The Garden History Grapevine

The Garden History Grapevine is a new initiative which is running a varied and developing programme of garden history courses with the support of The Gardens Trust. It is hoped that working with colleagues from the National Trust, Historic England, the Royal Horticultural Society  and other partners that garden history courses will once again be available nationally rather than just in London.

The course tutors are Letta Jones, M.A., Stephen Smith, M.A. and Dr David Marsh and they invite visiting lecturers to contribute where appropriate.  Courses are based in the Institute for Historical Research, in Senate House, the HQ of the University of London in Bloomsbury. Classes are small, usually with a maximum size of 16, and have lively illustrated lectures, opportunities for discussion and further personal reading and research suggestions if you wish.

There have been 3 introductory 6 week courses about garden history which sold out within days, THE NEXT IS BEING PLANNED FOR THE SPRING 2018.   If you know of anyone who might be interested in learning more about garden history in a small friendly class with lively lectures, a couple of visits  and lots of opportunities for discussion then tell them to have a look at a typical outline programme:

There is also an introductory day running  at Audley End House, near Cambridge, on 12 October 2017

Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JF

A Fun Introduction to Garden History in Ten Objects

Thursday, 12th October 2017 10.00 -16.30

The day will be held in the historic Dining Parlour at Audley End House with a view of the Capability Brown landscape. The gardens have a history stretching from 12th century Walden Abbey to 21st century improvements.

The day will include hands-on investigation of garden-related objects, lively illustrated lectures, and a garden tour. There will be opportunities for discussion as well as ideas for further personal reading & research.

For full details and booking visit



We have also run  longer, more advanced specialist courses  at the IHR.  Currently, in association with the Gardens Trust, we are running a new 12 week course on the History of Public Parks and in the Spring  one aimed at putting Humphry Repton in Context.  As usual the classes will be small [max size 16] with lively illustrated lectures, visits,  opportunities for discussion and further personal reading & research suggestions if you wish.   Details below:


REPTON IN CONTEXT  – Tuesday Jan 9th to Tuesday March 20th

screenshot2018 is the bicentenary of Humphry Repton’s death. Repton has had a mixed critical reaction, especially since he was long  overshadowed by Capability Brown in the broad accounts of garden history, but more recently he has begun to emerge as a very significant figure, both theoretically and socially, in his own right. This course running over 11 weeks [it’s not 12 because Easter is early] aims to put Repton into context and to show him as someone who was very much of his time, capable of responding to changing fashion and taste, but who also knew how to guide his clients.

There will be a series of class based lectures at the IHR on Tuesday mornings and some visits to Repton sites.  The course fee is £228 plus eventbrite booking fee. Please note this does not include transport for the visits.


Jan 9    Humphry Repton and his predecessors.   Stephen Smith

Jan 16  Repton, his style and and the economy of estates  Stephen Smith

Jan 23  Repton’s life  Letta Jones

Jan 30   Repton’s books on gardening.   ALL DAY including Visit to the Lindley Library  Letta Jones

6 Feb    Repton and his world – Sociability, house and garden visiting   David Marsh

13 Feb  Visit to Panshanger in Hertfordshire   Kate Harwood   TIMING TBC probably 2-3 hrs + travel time

20 Feb  Repton and contemporary literature   Stephen Smith

27 Feb  Visit to Wanstead    Sally Jeffery TIMING TBC probably 2-3 hours + travel time

6 March Repton in London  plus a play reading!    Stephen Smith  ALL DAY

13 March Visit to Kenwood  Letta Jones

20 March  Repton’s Legacy  Stephen Smith

Bookings via:

If this course proves popular we will try to repeat it later in the year.  We often have a waiting list for places on our courses so if you book a place but are unable to use it for any reason, then email us and  we will try and resell it if we can. In that case we will be happy to refund your payment less Eventbrite’s fees, otherwise we regret we cannot offer a refund.  In the unlikely event of a cancellation of a lecture for any reason we will endeavour to arrange a replacement session as soon as possible.



HISTORY OF PUBLIC PARKS – 12 weeks  19th Sept- 5th Dec  : SORRY WE’VE SOLD OUT  but have a waiting list you can join….

This will look at the history of places deliberately designed as parks or other public open spaces.  From the earliest parks in London and cities like Exeter laid out in the early 17thc, to the development of the square and the rise of the municipal park via the Prince Regent’s attempts to become a property magnate, the term ends with an exploration of the seaside park. In the spring term of 2018 we will continue the same theme, particularly investigating those places which have been converted from private gardens or estates into public parks, and also looking at the rise and decline of municipal parks departments etc.

Normal class meetings will be on Tuesday mornings from 10.30-1.00,  but 4 of them are all day. [2 have lectures in the morning and a visit in the afternoon while 2 are all day visits out of London].  The course fee is £245 [plus Eventbrite’s booking fee] but please note that that does not include transport or admission fees for the visits. The course tutors will be Letta Jones, M.A., Stephen Smith, M.A., and Dr David Marsh.


19 Sept – An overview of the history of parks and public open spaces in Britain – David

26 Sept – The open spaces and parks of early modern London – David

3 Oct – Walking tour of some of the surviving open spaces of early modern London – David

10 Oct – morning: The Rise of the Garden Square –

afternoon: VISIT to Brunswick and Mecklenburgh Squares – Stephen

17 Oct – The History of Regents Park – Letta

24 Oct –  VISIT to Regents Park – Letta

31 Oct –  John Claudius Loudon and the “invention” of the Public Park – Stephen

7 Nov – Derby Arboretum – ALL DAY Visit – Stephen

14 Nov – morning: The Victorian Public Park

afternoon VISIT to Battersea Park – Letta

21 Nov – Visit to Crystal Palace – Letta

28 Nov – Seaside Parks  – Stephen

5 Dec –  ALL DAY visit to Folkestone – Stephen


If you require further information about any of these courses then please email the organizers direct either via Eventbrite or