Discovering the Landscape #5: Mawson’s ‘The art & craft of garden making’ (1900)

Written by Claire Wooldridge, Graduate Trainee Library Assistant

As progress continues to integrate the library and archive of the Landscape Institute into our MERL collections, here’s a brief look at another of our favourite items:

The art & craft of garden making by Thomas H. Mawson (London: B.T. Batsford, 1900)

A Country House and Garden, double page illustration from Mawson, 1900

A Country House and Garden, double page illustration from Mawson, 1900

In his first book, Mawson demonstrated his expertise as a landscape designer, who rose from humble origins to become the leader of his field, undertaking major commissions in Britain, Europe and Canada and in 1929 becoming the first president of the Institute of Landscape Architects.

Mawson, Art & Craft of Garden Making, 1900

Mawson, Art & Craft of Garden Making, 1900

Thomas Hayton Mawson (1861-1933) was a well-known landscape architect, garden designer and town planner thought by many to be the leading practitioner of his time.  In the early 1880s Mawson and his brothers established their own firm.  Based in Windermere, Mawson received commissions to design private gardens and as the firm grew took on work across the country.

By 1900 Mawson had achieved such success and acclaim to allow him to leave Mawson brothers and pursue landscape design independently.  Becoming the leader of his field, Mawson took on many high profile private and public projects, working for example for Queen Alexandra and the maharaja of Baroda.  His public works include Haslam Park in Preston and internationally the Peace Palace gardens at The Hague, which Mawson won a competition to design in 1908.

In the same year as leaving Mawson Brothers, the first edition of Mawson’s  The art & craft of garden making was published.  This ran to several editions, many of these are held here at MERL, with our holdings furthered by the acquisition of a first and second edition of the work from the Landscape Institute Library.

The first edition featured here is bound with the publisher’s original green cloth and is finished with beautiful gilt decoration.  The volume is illustrated with perspective views drawn by Mr. C.E. Mallows, chapter headings designed for the title by Mr. D. Chamberlain and extensive, varied and intricate depictions of plants, plans of gardens and garden ornaments.

Chapter 2 illustrated heading, Mawson, 1900

Chapter 2 illustrated heading, Mawson, 1900


Plan from Mawson, 1900

Plan from Mawson, 1900

Clearly concerned by recent treatment of the topic of landscape gardening, Mawson’s preface reveals his desire to restore the image of the practice in public perception and counter claims that beautiful gardens occur more by ‘accident’ than design.  I can’t help but wonder who Mawson might have in mind here… do get in touch if you have any ideas!

‘Garden making; it has been said is the only art which, owing to accidental development and un-looked for groupings, the realisation surpasses in beauty the original conception… a caustic critic seizing upon this statement has referred to landscape gardening as an art which relies upon accident for its effects.  Whilst not fully admitting the justice of this criticism… the writings and practice of many men who have undertaken to lay out gardens, have given cause for it… no such desirable object as garden making has suffered so much from the inattention of those who have been most capable of guiding and advising.’ – p. xi.


Mawson’s archival collection is held at the Cumbria Record Office, Kendal.

Discovering the Landscape #4: Inaugural Meeting of the LI Friends Group

Guest post written by Penny Beckett, Chair of the LI Archive Friend’s Group

As followers of this blog will be aware, the Landscape Institute transferred its archive to MERL in October of last year and is currently supporting MERL financially to work on the Institute’s collections and make them accessible.

As part of the terms of the transfer, it was agreed that a separate friends group should be established to support and advise either party when asked to do so. We held our inaugural meeting at MERL in February this year but chose the worst possible week to do so – a combination of flooding, high winds and travel disruption meant that some had to put off even attempting to travel to Reading while from others we received messages such as: ‘at the airport  in Belfast, delayed by snow’; ‘the car broke down in Yorkshire’,  ‘my apologies…heavily involved with flood issues…I serve on the Thames flood and coastal committee’. Despite the travel difficulties we still had a sufficient turnout to make the day a great success. Guy Baxter, the University’s Archivist, gave us a talk about work in progress and the mutual benefits derived from having our archive at Reading.  The MERL staff laid out a wonderful display in the MERL reading room of some choice items from the Institute’s archive.

Friends Inaugural AGM RR display

Reading Room display

LI Royal Charter seal

Landscape Institute Royal Charter Great Seal

On the day a further important collection was brought to Reading. Hal Moggridge of Colvin and Moggridge donated the Brenda Colvin collection to the LI’s archive at MERL. Brenda Colvin, who died in 1981, was a founder member of the Institute of Landscape Architects (as the Landscape Institute was then known) and elected its first female President in 1951. Currently, she is less well known by the general public than her contemporaries, Sylvia Crowe and Geoffrey Jellicoe, but her influence was just as great on a whole generation of landscape professionals. Her collection will be a wonderful additional source of primary material for researchers at MERL.

