“The utopians did not dream in vain”*

*Conclusion by Anna Pavord

Pictured: The Red House, Bexleyheath

Sedding Street, London SW1, runs behind John Dando Sedding’s Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, Chelsea — the “Arts and Crafts Church”. He is said to have been “a simple, impulsive, warm-hearted man with a sense of fun.” He and other pupils of George Edmund Street — William Morris, Philip Webb, and Richard Norman Shaw — “reacted against Street’s hard-edged style in favour of later, more gentle idioms”.

Seddings’s 1889 lecture, The Architectural Treatment of Gardens, was influential in the revival espoused by Reginald Blomfield, of “Jacobean” features such as terraces, covered walks, bowling greens, clipped yew hedges and topiary, which would combine with “cottage garden” elements in the Arts and Crafts gardens of 1890–1915.

Blomfield’s advocacy of formal landscape design drew criticism from William Robinson (1838-1935), an Irish practical gardener and journalist whose ideas about wild gardening spurred the movement that evolved into the English cottage garden. Jane Powers writes, in the Irish Times of November 2010, of Robinson referring to himself throwing plant seeds from the train window, to beautify the margins of the railway. She continues:

“The Wild Garden, although written when he was still a young man, was probably Robinson’s most influential book, and it ran to many editions over many decades. It garnered him admirers such as the plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll and the designer of New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted.

The “Robinsonian” method of gardening can still be seen in Irish gardens, with extensive areas of naturalised bulbs and perennials. Some of the better-known examples are Mount Usher in Co Wicklow, Fernhill in Co Dublin, and Annes Grove in Co Cork.”

Anna Pavord, in her article of March 2013 for The Independent, writes:

“Gardens made in the Arts and Crafts style have never lost their appeal, though many are now more than a hundred years old. Part of the charm lies in their strong, cogent structure. The architect who designed the house was often responsible for laying out the garden as well (a rare thing now), so the two became knitted together in a very satisfying way.

William Morris had set high standards for subsequent Arts and Crafters with his pioneering first home, the Red House at Bexleyheath in Kent, which Edward Burne-Jones called “the beautifullest place on earth”. Only 25 when he commissioned it, the garden was laid out at the same time as the house was being built.

Morris filled the garden with his favourite flowers, but stayed there for less than six years before moving to Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade in Gloucestershire. For 25 years, between 1871 and his death in 1896, this was his summer retreat.

Edwin Lutyens met Gertrude Jekyll “at a tea table, the silver kettle and the conversation reflecting rhododendrons”. The rhodies belonged to a Surrey neighbour who was helping the redoubtable Jekyll look for an architect to build a house in the garden she had already made at Munstead Wood, Surrey.

The influence she has had rests mostly on theory, particularly ideas about colour, worked out in books such as Colour in the Flower Garden, that she wrote between 1899 and 1912…..But it was an inspiration too, the stimulus for the leafy streets of Letchworth and the Hampstead Garden Suburb.”

The Victorian Web notes: “John Dando Sedding moved his residence in June 1888 from Charlotte Street (modern day Bloomsbury Street) to West Wickham in Kent, and became an enthusiastic gardener, with a strong prepossession for cut-yew hedges and arcades, and other topiarian devices, writing in 1891 his very suggestive Garden Craft, Old and New. Before it was published he died at Winsford Vicarage, Somerset (where he was engaged on some restoration) on 7 April 1891. A few days afterwards died his wife, Rose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s