening journals and newspapers, and was the first woman to be awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society. Hestercombe garden was one of Gertrude's commissions in partnership with the architect Edwin Lutyens. The principal feature is the Great Plat - a large, sunken garden with stone steps at each corner and geometric-shaped panels of lawn enclosed by stone flags, which meet at a central sundial.

Gertrude Jekyll at Deanery Garden, Sonning, Wokingham (1903/1910) by Unknown photographer, probably Sir Henry Churchill Maxwell LyteHistoric England

Gertrude Jekyll was an artist, garden designer and writer. Her early garden designs 'broke the mould of the Victorian flower garden', and she became one of the most influential gardening figures of her age.

Mottisfont Abbey, Mottisfont, Hampshire (2010-06-23) by Damian Grady, English HeritageHistoric England

Norah Lindsay: Mottisfont Abbey

Norah Lindsay (1873-1948) started as an amateur garden stylist for her friends, and became a sought-after garden designer. She had a spontaneous and informal planting style, consisting of clumps of seemingly self-sown plants, which were lent structure by architectural plants. Her artful informality, with a haphazard abundance of flowers set against a backdrop of trimmed hedges, provided contrasts of light and dark. One of her commissions was Mottisfont Abbey. On the level ground within the U-shape formed by the wings of the house, Norah designed a box-edged parterre, planted with spring bulbs and summer bedding schemes. 

Nora Lindsay (1873-1948)
Mottisfont Abbey, Mottisfont, Hampshire

The Queen Mother's Garden, Walmer Castle, Walmer, Kent (2002) by David SellmanHistoric England

Penelope Hobhouse: Walmer Castle

Penelope Hobhouse (born 1929) is an award-winning garden designer, garden historian and writer, whose style has been influenced by Gertrude Jekyll. She created the garden at Walmer Castle, Kent in 1997 to commemorate the 95th birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Walmer Castle includes formal gardens and pleasure grounds, and the Queen Mother's garden is enclosed by high, castellated red-brick walls. A central lily pool, flanked with broad panels of lawn, is surrounded by gravelled walks and large colourful mixed borders. At the north end is a summerhouse and there is a double E-shaped parterre for 'Elizabeth'. The terraces contain plantings of a pink patio rose named after the Queen Mother.

Penelope Hobhouse (born 1929)
The Queen Mother's Garden, Walmer Castle, Walmer, Kent

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond upon Thames, Greater London (2006-08-08) by English HeritageHistoric England

Princess Augusta: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Princess Augusta (1719-1772) was 17 when she married Frederick, Prince of Wales, who was son of George II. It was only after her husband died that Augusta acquired the independence to pursue her own interests. Frederick had begun a collection of exotic plants at Kew and, under the care of the Dowager Princess, the gardens at Kew were developed further and extended. Exotic plants and trees were sent to Augusta from abroad and, by 1768, the herbaceous collection had over 2,700 species. Kew is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Orangery at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond upon Thames, Greater London (1945/1980) by Eric de MaréHistoric England

Lord Bute and Rev Stephen Hales, well-known botanists, helped Augusta develop Kew Gardens. Bute introduced Augusta to the architect Sir William Chambers, and he was commissioned to design several historically significant garden buildings, including the Pagoda and Orangery (pictured here).

Princess Augusta (1719-1772)
The Orangery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond Upon Thames, London

Harlow Town Park, Harlow, Essex (2010-04-16) by Damian Grady, English HeritageHistoric England

Sylvia Crowe: Harlow New Town

Sylvia Crowe (1901-1997) was a landscape architect well-known for the variety of her work. She is celebrated for her garden designs, industrial and housing landscapes, and aesthetic and ecological principles in forestry. She designed landscapes for hospitals, power stations and reservoirs, and assisted with the gardens at the new towns of Harlow (illustrated here) and Basildon. Sylvia was concerned that new developments were being landscaped by non-specialists and that the standard of landscape relative to housing was poor. At Harlow, the Town Park was created as a green 'wedge' between built up areas and to provide an easily accessible open space to residents of this post-war new town.

Sylvia Crowe (1901-1997)
Town Park, Harlow, Essex

Sissinghurst Castle, Cranbrook, Kent (2001-05-11) by English HeritageHistoric England

Vita Sackville-West: Sissinghurst Castle

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) was a poet, novelist, biographer and gardener. Her garden at Sissinghurst is one of the most admired and influential English gardens of the 20th century. Laid out around surviving 16th century buildings and park, Sissinghurst garden was a collaboration with her husband Sir Harold Nicolson. Harold is credited with designing the formal structure of the garden's separate enclosures, and Vita with the exuberant planting. The enclosures, often linked by vistas, include a Rose Garden, Cottage Garden, Herb Garden and The White Garden. Sissinghurst was a showcase for small gardens, as each separate garden enclosure was on a small scale and so appealed to amateur gardeners. 

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962)
Sissinghust Castle, Cranbrook, Kent

The Rondel in the Rose Garden, Sissinghurst Castle, Cranbrook, Kent (1967) by John GayHistoric England

The yew Rondel at Sissinghurst Castle sits within the Rose Garden. Vita Sackville-West's husband Harold Nicolson favoured geometric garden forms, in contrast to Vita's vision for a 'tumble of roses and honeysuckle, figs and vines'.

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962)
The yew Rondel, Sissinghust Castle, Cranbrook, Kent

Credits: Story

Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England's spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops.

Historic England's 'Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England' was established in 1983 and now contains over 1,600 sites. You can search for Registered Parks and Gardens on the National Heritage List for England. Search the List.

Discover the Historic England Archive.

And more on women and parks and gardens.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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