The Garden History Society Summer Conference

Posted on November 6th, 2010 by Charles Boot
Jul ’11
9:00 am

The Garden History Society Summer Conference
at Keele University, Staffordshire

Modern Restorations, Old Landscapes:
Georgian, Victorian and a Touch of Palladio

Friday 22 July to Sunday 24 July

The conference will be based on the campus of Keele University, near Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire ST5 5BG. En-suite single room accommodation will be provided, together with normal conference facilities for the AGM, lectures and meals.

Thursday 21 July

A view in 'China', just one of the garden zones at Biddulph Grange

A view in 'China', just one of the garden zones at Biddulph Grange

On Thursday afternoon the optional visit will be by coach to Biddulph Grange Gardens, created over a period dating from 150 years ago by James Bateman (above, ‘China’). Bateman designed a number of connecting but singularly individual gardens in an eclectic mix, intended to surprise and impress his visitors. These gardens included among others a fernery, rock gardens, a pinetum, an Italian garden, and the more exotic ‘Egyptian Court’ and ‘Great Wall of China’. Bateman also had a fine collection of exotics, including rhododendrons from the Himalayas, and many newly introduced flowering shrubs from China. Biddulph Grange Gardens is a now a National Trust property.

Friday 22 July

Registration from 9am onwards

9.30am GHS Graduate Symposium

The morning will be chaired by Patrick Eyres (of The New Arcadian Journal). Our speakers are:
Oliver Cox; Sarah Hundleby; Sarah Law; Elaine Mitchell and Gabriele Mulè (see the listing for more detail of this new event).

The Graduate Symposium will be followed by lunch. After lunch there will be a welcome from Dominic Cole, the Society’s Chairman, followed by an introductory lecture. A bookfair will be open during the weekend.

The AGM will be at 3pm. There will be an early evening reception, followed by the AGM dinner.

Saturday 23 July

On Saturday morning Dr Keith Goodway (former GHS Chairman) will be speaking to us about the campus at Keele, and William Emes’ involvement there as landscapist. In 1741 the estate was inherited by Ralph Sneyd from his brother Dryden. Ralph developed the estate over the following fifty years or so, calling in Emes in 1769 to provide him with pleasure grounds and a landscaped park. In 1760 Emes set up his own private practice, after being head gardener at Kedleston Hall. His style was similar to that of Brown, but no known links with Brown have been found. Emes’ name is associated with over 80 sites, mainly in the north Midlands and Wales. William Sawrey Gilpin also advised on the grounds at Keele, c1830. The parkland and grounds at Keele cover 617 acres (250 ha), and Keith will take us round the existing outlines of the old C18 landscape after his talk, followed by lunch at the university.

Upper and Lower Parterres at Trentham have differing but complementary planting schemes

Upper and Lower Parterres at Trentham have differing but complementary planting schemes

In the afternoon we shall visit Trentham Gardens, which have won the 2010 European Garden Award for the best historic garden restoration.Against a historical background of Jacobean formality, Brownian landscaping and Victorian design, Trentham has today two new gardens of international importance. These are Tom Stuart-Smith’s reinterpretaion of the Italian gardens, and Piet Oudolf’s Floral Labyrinth with his ‘rivers’ of different ornamental grasses interspersed with colourful perennials. The opinion of members is eagerly awaited. Despite the glaring absence of the Barry designed Mansion, much has been achieved. It is particularly apt to be visiting when the Garden Museum is celebrating Stuart-Smith’s work with such gusto.

On return to the University, the evening’s events will start with the keynote speech followed by the Conference Dinner.

Sunday 24 July

There will be an early start on Sunday morning to allow us to reach Adlington Hall, in Cheshire. Home of the Legh family since 1315, the estate comprises some 2000 acres. The Hall is quadrangular and has a C15 Great Hall and an Elizabethan half timbered wing. A new brick wing with a central portico was added by Charles and Hester Legh, dating from 1740–49. They also planted a fine Wilderness, through which runs the river Dean. Eight different garden buildings were constructed, connected by winding paths. Recently restored, this is the only Georgian landscape feature in Cheshire of its type. We shall see the interior of the Hall, and then be shown the Wilderness by the head gardener. We shall also have time to see the modern gardens before we have lunch.

After lunch we shall visit Henbury Hall, also in Cheshire. Standing on the site of an older house, the Hall, built 1984–87, is based largely on that of Palladio’s Villa Rotunda at Vicenza. Mr Sebastian de Ferranti, the owner, is kindly letting us visit the eleven acres of gardens and park, and we shall be able to see the exterior of the Hall but not the interior, which is his private home. The grounds were originally laid out in 1742 as a landscape park to complement a new Georgian house. Today the gardens comprise a modern sunk garden in the Italianate style, and extensive shrub plantings beyond line the circuit paths leading to the restored landscape park with its lakes. Garden buildings, such as a Gothic folly and a Chinese Kiosk, enliven the scene. The conference will end late afternoon and the coach will drop rail travellers at the nearest railway station and then continue back to the University.

Conference fee per person for the whole conference: £282 See the Booking Form for other price variations, or to find out further details please contact, with A5 SAE: Anne Richards, 5 The Knoll, Hereford HR1 1RU or: 01432 354 479 or email

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