Thames Luminaries

A Virtual Lecture Series


The Thames brought commerce and wealth to South West London, attracting royalty, aristocrats, artists, writers and wealthy property owners. A legacy of these luminaries is an area exceptionally rich in heritage buildings, gardens and landscapes. Drawing on the success of our Twickenham Luminaries lecture series, Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust and English Heritage’s Marble Hill, with other local heritage organisations, have organised a series of nine free virtual talks over three weeks beginning on Wednesday 27th January.  Acknowledged experts will explore, explain and offer insight about a luminary and their garden, landscape and their property. There will be talks about the occupants and aspects of the gardens and landscapes of Ham House, Boston Manor, Orleans House, Popes Grotto, Chiswick House, Marble Hill, Hogarth’s House, Strawberry Hill and Turner’s House.

Each 20 minute talk will be delivered using Zoom and will begin at 7 p.m. They will be chaired by Professor Judith Hawley of the Department of English 17th and 18th Century Literature and Culture at Royal Holloway, University of London. Time will be allowed for questions and answers at the end. The events will end at or before 8 pm. Attendees will be sent a Zoom link by email about an hour before each talk begins.

Tickets are free but we encourage you to make a £5 donation for each talk, if you are able, which will be divided equally between the nine participating organisations.  You can book your place at TicketSource.

These events are supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Wednesday 27th January at 7 pm: Within the garden walls at Hogarth’s House. Val Bott

William and Jane Hogarth took on a second home in the country in 1749. The house stood in the corner of a mixed orchard which had been enclosed within a high brick wall in the 1670s. It had been built between 1713 and 1717 and the Hogarths immediately extended it by an additional room on each of its three floors. The family was to retain a connection with the property until 1808. Research into the history of the site has supported the lottery-funded Mulberry Garden Project now nearing completion. A handsome learning studio has been built beside the House. Hogarth’s serpentine ‘Line of Beauty’ has influenced both the architecture and the planting. The plot has become an innovative “exhibition garden” with planting and features telling its whole story, to be recounted in this talk. The mulberry from the 1670s was rescued after bomb damage and is now complemented by fan-trained fruits along the wall. The nut walk and skittle ground which Hogarth enjoyed have been re-created. A replica of the Hogarths’ pet memorials is still to come. A bothy, which will serve as a base for the volunteer gardening team, now stands where the stable with Hogarth’s studio above once was, and a small glass-house echoes that used by a nursery gardener there in the 1890s.

Val Bott is Chairman of the William Hogarth Trust (WHT). She has been working on The Mulberry Garden Project on behalf of WHT, in partnership with the Hogarth House Trust / Hounslow Council. The new ‘exhibition garden’ at Hogarth’s House will present its history in planting and garden features and, along with the new learning studio, is due to open later in 2021.

Thursday 28th January at 7 pm: A painter’s garden: J.M.W. Turner and the grounds of Sandycombe Lodge. Catherine Parry-Wingfield

In 1807 J.M.W. Turner acquired two plots of land in Sand Pit Close on the Twickenham side of the Thames, a short walk from Richmond Bridge. He would build his little villa, to his own designs, on the larger plot, overlooking a steeply sloping garden with a very large pond, and some evidence for the way it was laid out can be found in his sketchbooks. The house and once-large garden stood alone then, on the fringes of two grand estates, and provided a peaceful retreat from the busy hum of the London art world.

Catherine Parry-Wingfield is an art historian and her involvement with Sandycombe Lodge, J.M.W. Turner’s house, in what is now St Margaret’s, goes back to a chance meeting with its last private owner, Professor Harold Livermore, in 2004. She was a trustee of Turner’s House Trust from its inception in 2005, and chair from 2013 to 2019, during which time she was actively engaged as a member of the conservation project team, particularly with the presentation of the interior. She has produced two booklets, J.M.W. Turner, R.A. – the artist and his house at Twickenham and J.M.W. Turner and the ‘Matchless Vale of Thames’.

