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 development.
- 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 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.
Research into Lancelot 'Capability' Brown
See our new research and resources created to mark the Capability Brown 300 festival.
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’.
Jenifer White, one of our National Landscape Advisers, leads on the Capability Brown Festival for Historic England. Jenifer is a chartered landscape architect specialising in the conservation of historic parks and gardens.