Researching Garden Heritage
Gloucestershire Gardens & Landscape Trust was formed in 1991, although the reasons behind the Trust go back much further. Here is a brief chronology of the events leading to its formation:
The concept of listed buildings arose during WWII and led the to the Town & Country Planning Act, 1947 under which damaged buildings, of historical or architectural importance, were identified.
In 1966 the Garden History Society was founded to promote the study of garden history and protect historic gardens. In 1995 it became a statutory consultee for all planning applications involving registered Parks and Gardens.
During October 1974 Roy Strong staged the “Destruction of the Country House” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum; one of the most influential exhibitions ever staged by a UK museum.
In 1984 the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission came into being under the powers enacted in the previous year’s National Heritage Act. This led to the first Register of Parks and Gardens in 1985 and with it some limited protection. It also improved public awareness of this fragile and finite heritage resource.
After English Heritage published their first register, interested members of the public from Hampshire, Wiltshire, Avon, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall met to discuss what could be done next. It was clear historic gardens were fast disappearing or falling into disrepair. Unlike listed buildings or ancient monuments, gardens and designed landscapes had no statutory protection, only a requirement that local authorities take account of them in their planning process.
1987 saw the great storm that hit the south of England, and particularly Kent, again focused public attention on the threat to our parks and gardens.
Gloucestershire was fairly advanced in researching its garden heritage. In 1979 J St Bodfan Gruffydd’s landscape practice in Cheltenham had produced a study of the county’s gardens and parks. This was sponsored by the Manpower Services Commission and supported by material made available by Gloucestershire County Council. The report written by Ronald Flook became the basis for subsequent research by Gloucestershire Gardens & Landscape Trust.