Past Events

The Trust is proud of its diverse programme of events for members and their guests. Each year we provide a full calendar of events including lectures, study days and garden visits. A summary of past events for 2017 to present is provided below. We hope this demonstrates our commitment to educating individuals about the value of historic landscapes, garden designers and horticultural more generally.


events programme 2019

It is has been another busy year for the Trust with monthly events ranging from our Winter Lectures featuring Head Gardeners of historic gardens to our ever popular range of garden visits. We also held a study day on George London at Fetcham Park, one of his last landscape garden projects. Below are the highlights to date.

Winter lectures 2019


Head gardener, Joe Whelan, gave an excellent talk on the history of Nymans and the development of its extensive gardens and woodlands by Ludwig Messel. Ludwig Messel acquired Nymans in 1870 and with the help of his head gardener, James Comber, transformed its gardens, totalling some 600 acres of woodlands and 30 acres of garden. His presentation included photos of the Messel family and the gardens from their archives. It was interesting to learn about the important roles that Muriel (Ludwig’s daughter) and Maud (Leonard’s wife) played at Nymans with Muriel largely credited with finishing the ‘A Garden Flora’ catalogue of plants at Nymans and Maud driving the reconstruction of the house into the gothic structure known today. We also learned that prior to the fire that largely destroyed the house and the majority of its contents in 1947, the Messel family had the largest collection of horticultural books, including books from Persia, outside Kew. Joe discussed the national plant collections contained at Nymans and the environmental practices that have been put in place to combat the threats of climate change and increased visitor numbers whilst maintaining relevance. Joe has worked in horticulture for 10 years in a range of disciplines including design, fruit and vegetable production and historic garden restoration. He was appointed Head Gardener at Nymans in April 2018.

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russell dixon: Great Fosters - the Alchemy of gardening
April 2019

Russell Dixon talked about his nearly three decades long involvement with the Grade II* registered gardens of Great Fosters Hotel. Great Fosters history encompasses links with Royalty and show business spanning from the 16th century to its creation as the first country house hotel in the 1930s. The current garden is based on the Arts & Craft design by W H Romaine Walker and Gilbert Jenkins in the early 1900s, extensively restored and extended by Kim Wilkie after the Great Storm of 1987. When Russell joined Great Fosters he needed to combat years of neglect with massively overgrown yew hedges, derelict rose garden and parterre and rotting bridges and other structures. The scale of the restoration was overwhelming at times particularly when one considers they took 8,000 buxus cuttings in order to recreate the parterres. In addition to the restoration, new work was undertaken including the construction of the grass amphitheatre in early 2000 and the hectare lake. Russell’s own interests have led to better wildlife practices including the introduction of bee hives, woodland maintenance and wildflower meadows. He discussed the challenges of maintaining a garden, owned by a hotel chain and one that constantly hosts weddings and other events. Russell began his career at Great Fosters as a gardener, soon becoming Head Gardener then Estate Manager.

George London Study day

Discover the influential role that George London (1650-1714) had in the development of English garden design, including his work at Fetcham Park, believed to be his last completed garden, and Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire. Speakers include garden historian Dr Sally Jeffery, local historian Vivien White and Neil Cook, head gardener at Hanbury Hall. The day will include three lectures, lunch, panel discussion and the ability to explore Fetcham Park House and gardens.

Daffodils at Nymans near Oliver Messel’s urn

Daffodils at Nymans near Oliver Messel’s urn

MARCH 2019

David Standing’s passion for Gilbert White’s garden at Selborne could not have been more evident in this delightful recounting of the unearthing of his original garden. David was able to recreate the gardens at Selborne largely thanks to Gilbert White’s detailed dairy, a 20 year record that included almost daily observation of weather, plants and work undertaken. David’s thorough research also uncovered historic photos, maps and articles that helped piece together the puzzle. We found it interesting to learn that Gilbert White was a big believer in ‘borrowed landscape’ and did exactly that by creating paths and structures such as the Turkish tent, hermitage and obelisk on the neighbouring hanger (none of which was owned by White). David, working with Kim Wilkie and the plan that he designed post the 1987 Great Storm, has recreated much of what they understood to be White’s garden. As one would expect, new discoveries continue to provide further insight about White’s landscape. Selborne was the home of Gilbert White (1720-1793) parson-naturalist, ecologist and author of The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne in the County of Southampton (1789). David was the Head Gardener at Selborne for 38 years, retiring in 2017.

