Reaching from central London to the furthest edges of its outer suburbs, London’s green spaces offer an interesting reflection on the growth and development of the capital. The four lectures in this series are complemented with a garden visit, which will provide a study of the capital’s gardens and landscapes which have evolved continuously over more than five centuries.
“Uplifting and refreshing. A sensational combination of horticulture, design, colour and social history with wide appeal particularly for those who worry about Latin names! Stephen’s informed, energetic style is pleasantly bracing. An all-round joy!”
The Royal Parks make the landscape of London so very different from that of other capital cities. Lying at its heart, we will examine the design and role played by them between the 16th and 20th centuries. We then follow the transformation of these spaces from monarchical hunting grounds to theatrical baroque landscapes, and later to the leading public parks in the Victorian era. We will explore the evolution of these designed landscapes and reflect on the changes which illustrate the taste shifts in the relationship between art and the natural world.
We will focus on the life and work of the C18th French Huguenot cartographer John Rocque, whose maps of London so carefully depict the gardens surrounding the capital in the mid-1740s. Through examination and with emphasis on his earlier Chiswick and Wanstead garden plans, we will explore both the fashionable garden designs of the period and the context of their portrayal of a rapidly expanding capital at the centre of global trade. The accuracy of Rocque’s recording of gardens will be tested through comparison with later maps and surveys.
The public parks movement of the mid C19th was closely aligned with the social reforms of the day, especially health and welfare. The Victorian lobbies of temperance, improved housing for the poor and burial reform link with the proliferation of public landscapes, which continue to form a major part of the infrastructure of London today. We will explore the creation of large public parks such as Victoria and Battersea Park and the ‘Magnificent Seven’ public cemeteries, designed to surround the Victorian capital. We will also examine the roles of the Commons Preservation Society and the Metropolitan and Public Gardens Association.
Inigo Jones’s creation of the piazza at Covent Garden in the C17th set the precedent for London’s later residential squares, which proliferated as the fashionable suburbs developed particularly on the western side of the Georgian metropolis. We will use the development of the Grosvenor Estate in C18th Mayfair and C19th Belgravia as the vehicle to uncover the growth of private garden squares across the capital. The related experiment in town planning at Regent’s Park will be examined as a preview to the visit on the final week of the course.
Meeting at the Benugo Café in the Inner Circle, this visit will explore the park’s numerous historic design layers beginning with a tour of the Waterside area which encompasses the Regency origins of the designed landscape. The layout of Robert Marnock’s botanical garden and the post War Queen Mary’s Garden in the Inner Circle will form a central part of the visit, as will the ‘secret garden’ of St John’s Lodge. William Andrews Nesfield’s restored Avenue Gardens will complete the tour.