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Lutyens & Jekyll

Edwin Lutyens & Gertrude Jekyll are names synonymous with the creation of the English County Garden style. This style indicated a movement away from the highly formal Victorian garden towards a greater freedom in planting and the inclusion of a wider variety of plants. Attributes of a Lutyens & Jekyll garden included brick paths and herbaceous borders planted with lilies, lupins and lavenders, all of which can be found at The Secret Gardens of Sandwich.

Together this famous duo created many country houses with Lutyens designing the house and Jekyll providing the garden design and planting scheme. In this case Lutyens also designed the Gardens and whilst there is no definitive proof of Jekyll’s involvement with this project her influence is clear. She believed that a garden should offer unexpected views and visual surprises and should be made up of many “rooms” each with its own character; a way of thinking which is certainly in evidence at The Secret Gardens.

Edwin Lutyens

Sir Edwin Lutyens was born in London and grew up in Thursley, Surrey. He was named after a friend of his father’s; the painter and sculptor, Edwin Landseer. For many years he worked from offices at 29 Bloomsbury Square, London. Lutyens studied architecture at the South Kensington School of Art, London from 1885 to 1887. After college he joined the Ernest George and Harold Ainsworth Peto architectural practice. It was here that he first met Sir Herbert Baker.

Private practice

He began his own practice in 1888; his first commission being a private house at Crooksbury, Farnham, Surrey. During this work, he met the garden designer and horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll. In 1896 he began work on a house for Jekyll at Munstead Wood, Godalming, Surrey. It was the beginning of a fruitful professional partnership that would define the look of many Lutyens country houses.

The Lutyens-Jekyll garden overflowed with hardy shrubery and herbaceous plantings within a firm classicising architecture of stairs, Lutyens benches and balustraded terraces. This combined style, of the formal with the informal, exemplified by brick paths, softened by billowing herbaceous borders, full of lilies, lupins, delphiniums, and lavender was in direct contrast to the very formal bedding schemes favoured by the previous generation in the Victorian era. This new “natural” style was to define the “English garden” until modern times.

Lutyens’ fame grew largely through the popularity of the new lifestyle magazine Country Life created by Edward Hudson, which featured many of his house designs. Hudson was a great admirer of Lutyens’ style and commissioned Lutyens for a number of projects.

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude JekyllGertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), created more than 400 gardens in the UK, Europe and America; her influence on garden design has been pervasive to this day. She spent most of her life in Surrey, England, latterly at Munstead Wood, Godalming. She ran a garden centre there and bred many new plants. Some of her gardens have been faithfully restored, wholly or partly, and can be visited. Godalming Museum has many of her notebooks and copies of all her garden drawings (compiled and sorted by members of the Surrey Gardens Trust). The original drawings are in the University of California.

Her own books about gardening are widely read in modern editions; much has been written about her by others. She contributed more than 1,000 articles to Country Life, The Garden and other magazines. A talented painter, photographer, designer and craftswoman; she was much influenced by arts & crafts principles.

Gertrude Jekyll is well known for her association with the English architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens; she collaborated with him on gardens and teak outdoor furniture for many of his houses.

To find out more about the history of The Secret Gardens of Sandwich, view our articles where we have featured in the press.