logocolour bestWelcome to the Birkbeck Garden History Group web site. The group is interested in studying garden history through lectures, garden visits and exhibitions and in encouraging others to become interested in the subject of garden history. Click on the links along the top of the page to find out more about the BGHG and our activities. Click ‘Follow’ at the bottom of this page on the right to receive alerts when new items are posted.

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September II Update

More autumn and winter lectures

Further dates and topics have been added to the autumn/winter online lecture series being jointly delivered by The Gardens Trust & London Gardens Trust between October 2020 and March 2021; and a number of live events taking place at the Garden Museum during November – many postponed form earlier in the year, can now be seen at Garden History Lectures & Talks 

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September 2020 Update

With summer drawing to a close we seem to be looking forward to a range of Zoom-filled events in place of our usual autumn/winter gatherings. Amongst those added recently to our website is a series of talks being delivered through a collaboration between the London Gardens Trust and the national Gardens Trust. No wine or social interaction but as usual from both organisations some excellent speakers. Details of six talks being presented from October – December can be seen at Garden History Lectures and Talks

We will also be delivering the BGHG Annual Lecture via Zoom. This will take place on the evening of Tuesday 10 November when Toby Beasley, Head Gardener at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight  will be talking about the Restoration of the gardens at Osborne House. Further details will be announced here nearer the time.                   

Five new books due for publication in September have been added to Publications  

This month we again offer a Gardens Quiz, which, together with some clues and the answers to last month’s What Flower? quiz can be accessed, and downloaded at COVID-19 Gardens Quiz.

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August III Update

Great 20th Century Gardeners
Each week during September an established garden historian will bring to life the achievements of a different ‘great name’ in twentieth century gardening:

Percy Thrower – Advolly Richmond 

John Brookes –Barbara Simms

Rosemary Verey – Margie Hoffnung

Percy Cane – Jill Sinclair

Beth Chatto – Catherine Horwood

Each 90-mins. session will be held on a Tuesday morning, and will be delivered using Zoom.  For full details and to book your place 


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August II Update

The Garden Historians now have two new online course available for booking: The Unique Gardens of Portugal  and Gardens of the  Gilded Age.

Both courses will be taught using ZOOM and both start on Friday 25th September 2020 and will last for 10 weeks. For full details visit Longer Garden History courses.

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August 2020 Update

As lockdown gradually begins to ease – for now at least – some of our favourite venues, such as The Garden Museum, are beginning to re-open whilst others continue with online events or other activities which meet social distancing requirements. You will find details of an exhibition at The Garden Museum and three guided walks being organised by London Gardens Trust (formerly London Parks & Gardens Trust) during August – October at Outside Events.

 Only one new publication has been added to Publications but you can look forward to a plethora of new garden history books due is September. 

This month we have a different type of quiz – our What Flower? Quiz

This, together with answers to our July Garden Quiz can be found on the COVID-19 GARDENS QUIZ page

If you’re following development of the Camden Highline you may be interested in their latest report of progress and plans for the future Beyond the Pandemic


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July II Update

University of Cardiff have announced a number of short courses scheduled for 2020- 2021. These include:

The Garden and Culture: 10 weekly sessions starting Wednesday 30 September 2020. This course will be taught online.

The American Garden: 10 weekly sessions starting Wednesday 13 January 2021

The Twentieth Century Garden and Lifestyle 10 weekly meetings starting Wednesday 10 April 2021

 The Gardens Trust will be running a new course online: A Brief Introduction to Garden History on Thursdays 11.00 -12.30 for 8 weeks starting 6 August 2020

For fuller details of all these courses and how to book see Longer Courses

One new book, Persian Gardens and Pavilions by Mohammad Gharipour, has been added to our Publications page 


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July 2020 Update

A new page, devoted to Online Studies, has been added to our Garden History Studies section. The Online Studies page will carry information about online and distance learning courses and are those which have always been or will normally be delivered online. Courses and lectures which are being delivered by Zoom (or similar online mechanism) due to COVID-19 restrictions, will continue to be shown on the traditional Lectures & Talks, Short Courses or Longer Courses pages. 

Courses offered by Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, The Learning Experts, and ACE Distance Education are currently featured.  

The Garden History Research Foundation has been added to our Useful Links page

With COVID-19 restrictions still constraining our usual activities we have put together the July Garden Quiz which you will find on our COVID-19 GARDENS QUIZ page, alongside a set of clues, as well as answers to the June Quiz. 

As a change to our usual excerpt from BGHG’s publication, Digging Deeper, full details of which are still available on our Publications page, we this month feature an excerpt from a book published in 2018 by London Parks & Gardens Trust (now The London Gardens Trust), to which a number of BGHG members contributed, Repton in London. 

‘Humphry Repton may have been the first professional designer (or to use his own term ‘landscape gardener’) employed to prepare designs for gardens which were not entirely private to the owner, but impacted on the public in general. In producing his designs, Repton was using his general landscape principles but adapting them to relatively small regular spaces closed in and overlooked on all sides by residential buildings. He wanted to appeal to the outside observer as well as offering private space for residents. His aim was to make the enclosures appear as large as possible, with appropriate positioning of planting so that the whole space could not be seen at once and the boundaries were blurred, the whole look to be closer to nature than formal in layout. In the Cadogan Square design he came closest to a landscape garden with undulating paths around the square. In Russell Square, he was forced to work with a levelled space and an earlier layout, while in Bloomsbury Square his plans were largely unexecuted, the linear connection between the two squares being the main feature remaining.’ (Chapter 4, Repton’s London Squares: Russell Square, Bloomsbury Square and Cadogan Square, by Susan Jellis).