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events programme 2018

The Trust had an incredibly full calendar of events in 2018 including events commemorating the bicentenary of Humphry Repton’s death, fundraisers for the Gertrude Jekyll digitisation project, our Winter lecture series and numerous visits to historic gardens in Surrey and the surrounding counties. Highlights of the events can be found below: 

Winter Lectures 2018


Since ancient times the Persian Garden has been associated with paradise. Katie Campbell’s beautifully illustrated lecture identified the common features of the original Persian gardens. Enclosed against the elements, watered by underground canals, planted with exotic flora from the far reaches of the continent, these spaces inspired awe and envy and also provided quiet areas of contemplation. She noted that their emphasis on colour, scent, light, shade, birdsong and space remained key features of garden designs from Persian times into Renaissance Europe and even contemporary garden designs elsewhere. Katie is a writer, garden historian, lecturer and often leads tours on architecture and gardens. Her most recent book, British Gardens in Time, accompanied the BBC television series.

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Based on her book, The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden, Kate Felus’ lecture revealed the previously untold story of how landscapes were used in the 18th century. The smooth turf of the parkland provided for thrilling carriage driving in the Georgian equivalent of the Ferrari, the lake gave opportunities for fishing and boating (including mock sea battles with real canon) and eye-catchers provided places for eating and drinking, afternoon naps and illicit liaisons. Dr. Felus is a garden historian and author. She has researched and written restoration plans for a range of designed landscapes from Elizabethan water gardens to Edwardian seaside parks.

MARCH 2018

Karen Bridgman gave an interesting presentation on her involvement in creating the American Roots exhibition at Painshill Park and discussed how plants from North America influenced British gardens in the 18th century. In 2004, Karen embarked upon recreating a Hartwell flowerbed using original sketches and plans as well as through extensive research of nursery guides available in the 1800s. Her talk focused on the selection of perennials, annuals and bulbs that were used in the project. Karen has been a professional horticulturalist for over 20 years and has been involved in numerous restoration projects in historic gardens, including Gilbert White’s home in Selborne and Horace Walpole’s garden at Strawberry Hill.

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Events Celebrating Bicentenary of Humphry Repton’s Death

Breakfast and Bluebells at Hatchlands Park
18 April 2018

In 1800 George Holme Sumner hired Humphry Repton to advise on improvements to the estate inherited from his father in 1791.  Repton wanted to transform 'a large red house by the side of a high road, to a Gentleman-like residence in the midst of a Park'.  In this private tour and talk with the National Trust park manager and her conservation team, we discovered Repton's vision of Hatchlands Park and the NT’s plans to conserve the park for the future.  We had the opportunity to view a facsimile of the original Repton Red Book and admire the ancient trees that date from the Repton era.  The Trust teamed up with the National Trust to publish a Repton Trail for Hatchlands, create display boards for visitors commenting on various Repton views and print facsimile copies of the original Red Book, all with the goal of informing visitors to Hatchlands of the extraordinary vision that Humphry Repton had for this historic landscape.

repton study day at Hartsfield manor and betchworth house
17 May 2018

Members and guests were able to immerse themselves in the life and work of Humphry Repton and enjoy a rare visit to privately owned Betchworth House and its Repton designed landscape.  We enjoyed informative presentations from Cherrill Sands about Repton’s life and work, Martin Higgins about Betchworth and the surrounding properties during the time of Repton and Sarah Dickinson and Sheri Sticpewich on Repton's extensive proposals for Betchworth House and gardens.  After lunch on the terrace at Hartsfield Manor, we had a private tour of Betchworth House and grounds and afternoon tea with Lady Hamilton.  Lady Hamilton and her son, Robert, kindly allowed us to view the original Repton Red Book for Betchworth House as well as peruse a wonderful selection of historic documents, photographs and artwork relating to Betchworth. With their permission, we were able to publish copies of the original Repton Red Book and these were available for sale on the day. We had glorious weather, fantastic views, interesting presentations and the kind hospitality of the Hamilton family.

