Garden history is more than the study of individuals such as 'Capability Brown' who created estates for a wealthy élite. A new approach, which includes insights from geology and archaeology, the perspectives of social class and gender, the history of art and architecture, science, technology and literature, is changing our perspective so that we can see gardens and gardening within wider social, economic, political and cultural contexts. Landscapes were created, formed and interpreted by town dwellers, women and lesser-known gardeners and designers as well as the 'great men' of the past. Based on papers given at a conference at the University of Birmingham, and written by distinguished scholars who are also writing for a wide audience, these essays highlight the wealth of recent research into landscape and green spaces in the West Midlands. The book ranges from the Picturesque movement in Herefordshire to William Shenstone's unique ferme ornée at The Leasowes, near Halesowen and the aspirational gardens and allotments of the Quaker ironmasters at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire. Other contributions celebrate women's entrepreneurial activity in the nursery trade, chart the uncovering and restoration of a hidden eighteenth-century landscape at Hagley in Worcestershire and explore the lost Vauxhall pleasure gardens in Birmingham, which were established as a commercial venture in the eighteenth century. An examination of Victorian public parks reveals how their aesthetics were shaped by architecture made from the products of manufacturing industry while a study of three modest suburban estates considers how local industrialists shaped the environment of south Birmingham. The relationships between health, medicine and green spaces are explored through an analysis of the role of 'therapeutic landscapes' in late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century Worcestershire. Enhanced with maps, plans and black-and-white and colour illustrations, this is a volume of important scholarship that places the West Midlands at the heart of landscape history.
Dr Malcolm Dick is Director of the Centre for West Midlands History at the University of Birmingham, Editor-in-Chief of History West Midlands and Editor of Midland History. He has written about the history of Birmingham, Lunar Society individuals and ethnic communities. Elaine Mitchell developed her interest in garden history whilst studying for her History undergraduate degree and MA in West Midlands History at the University of Birmingham. She is completing a PhD on gardens and horticulture in eighteenth-century Birmingham.
ISBN 978-1-909291-55-3, May 2018, paperback, 240pp
“Achieves… ‘an impressive range of new research methodologies from straight garden history… through industrial, urban and suburban history and the history of science, medicine and health, to cultural, class and gender approaches’” J.V. Beckett, Midland History
“This book serves as a welcome introduction to the history and development of both private and public gardens and landscapes within the West Midlands, some of which are long lost while others are still extant in some form… I learnt a great deal; the book will appeal to many.” Advolly Richmond, Landscape History
“The essays are well produced… it is well illustrated with black-and-white images and has a section of colour photographs. One of the many exciting [garden history] publications that have appeared over the past couple of years.” Jan Woudstra, Journal of British Studies
“Dick and Mitchell’s edited collection manages to be comprehensive whilst keeping to a locale, contextualizing garden spaces in multiple ways for a range of uses, in a way that will surely invite new research that will further develop the sub-discipline in exciting new ways.” Lizzie Rogers, Agricultural History Review
“[T]his is an attractive collection offering accessible and well-illustrated introductions to a rich variety of site types.” Paul Stamper, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society
“[A] very appealing book — a carefully researched and very readable collection of essays which open up new themes. It should be added that, as with a previous publication from the Dick/Mitchell stable, it is beautifully illustrated, with numerous colour plates.” Stephen Roberts, History Journal
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