Details of how to purchase a copy of Repton in London are provided on the Publications page, where you will also find  details of books on Repton’s work in Norfolk, Hertfordshire, and  Yorkshire. A fuller list of books published by County Gardens Trusts on Repton’s work in different counties or specific sites can be found here.

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June Update III

A increasing number of online lectures and courses are available over the coming months.  Details of the following have been added to the appropriate page on this website:   

A series of lectures by garden historian Dr David Marsh are being offered by The Gardens Trust: Little Men in Red Hats: The Story of Garden Gnomes (June); Tools of the Trade: a history of garden tools (July); and Garden history in the making? The story of my garden (July). Each lecture will be available on a choice of dates & times. For full details visit Lectures & Talks.

At Longer Garden History Courses you will find details of the following courses:

 The History of Garden Design. Taught by Dr Toby Musgrave, this 4-week online course  can be taken anytime, with a choice of two available formats. 

An Introduction to Garden History course being delivered by Stephen Smith for The Course London. 

Diploma in Garden History run by The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, in association with The Gardens Trust. This course is not yet open for registration but you can see details of the course and register your interest for the future. 

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June Update II

The Medici Gardens of the Renaissance

The Garden Historians have moved their next course online and will deliver it using Zoom in association with the Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution. 

The course will run for 4 weeks starting on Tuesday, 9 June 10.00 -12.30 and costs £80.00

Sessions will include: Patronage and Power; The Utens Lunettes; Myths, Grottoes and Monsters in the garden; and Health, Wealth and Parties

The Course Tutor will be Deborah Trentham who has a background in Art and Architectural History and has been teaching Garden History for nearly 20 years.

Deborah runs courses in garden history from medieval times to the present day and specialises in the gardens of the Italian Renaissance.

For further information and to book visit HLSI


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June 2020 Update

COVID-19 Update

The Committee has reluctantly made the decision to cancel our visits planned for 20 July, 5 August and 12 September.  We are hoping we can re-book these for the same months in 2021: Sussex Prairie Gardens & St. Mary’s House & Gardens Bramber in July; Pashley Manor & Great Dixter in August; and our ‘Pulhamite and Pugin’ tour of Ramsgate in September.

We remain hopeful that it may be possible to hold our proposed Study Visit on the Wimpole Estate at the end of September and our planned visit to the gardens of Westminster Abbey in October; decisions on these will be made nearer the time.  

Sussex Prairie Gardens are reopening on 1 June and keen to welcome individuals able to make their own way to the gardens and follow social distancing guidelines. Full details are available at Sussex Prairie Gardens

Alongside answers to our May quiz you will now find our June 2020 Gardens Quiz  at COVID-19 GARDENSN QUIZ

Online Events 

Meanwhile, many events are being delivered online. Those that may be of particular interest to garden historians include: 

As detailed on our Garden History Lectures & Talks page the next IHR History of Landscapes and Gardens seminar on 4 June at 18.00 will be delivered by Jemima  Hubberstey from the University of Oxford who will talk on Intellectual Gardens in the Mid-Eighteenth Century.

On Friday 12 June at Strawberry Hill House, BGHG member Sandra Pullen will be giving a talk on Horace Walpole and the 18th Century Gardens of Strawberry Hill House. This is just one activity offered as part of the Strawberry Hill Flower Festival which includes a variety of talks, demonstrations and workshops. For full details, including how to book visit our Outside Events page.   


The Paul Mellon Centre are offering a number of Podcasts this summer

Available from 24th June will be a podcast on The MEDICINAL GARDEN by Clare Hickman, Claire Preston & Carole Rawcliffe. Some members may well remember the interesting talk given by Clare Hickman following the BGHG AGM in 2017.

For details of this and other Paul Mellon podcasts see Outside Events 


Details of The English Folly: The Edifice Complex by Gwyn Headley & Wim Meulenkamp, due to be published later this month, can be found at Publications 

As usual we offer here a further extract from BGHG’s own publication, Digging Deeper. This month we highlight Chapter 2: John Hay (1758-1836), Scottish garden planner, and his search for the ideal heating system for glasshouses, by Doreen Wilson.

‘Charles McIntosh (1794 -1864) appears to suggest in The Book of the Garden that Hay was involved in the design of the heating system at “Messrs Loddige at Hackney, and the plant houses in the garden of the Duke of Northumberland at Sion House, Middlesex”. One of Hay’s few references to his works is made in the Memoirs of the Caledonian Horticultural Society where he confirms his involvement at Alnwick: “In the year 1807 I had the honour to be consulted by his Grace, the late Duke of Northumberland with a view to rebuilding the hothouses at Alnwick Castle, which chiefly consisted of grape and pine houses, and was desired by His Grace to furnish him with plans for executing the work on the most approved principles. His Grace directed me to provide for the heating of one of the pine pits by steam, as he had seen an attempt of this kind in Scotland a number of years before.” 

Digging Deeper, Postgraduate research papers in Garden History is still available for purchase: see Publications for how to buy your copy. 


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