Bucks GT Spring Talk 2019: Kate Harwood – ‘Save Our Serpent’; Geoffrey Jellicoe and Hemel Hempstead

Date(s) - 27/04/2019
2:30 pm - 4:45 pm

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Bucks GT Spring Talk 2019 by Kate Harwood
Save our Sepent

2.30pm, Saturday 23 February 2019
at the Bucks County Museum
£12 for members, £14 for guests

Following the designation of Hemel Hempstead for the site of  the third post-war New Town, Geoffrey Jellicoe was commissioned to lay out the town, including a town centre garden and Sylvia Crowe produced the landscape assessment for the area prior to development. Jellicoe’s plans for the town were not accepted and finally a modified plan for his gardens was opened in 1962. This talk will look at some of Jellicoe’s other gardens  and his interest in modern art and Carl Jung’s theories on the subconscious to try to understand the design. We will finish with the story of decline and rejuvenation and the campaign to’ Save our Serpent’.

Kate Harwood has been instrumental in the recent restoration of Jellicoe’s seminal design for the Water Gardens at Hemel Hempstead.

Please fill in our Booking Form and return with your cheque(s) to
Rosemary Jury,
11 Fledglings Walk, Winslow, Buckingham, Bucks MK18 3QU
email her directly,
or phone: 01296 715 491

Spring Talk 2019
All our Talks are held at the Bucks County Museum
Church Street, Aylesbury, HP20 2QP
(our map shows you how to find the Museum and parking)
and include tea and cakes at the end.


Additional material follows…

Perhaps surprisingly for such an internationally important landscape designer there seems to be little information about Jellicoe available on-line, perhaps because he died in 1996, as old as the century. I was lucky enough to live at Hartwell House for a few years where at least some of his ideas for the revival of the gardens were executed. CB.

Biographical note by Sarah Topp

Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe was one of the 20th century’s leading landscape architects with a career spanning almost seventy years.

A trained architect, town planner, landscape architect and garden designer his strongest interest was in landscape and garden design, describing it as “the mother of all arts”.

Jellicoe grew up in the coastal town of Rustington amongst the rolling Sussex Downs with his father, a publisher and an opera-loving mother, both were sophisticated gardeners.

After a traditional classical education, which led to a lasting love of Roman and Greek philosophers, Jellicoe trained as an architect from 1919 at the Architects Association School in London . He was a founder member of the Institute of Landscape Architects , he was president from 1939-1949, and the International Federation of Landscape Architects of which he was Honorary Life President.

As part of his final year of architectural studies, Jellicoe visited Italy and as a result wrote an authoritative book on Italian Renaissance Gardens . Throughout his life this influence was reflected in his work and can be seen at Ditchley, through to the designs for Sutton Place.

Jellicoe’s long and rich career saw the creation of many projects, from Cheddar Gorge in 1934 to the Kennedy memorial at Runneymede, considered to be one of his greatest works.

Water was a recurring theme in many Jellicoe designs, sometimes still and reflective and in others energetic, a rushing waterfall down steep slopes adding another dimension to the design.

After formally retiring, Jellicoe developed his ideas on the link between design and the sub-conscious, studying the works of Carl Jung. He felt the contribution of our sub-conscious when appreciating design was wholly underrated or ignored.

Early in his career, Jellicoe was familiar with the work of modern artists and felt empathy with abstract work. He enjoyed successful relationships with the artist Ben Nicholson, who provided the concluding sculpture for Sutton Place in Surrey, and was influenced by Paul Klee. His work can also be seen at Cottesbrooke and Mottisfont.

Jellicoe’s last great project, yet to be built, was for the Moody Historical gardens in Galveston, Texas, although much of the present garden was influenced by his ideas. A multi-million pound magnum opus, aimed to take visitors on a watery journey through the history of landscape, from the Garden of Eden, passing through ancient Egyptian and Roman gardens to those of China and Japan. Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe combined appreciation of classical design with modern in a unique way, having a feeling for the totality of a place and a rare sense of volume. His understanding of the landscape being more than just a picture and the importance of the effects of time on a place make Jellicoe the most influential landscape designer of our time.

There is also a wonderfully informative recording of Jellicoe discussing his life and career, with Jill Lever, made shortly before his death. This link takes you to the first part (of five).

Jellicoe at Cliveden, Bucks by Charles Boot, Bucks GT web-editor

Jellicoe’s garden for the Astor’s at Cliveden has been recently re-created, if not entirely restored, because it has been slightly changed in detail, most notably by the addition of a yew hedge around the outside, reminding us of its 18th-century iteration as part of the then  ‘Wilderness’ gardens. like any of Jeelicoe’s works it was heavily influenced by teh work of Paul Klee and Jungian philosophy, though as Jellioce often said this was only to be discovered in one’s own subconscious.

The Fruit (1937) by Paul Klee, formed part of Jellicoe’s inspiration for the Astor’s Rose Garden at Cliveden; it was then in his personal collection. I was amazed to discover it in the collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), California, having only ever seen it in Jellicoe’s writings and then only in black and white.

The then so called ‘Secret Garden’ (signposted!) at Cliveden, Bucks, with planting by Isabelle von Groeningen, following a period of rose sickness. It retains the Jellicoe concept of the garden and its statues escaping into the surrounding gardens… (2005).

The latest incarnation of the garden gets underway (October 2014).

The National Trust explain the new design’s concept, 

The return of the roses, Gardens Trust and Bucks GT visit, June 2016. Jellicoe’s ‘human’ shaped trellis arches were perhaps meant to keep the garden occupied even when no actual people, as opposed to garden gods and spirts, represented by the statues, were in place.