Drawing of Trimpley Reservoir, Brenda Colvin collection

Drawing of Trimpley Reservoir, Brenda Colvin collection

Photograph album compiled by Brenda Colvin, Brenda Colvin collection

Photograph album compiled by Brenda Colvin, Brenda Colvin collection

Discovering the landscape #3: Milner’s ‘Landscape Gardening’

Written by Claire Wooldridge, Graduate Trainee Library Assistant

As progress continues to integrate the library and archive of the Landscape Institute into our MERL collections, here’s a brief look at one of our favourite items:

Keszthely, Milner's Landscape Gardening 1890

Keszthely, Milner’s Landscape Gardening 1890

The art and practice of landscape gardening by Henry Ernest Milner (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, And Co, 1890).

Henry Ernest Milner (1845-1906) was a landscape gardener and the son of landscape architect Edward Milner (1819-1884).  In 1890 Henry Milner published Landscape Gardening using examples from his father’s work.  In his preface, Henry writes of his father:

By this prosecution of his art in such extended practice, he attained a purely exceptional experience, the opportunity for which ripened his artistic powers; … I too have had ample opportunities to practically illustrate the art that I love and the work that I delight in. 

Edward Milner was indeed a renowned landscape gardener, training under Sir Joseph Paxton and becoming the principle of newly formed Crystal Palace School of Gardening in 1881.  At this time Henry was invited to go into partnership with his father.  After Henry’s publication of Landscape Gardening Milner received several important commissions including the grounds of Wembley Park, the enlargement of Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Gisselfeld, Denmark as well as various works on Swedish royal gardens. In 1897 he received the Victoria medal of honour in horticulture.

Milner also ruminates on how a landscape gardener is charged with interpreting and drawing out the natural beauty of the landscape: (p. 5)

It is the province of the Landscape Gardener, as I understand the art, to appreciate the multitudinous means whereby Nature expresses her beauty, and to use those means artistically as to arrange their force for producing the delightful result he desires to achieve.

Containing sections on topics such as use and positioning of terraces, water, fountains, planting and hothouses in gardens, this title contains several beautifully illustrated and partly coloured plates depicting aspects of garden plans.  It also features a fold out plan of Peverey gardens and sepia plate Milner’s work on the gardens at Keszthely (Hungary).

Peverey plan, Milner's Landscape Gardening 1890

Peverey plan, Milner’s Landscape Gardening 1890

Sepia plate, Milner's Landscape Gardening 1890

Sepia plate, Milner’s Landscape Gardening 1890


This title will be integrated into our MERL Library reserve collection due to its fine illustrative plates, age and value.  Kept in our purpose built rare book and archive store, it will be available to the public upon request once catalogued.

More information about Milner and our archival holdings of the work of Milner and his father can be found on our page for the Milner White collection.


Discovering the landscape #2 (Landscape Institute project update)

We have been so busy over the last couple of months that we almost forgot to let you know what we’ve been up to! Here’s our progress in pictures…


A new library room has been created to accommodate the growing MERL library. 

LI update Feb 2014 006-1

Over 500 books have been bib-checked for duplication across the University libraries, with 150 books catalogued and on the shelves ready for readers to use in our new library room! Subjects include garden design, historical parks and gardens, urban landscape planning, and the history of gardens and gardening.

LI update Feb 2014 012-1

Drawings from the Geoffrey Jellicoe collection have been catalogued on our database including this design (one of many) for the gardens at Shute House in Dorset.

Geoffrey Jellicoe plan of Shute House

Cataloguing and digitizing the Susan Jellicoe photographic collection of albums. The collections boasts over 6000 prints of national and international landscape and architecture as can be seen in this page featuring Sonning lock here in Berkshire and an avenue of Royal Palms in Barbados.

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Welcoming volunteers who have recently begun assisting in bib-checking and labelling books, and digitizing the Clifford Tandy photographic collection of slides.

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Getting to know our collections to assist with enquiries and cataloguing, and in preparation for the inaugural meeting of the Friends of the Landscape Institute archive on Saturday, where we will be displaying some of the gems from the archive and library.

2013-11-14 15 12 21 (2)-1‘Instruction pair les jardin Fruitiers et Potages’ printed in Paris in 1697

LI update Feb 2014 021-1AR CRO Magdalen College rose garden photo 2

Plan for the rose garden at Magdalen College, University of Oxford by Sylvia Crowe and a photograph of the completed garden some years later.