The garden Museum, Lambeth
Repton Revealed: The art of landscape gardening
November 2018

Our final event paying tribute to Humphry Repton and his considerable skills was a visit to the Garden Museum to explore the exhibition celebrating his rare and beautiful Red Books. Repton’s Red Books, so named due to the distinctive red leather bindings he favoured, outlined his proposals for garden improvements for his clients. The exhibition brought together 24 Red Books and numerous watercolour paintings, many of which had never been publicly displayed before. Christopher Woodward, Director of the Garden Museum, kindly led us on a tour of the Museum and provided an introduction to the exhibition. Many of us climbed the tower, braved the cold and enjoyed the far-reaching views of the Thames, London and Lambeth Palace.

Garden Visits 2018

Reel haLL, shamley Green
June 2018

Huge thanks to the owners of Reel Hall for allowing us access to this tranquil and elegant Arts & Crafts garden nestled in the lush, wooded landscape of the Surrey Hills.  Carolyn provided an informative talk about the history of the house, the main part of which dates to the 16th century.  The house was a farm for centuries with the garden designed in the early 1930s by the Rooper family, who lived there throughout World War II.

We explored the four acres of garden which benefits from a stream flowing through the very heart of the garden.  The herbaceous borders and the enclosed garden dominated by large topiary yew shapes were certainly the highlight.  The gentle climb along a rising path provided glorious views across the valley and down over the stream giving a real sense of the layout of the garden.  The apple orchard, vegetable garden, small wildflower meadow and vast greenhouses running along the top terrace were beautifully maintained and supplied the house with ample fruit, vegetables and flowers. 

June 2018

In contrast with Reel Hall, much of the gardens at Shamley Wood Estate had been recently redesigned, capitalising on the beautiful setting with views across Newlands Corner and the South Downs and the presence of numerous mature trees. We entered through a meadow garden edged with neat squares of wildflowers between trees to a warm welcome from Claire in her fire-pit garden. This whole area is partly enclosed by gnarled olive trees and, within view, there is a dry garden filled with swaying grasses and sculptural evergreens, transporting the visitor to the Mediterranean. A rockery and stream tumbles down the garden surrounded by soft billowing planting, leading to a grassed terrace with roses and lavenders and the wilder woodland beyond. A large tranquil pond with submerged hippos surrounded by lush green planting offers a quiet space near the house, separating it from the busier areas of the thriving kitchen garden and farm traffic. Tea and cakes on the lawn, taking in the views and with music playing gently in the background made for quite a party atmosphere to end the day.

busbridge lakes, Godalming
July 2018

The beautiful summer weather continued for our visit to Busbridge Lakes where the group was shown around the garden and surrounding lakes by either Mrs Fleur Douetil, owner of Busbridge Lakes or the head gardener. Busbridge Lakes is a Grade II* registered Park noted for its mid-18th century follies including the shell grotto dating from 1810, a Doric temple, a hermit’s cave and a ‘ghost walk’. The lakes with resplendent water fowl were stunning and we all appreciated the cool climate created by the surrounding border of such well established, mature specimen trees. They provided a welcome respite from the heat and allowed us to admire the various rustic bridges and stone structures joining the lakes. We also enjoyed seeing the extensive collection of waterbirds and ornamental fowl being raised by the owners.

