Colour photograph showing a lake
Painshill Park, Surrey. A landscaped pleasure grounds and park laid out between 1738 and 1773 by the Hon Charles Hamilton. Registered Grade I. NHLE List Entry Number: 1000125
Painshill Park, Surrey. A landscaped pleasure grounds and park laid out between 1738 and 1773 by the Hon Charles Hamilton. Registered Grade I. NHLE List Entry Number: 1000125

Designed Landscapes

The English are, and always have been, a nation of gardeners. The results of centuries of working the soil and shaping the landscape can be seen everywhere in the form of historic parks and gardens from town gardens and public parks to the great country estates.

Our research looks at the historic interest, protection and conservation needs of these special places.

We use the term, ‘designed landscapes’ to capture the wide range of ornamental and recreational landscape types and landscapes that are aesthetically planned, such as

  • Gardens and landscapes associated with domestic use
    • Sites associated with one household or dwelling such as Stowe or Petworth, palaces, country houses, manor houses, villas, town gardens, terraced houses, cottages
    • Sites associated with more than one household or dwelling such as communal gardens, squares, housing developments
    • Sites associated with private amenity, but which are not attached to public parks, a particular house or housing scheme, such as private resorts or rented town gardens
  • Designed landscapes belonging to, or associated with, institutions such as asylums, botanical gardens, cemeteries and even institutional landscapes, colleges, factories, hospitals, hotels, museums, pumping stations, power generation, reservoirs, golf courses and sports facilities
  • Landscapes designed or used for public amenity and recreation such as public parks, public gardens, public walks, public resorts, country parks
  • Large scale planned landscapes such as forests, industrial or mineral workings reclamation schemes, transport routes, new towns, riversides and coasts

Many of these sites are of special historic interest. Since 1983 key sites have been selected and added to the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

The English Landscape Garden

The 18th-century phenomenon of the English landscape garden was so widespread that even today, when so much has been built over or otherwise changed, one is never far from an example throughout England. Michael Symes’ book is structured so as to give the background to, and motivation for, creating the landscape garden; to summarise the chronology of its development; to chart the most significant writers and theorists; and to consider the range of the many forms it took.

The English Landscape Garden in Europe

The 18th-century English Landscape Garden style has been described as England’s greatest contribution to the Arts. Michael Symes’ book 'The English Landscape Garden in Europe' provides an overview of how this style spread.

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown landscapes

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (born around 1715–16, baptised 30 August 1716 – 6 February 1783) changed the face of 18th-century England, designing country estates and mansions. He designed over 170 parks and is regarded as England’s greatest landscape designer and gardener. Many of his landscaped parks and buildings are included in the National Heritage List for England.

Find out more about the 2016 Capability Brown Festival celebrating his 300th birthday, and our research.

Humphry Repton landscapes

Humphry Repton was the self-proclaimed successor to Capability Brown. He was a prolific designer and there are some 300 registered parks and gardens associated with him. Unlike Brown, Repton published his theories and also produced beautiful illustrated books of his designs for individual clients which are still treasured. Find out more about Repton and research into his landscapes.

Researching the history of public funding for parks

In July 2016 the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee announced an inquiry into public parks to examine concerns that public parks are under threat. The research report on the History of Public Park Funding and Management (1820-2010) which we commissioned, has been included as part of Historic England’s submission to the inquiry.

The report will be of interest to local authority portfolio holders, parks teams, friends groups and urban historians. It provides an overview of past public park funding models and their management. The findings show a long history of funding problems but also the important role of local authorities in developing, and often rescuing parks, and delivering public parks for over 170 years.

Rediscovering Reginald Farrer's pioneering rock garden

Potential plans to refurbish and replant an important rock garden at Ingleborough in the Yorkshire dales that was developed in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period have stimulated the first serious study of its layout and history – and the influential innovations trialled at the site.

This was the former private rock garden of Reginald John Farrer (1880–1920): ‘the father of modern rock gardening’.

You can find out more about the study from issue three of our digital Historic England Research magazine or for full details download the research report on the garden.

Bicentenary of Victorian landscape gardener, Edward Kemp

2017 marked the bicentenary of the Victorian landscape gardener, Edward Kemp (25 September 1817 – 1 March 1891).

As a protégée of Joseph Paxton, Kemp was appointed the Superintendent of the new Birkenhead Park, the first public park and one of the special '100 Places' chosen by the public in that Historic England campaign.

Kemp went on to design many private gardens, public parks and cemeteries and particularly in North West England. Historic England’s blog provides an introduction to his designs.

As part of the  World Urban Parks European Congress 16-19 October 2017 a special research symposium was held on Edward Kemp to mark his 200th birthday. Historic England supported 2017 Wirral Council in hosting the symposium and also the publication of the proceedings as a special online supplement of 'Garden History' journal.  The supplement includes papers on: