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Women Celebrated by Registered Parks and Gardens

Determined women have seized the opportunity provided by gardens to assert their independence, to be recognised as equals of men, and to create living, lasting monuments to their drive, imagination and artistry.

Ten women and their gardens are profiled below as an introduction to some of the remarkable landscapes included in the Register of Parks and Gardens which illuminate the roles of women as designers, writers, botanists, artists and craftswomen.

The Queen Mother's Garden at Walmer Castle, Kent, Registered Grade II, designed by Penelope Hobhouse
The Queen Mother's Garden at Walmer Castle, Kent, Registered Grade II, designed by Penelope Hobhouse © Historic England

Until the 20th century a woman's role was generally as a wife and mother. She had few rights of property or opportunities for professional recognition or advancement, was discouraged from learning or displaying intellectual prowess and was denied the vote. Some exceptional and advantaged individuals used the garden to assert their interests and build their own reputations but it was not until after the 1920s, when women's rights, suffrage, and access to education were established, that many more women were able to develop careers in garden design, horticulture or landscape architecture. Individuals such as Brenda Colvin and Sylvia Crowe, pioneered the new profession and were key players in establishing the Institute of Landscape Architects, now the Landscape Institute.
 
The role of women in landscape architecture and horticulture is now well established. Five of Historic England's chartered landscape architects are women; and Fiona Sanders, Jo Hindhaugh and Jane Cordingley manage the gardens at Kenilworth Castle (Registered Grade II*), Belsay Hall (Registered Grade I) and Eltham Palace (Registered Grade II*).

Advice on careers in landscape architecture and horticulture, and routes for study are available at the Landscape Institute, the Institute of Horticulture and 'Grow Your Own Career in Horticulture'. The Historic and Botanic Gardens Bursary Scheme headed by horticulturalist Fiona Dennis, offers secondments and training placements in a range of historic and botanic gardens to help individuals develop their careers.

Fiona Sanders, head gardener at Kenilworth Castle
Fiona Sanders, head gardener at Kenilworth Castle © Historic England

The Register of Parks and Gardens

Historic England's  'Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England' was established in 1983 and now contains over 1600 sites. Its captures parks, gardens and other designed landscapes - such as cemeteries and hospital grounds - which are of national importance. Through the Register, Historic England seeks to increase awareness of their value and encourage those who own, manage and use them, to treat them with due care and protect them for the future.

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