The peace garden at the muslim burial ground, woking
september 2018

Elizabeth Cuttle, a trustee of the Horsell Common Preservation Society, and long standing member of the SGT, gave us a talk on the history of the Muslim Burial Ground and provided the context to the newly created Muslim Peace Garden, which was opened to the public in 2015. The newly restored brick walled garden surrounded by high dark self-seeded coniferous woodland gave a wonderful sense of enclosure to the space. Once inside the double set of timber gates (replicas of the 1917 originals) under the almost Lutyens styled chattri you are reminded of the eastern style paradise garden with water features, rill, trees, Indian sandstone paths and a monolithic monument to the former soldiers that are buried here. The Muslim Burial Ground was originally opened in 1917 and there were 19 WWI burials plus 8 from WWII.

The site was severely vandalised in the 1960s and the bodies were exhumed and reburied in war graves in Brookwood Cemetery where it was left untouched for decades. In 2010, Woking Borough Council decided to restore the site and secured help from the Horsell Common Preservation Society, the Muslim Community and Historic England. The garden today holds significant symbolism from the Himalayan birch trees for each burial to the stone prayer mats facing Mecca and is a fitting place of remembrance for these brave individuals.

Brookwood cemetery, woking
september 2018

Margaret Hobbs of the Brookwood Cemetery Society welcomed us on a warm sunny afternoon to the largest cemetery in the UK, founded in 1854. Brookwood Cemetery is a Grade I listed site on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens located a few miles from Woking. The tour started at the lake in the Glades of Remembrance where much clearance and restoration planting has been undertaken. This area, opened in 1950, is retained for cremated remains. The specimen trees are plentiful and varied with giant sequoia which were planted alongside the railway which brought the dead from London to be buried there.

We were also treated to visit the interior of the Church of St Edward the Martyr where one of the resident monastic clergymen addressed us to explain about the services held and the wealth of iconography covering the walls. Later in the afternoon we returned to the lodge for a very welcome cup of tea and cake.

deepdene trail, dorking
October 2018

Although the weather wasn’t particularly inviting, we received a warm welcome from Alex Bagnall, Hope Springs Eternal Project Manager, Mole Valley District Council, at the start of our tour at Deepdene Trail. The Deepdene Estate was inherited by Charles Howard in 1652 and it is in this steep-sided valley that he created one of the first Italian-style gardens in England. His grandson, Charles, built a grand Palladian mansion some 116 year later. The estate reached its peak during the time of Thomas Hope and his son, Henry. Thomas Hope was largely responsible for developing the picturesque landscape which is remembered today. Bankruptcy and disrepair led to the estate being broken up, the mansion destroyed and the follies neglected until 2014 when the Hope Springs Eternal project commenced. During our guided tour of the landscape, Alex pointed out key areas of restoration including the reinstatement of the parterre and its Coady the Lion sculpture, the Grotto, the Embattled Tower and discussed the occupation of the property by Southern Trains and its use as a communications hub during the war. The highlight was certainly the Hope Mausoleum with its splendid iron doors, almost hidden exposure enclosed as it is within the hillside and beautifully simple, classic interior.

events Programme 2017

Our Events programme for 2017 consisted of a wide variety of educational and enjoyable activities.  Events ranged from viewing the RHS Lindley Library’s impressive collection of horticultural books and objects to exploring the beautiful vistas of Albury Park during our John Evelyn Study Day.  Highlights of the events can be found below: 

Winter lectures 2017

Caption demo for Sheri...

JANuary 2017

Colin Jones, a gardener, photographer and traveller, led us on a brief and pleasurable walk through the ‘secret gardens of London’ during his lecture.  Colin described London as the greenest city in the world with 6oo public parks and gardens covering 67 square miles and the world’s greatest botanic collection at Kew. His lecture covered the history of many of these gardens including The Museum of Garden History and the secret gardens within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. Colin Jones is chairman of Sanderstead Horticultural Society, a member of the Surrey Guild of Judges and lectures in horticulture and is a listed lecturer for the RHS.

