William Goldring and Asylums

At the end of last year I wrote about the work of William Goldring, a prolific landscape and garden designer who died in 1919. Apart from his private commissions  and work on  public parks he was also involved in the design of landscapes that have been generally overlooked by garden and landscape historians: those of hospitals and asylums.   A large number of these were being built in the later 19thc so I thought, with the Victorian love of order and record keeping, this would be an easy subject to  research but once again I’ve been proved wrong.

The Conservatory at Rauceby after closure © Steffie Shields 1999

The grounds of these new hospitals, particularly those for mental illness, were seen as having equal therapeutic value to the buildings where the patients were housed. But whereas architects are almost always known,  landscape designers are not.  This is surprising considering that many  were mainly on large rural or semi-rural sites and in many way can be seen as a continuation of the planning and layout of great landed estates in earlier times.

William Goldring from The Journal of the Kew Guild, 1913

Sarah Rutherford attempted to uncover these lost designers in her PhD thesis  about the landscapes of asylums but says that when she started her research “of all the 115 public asylum sites begun by 1914 only one was known to have a named designer.” Luckily that one was by William Goldring and she went on to show that he designed at least two more.  These three sites, Napsbury near St Albans in Hertfordshire, Hellingly in Sussex and Rauceby, near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, are the subjects of today’s post.

The remains of Rauceby Hospital from Google Street View

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The Other London Zoo OR Vesuvius and a parachuting monkey

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the new menagerie that was set up during the French Revolution in Paris’s  Jardin des Plantes which helped put science rather than entertainment centre stage. This led to pressure for London to have an equivalent [or better!] , and in 1822 the Linnaean Society resolved to form a “Zoological Club of the Linnaean Society of London” which in  turn led to the establishment of London Zoo.

Up until then  the only way most people could see any “exotic” animals  was to visit a travelling menagerie or one of the large indoor menageries on London. The most famous of these was at Exeter Change on the Strand, which from 1814 was run by Edward Cross.

But the tide was turning on such cruel conditions. The public mood shifted towards seeing animals given a little more space and better treatment.  Menageries slowly began to close and zoological gardens began to open around Britain: Dublin in 1831, Liverpool in 1832,  Manchester in 1836,  and Edinburgh in 1839. But the first amongst them  was created with the animals from Edward Cross’s menagerie and became  London’s other zoological garden, and as far as I’m aware the only one that had a parachuting monkey…

The Tortoise enclosure, detail of a painting by E.J. Capel, 1831

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Dickensian Gardens

A few weeks back I was going to write about the way Dickens used gardens in his books, but ended up writing about the man himself and his garden at Gad’s Hill, so today I’m going to try again.  I’m a great Dickens fan and its pretty clear that gardens play a critical role in several books,  but rather than try and do a heavy literary analysis  I thought I’d look at  how  Dickens uses them to set the scene for his stories as they unfold, and in doing so shows the  importance of gardens and gardening to the aspiring Victorian lower-middle class.

And  don’t forget if you’re self-isolating you dont have to wait for  Saturday mornings  to read something new about garden history. There are another 323 posts covering all sorts of  topics  for you to read over breakfast  [or at any other time!] just check out what’s available under Topics on the top menu bar – or take pot luck and choose a month from the archive column on the right and see what pops up!

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The Jardin des Plantes

“Her Highness”, the Giraffe given to Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt, by Nicolas Huet the Younger (1827)

I looked in the last post at the early history of Paris’s principal botanic garden, the former royal garden or the Jardin du Roi. Today’s is about what happened there between the French Revolution and today.

It’s a good story involving the first giraffe in France which became an instant celebrity and fashion icon, as well as some pioneering architecture, and shows how post-Revolution science in all its branches, including botany and horticulture became central to French culture.

This was summed up by Joseph Lakanal,  during a debate in the revolutionary National Convention  in 1793, who asked if “the Tree of Liberty is the only one not to be naturalised at the Jardin des Plantes” before going on to  declare that “of all the monuments raised by the munificence of nations to the glory of natural science, none has deserved the attention of legislators better than the Jardin des Plantes”.

And  don’t forget if you’re self-isolating you dont have to wait for  Saturday mornings  to read something new about garden history. There are another 322 posts covering all sorts of  topics  for you to read over breakfast  [or at any other time!] just check out what’s available under Topics on the top menu bar – or take pot luck and choose a month from the archive column on the right and see what pops up!

The menagerie and natural history cabinet

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The Jardin du Roi

I was supposed to be researching something serious the other day, when, as so often, I saw something much more interesting and decided to follow that lead instead. It was an image of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris that had been painted at the very  height of  the French Revolution.  You might have expected it to be a scan of chaos and destruction but far from it. Instead it was a scene of tranquility and calm, with apparently well cared for gardens and garden buildings.

A bit more investigation revealed that far from damaging the former royal gardens the revolutionaries recognised their importance and made them a key part of their programme for cultural and scientific advance…and there wasn’t just one but a whole series of paintings which show the gardens in great detail.  So I decided to investigate the story behind them and the gardens…

 

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