Val Bott: Patent Elms, Pineapples and Pears – Nursery Gardening in West London 1650-1800
February 2017

Val Bott discussed her research into the heyday of nursery gardening in the parishes of Chiswick, Brentford and Isleworth along the River Thames.  These garden grounds were well located for river and road transport.  This community of gardeners shared their expertise and was linked by ties of business and marriage. Many of these early nurseries were passed down through the generations and developed their own expertise in particular plants. Val Bott shares her research on the subject through She has been an independent museum consultant since 2000 and has over 25 years’ experience of managing museums and archives. She supports many heritage-related charities and in June 2014 was awarded an MBE for this work.


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Beryl Saich: A Neglected Masterpiece Rediscovered: The Work of Blanche Elizabeth Edith Henrey
March 2017

Beryl, a longstanding SGT member and accomplished researcher, was shown a beautiful, magnificent three-volume work of British Botanical and Horticultural Literature before 1800 by Blanche Elizabeth Edith Henrey (1906-1983) on one of her trips to the RHS Lindley Library.  Intrigued by their quality, Beryl researched their origins.  These volumes were a 30-year labour of love by Henrey and were first published in 1975.  She was a talented photographer and, in addition to providing the photographs for Flower Portraits and Trees and Shrubs throughout the Year, she produced calendars for Country Life with a worldwide circulation.  She also wrote No ordinary Gardener: Thomas Knowlton 1691-1781 which was published after her death.  Henrey gained the Freedom of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners for her 'the superb quality of her work'.

Garden Visits and Study Days 2017

John Evelyn Study Day
Tours of Albury Park and Wotton House
April 2017

In April 2017 we hosted 80 people at a study day celebrating John Evelyn’s contribution to horticulture and the landscape, including tours of Albury Park and Wotton House.  John Evelyn (1620-1706) is remembered as a diarist and author but his influence on gardens and horticulture spans the centuries. Beryl Saich gave an illustrated and informative talk on Evelyn’s life, his influences and contributions. This was followed by a private tour of the magnificent terraces and landscape at Albury Park designed by John Evelyn for Henry Howard, who later became the Duke of Norfolk.  Albury is a rare survivor and outstanding example of a mid-17th century landscape. After lunch, we focused on the history of Wotton House and its proposed conservation and development.  Wotton House was John Evelyn’s ‘most cherished place on earth’. He loved its sense of rural seclusion, the long chalk spine of the downs, the eminence of Leith Hill. Although Wotton House is now a country house hotel, the gardens are still recognisable as those from John Evelyn’s original designs.


Barnett Hill Country House Hotel, Blackheath
June 2017

Not daunted by an overnight deluge and howling gales, we visited the beautiful gardens of Barnett Hill, built for Frank Cook in 1905 and now a country house hotel. For more than two decades, Estates Manager, Della Connelly, has expertly cared for the 26 acres of parkland, woodland and formal grounds.

A show-stopping herbaceous border runs parallel to the back of the hotel, featuring silver-leaved plants and dramatic architectural specimens including cardoons and giant thistles. The romantic pond garden enchanted us with its bold plantings of a single variety of pink scented rose Comte de Chambord in full flower, forming a backdrop to so-called ‘50p’ island borders with their annual bedding.

“A strong first impression is created by the magnificent driveway through atmospheric parkland leading up to the hotel. You get a sense of the spirit of the garden as it will have been originally conceived, with formal gardens and extensive lawns divided by neatly clipped yews near the house, and winding paths at the outer edges enticing you downhill into informal woodland full of camellias and foxgloves.”
— Anna Cade

2 Chinthurst Lodge, Wonersh
June 2017

This delightful one-acre garden has been open through the National Garden Scheme for over 20 years and lovingly expanded and maintained by its owners.  The tranquil setting, surrounded by fields and nestled close to wooded hills, belies the excitement of what is to be seen within the garden’s boundaries. The house dates back to the 1700s, but the garden has been artfully divided into individual ‘rooms’ each packed with innovative planting. Original features, such as two old wells and ancient espaliered apple trees in the kitchen garden are preserved with new ideas, many inspired by other well-known gardens, woven throughout. The new Millennium garden is peaceful with a central formal pond. By the kitchen garden, cleverly concealing the greenhouse, were two stunning blue borders filled with a combination of delphiniums, campanulas and aconitum.

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Loseley Park, Compton
July 2017

After weeks of hot temperatures, visitors relished the cooler weather while exploring the beautifully maintained gardens and house at Loseley Park through guided tours. The More-Molyneux family has owned Loseley Park since the beginning of the 16th century and our guide pointed out the fine portraits, furniture, textiles and other works of art including the magnificent panelling from Henry VIII’s Nonsuch Palace.  The walled garden of 2.5 acres has been divided into a number of rooms including the Rose Garden with over 1,000 rose bushes, a Flower Garden with mainly hot-coloured planting and the White Garden with its beautiful spires of foxgloves, bountiful hydrangeas and silver-foliaged plants. The Herb and Organic Vegetable Garden were delightfully arranged with interesting varieties and companion plants. Our garden guide talked about the extensive and necessary renovations to the moat and the continuing improvements to the meadowlands. From the Tithe Barn and the front of the house one was also able to appreciate the magnificent landscape of the lakes and the Surrey countryside.

RHS Lindley Library Tour, London
July 2017

The Lindley Library holds collections on art, garden design and garden history.  We saw a range of precious books including a Humphry Repton Red Book. We viewed old garden catalogues and were amazed at the range of flowers and vegetables available to gardeners in Victorian and Edwardian times.  We saw a collection of sepia photographs of pre-war gardeners and nurserymen and postcards depicting the parks, public gardens and seaside esplanades in the 1950s and 1960s, most of which no longer exist.  Finally we visited the botanical art department and saw a Florilegium from the 1700s with large paintings (similar in size to A3) of the lily family – everything from Narcissi to Hippeastrum and some of the latest botanical art added to the collection – a full size painting of Giant Hogweed – to include its roots, seeds and leaves in incredible detail.

West Dean Gardens, near Chichester, West Sussex
July 2017

Members were treated to a lovely two hour walk around the gardens exploring all the interesting and quirky features of the 90 acres of gardens and 240 acres of parkland, which have been restored and developed under the current stewardship of Jim Buckland, Sarah Wain and their gardening team.

“The highlight of a most enjoyable visit to West Dean was the Walled Garden with its magnificent flower borders, great variety of fruit and vegetables and a quite astonishing array of Victorian glasshouses, including some sunken ones of a kind not seen before.”
— David Hanson
“A garden with something for everyone; glasshouses, kitchen gardens, Victorian pleasure gardens, ancient cedars and rolling parkland that leads to the distant arboretum.”
— Jacky Metuik

The Garden Museum, Lambeth, London
July 2017

Members and their guests were delighted to have the opportunity to visit the recently refurbished Garden Museum.  Our guide discussed John Tradescent and his eclectic collection of objects, how they came to be at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, the establishment of the Garden Museum and its future aspirations for recording current day garden designers and their achievements.  We also admired the selection of watercolours on display in honour of ‘The Tradescent’s Orchard’, a 17th century volume of 66 watercolours of various fruit varieties.  This volume is one of the Bodleian Library’s most treasured possessions and had never been on loan outside Oxford before – a rare treat! 

Englefield House, Englefield, Berkshire
August 2017

The inscription on a stone staircase in the garden that reads, “If you help towards Englefield garden either in flowers or invention you shall be welcome thither”, written in a letter of 1601, demonstrates that the garden was being planned 400 years ago.  The house has remained in the Paulet family since 1635, is listed at Grade II* and the superb gardens are Grade II on the Historic Parks & Gardens Register. Head Gardener, Sue Broughton, led us on an informative tour around the immediate 9 acre garden surrounding the house. Highlights were the stone terracing with a rose swag and carefully selected planting in the front beds, the yellow and blue garden with a long stone bench seat, the white garden and some wonderful specimen trees, which included a Giant Sequoia. The views out to the countryside from the elevated gardens cut into the hillside were nothing if not spectacular.