Friday 29th January at 7 pm: Alexander Pope: the poet and the poetic landscape. Doctor Marion Harney

The English Landscape tradition has been described as our greatest contribution to the arts and the early eighteenth century was pivotal in the evolution of the English garden and many of our current perceptions of landscape stem from eighteenth-century theory and practice.
Alexander Pope was the principal literary genius of his day and the leading poet of his generation. He was considered something of a pioneer in the landscape movement with his Guardian essay of 1713 playing a critical role in the transition from emblematic to expressive garden design. His influence was critical, advocating ‘the simplicity of the ancients’ encapsulated in his poetic line to: ‘Consult the Genius of the Place in all,’ he was fundamental in establishing the new national style that came to be known as ‘English Garden Style’ which we will explore through his own garden at Twickenham and other gardens he influenced.

Dr Marion Harney is Director of Studies and Director of Teaching at the University of Bath specialising in the history and theory of historic buildings, designed and cultural landscapes and their conservation. Appointed to ICOMOS-UK Cultural Landscapes and Historic Gardens Committee she is a Director of the Gardens Trust and Trustee at Hestercombe Gardens Trust. Her book: Place-Making for the Imagination: Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill, won the prestigious international J.B Jackson Book Prize which recognises books that have made significant contributions to the study and understanding of garden history and landscape studies, awarded by The Foundation for Landscape Studies, New York. Appointed Visiting Professor, University of Westminster she is also External Examiner for the MA in Garden and Landscape History, Institute for Historical Research, University of London.

Wednesday 3rd February at 7 pm: Chiswick House, William Kent, and the birth of the English Landscape Movement. John Watkins

Considered one of Britain’s greatest influences on European art and architecture, the English Landscape Movement has influenced gardens across the globe from Blenheim Palace to Central Park in New York. Developed by William Kent, along with his mentor and friend Lord Burlington, the English Landscape Movement broke down the rigid formality of the early 18th century garden to create something quite new: a natural landscape, developed to complement the neo-Palladian villa at its centre. Today, the House and Gardens exist in harmony, each enhancing each other’s beauty. This talk will explore the origins of movement, and how the landscape we see at Chiswick today came to be.

As Head of Gardens and Landscape, John Watkins leads the English Heritage Garden and Landscape team in their work with historians, landscape architects, botanists and ecologists to tell the stories of the landscapes EH cares for. Over the last 22 years John has worked on a number of major garden and landscape projects, including Chiswick House and Gardens. He has also worked at Eltham Palace, Wrest Park, and Kenilworth Castle. In 1999 he led the Contemporary Heritage Gardens project, incorporating the work of six contemporary designers at English Heritage sites. He also established the Historic and Botanic Gardens Training Programme, which has been running over the last 12 years and trained over 270 people in gardens across the UK.

Thursday 4th February at 7 pm: Marble Hill: Howard and her garden of grottos and groves. Emily Parker

In the early 18th century, ideas about garden design were changing fast. Using 18th century plans and archives we will explore the garden at Marble Hill which included grottoes, groves, wildernesses and a ninepin bowling alley! Henrietta Howard’s friendship with Alexander Pope, Lord Bathurst, Lord Peterborough and Lord Ilay, meant that her garden at Marble Hill was influenced by some of the most fashionable garden enthusiasts of the time. This talk will explore how the garden was created, who might have influenced its design and how Howard would have enjoyed using it.

Emily Parker is a Landscape Advisor at English Heritage. She specialises in garden history and designed landscape conservation. Emily’s primary research interests are garden design in the 18th century, including the role of Alexander Pope, ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. Emily has also researched and written interpretation content for many English Heritage sites including Eltham Palace, Kirby Hall, Mount Grace Priory and Wrest Park. She has also produced Conservation Management Plans for English Heritage gardens including Belsay Hall, Marble Hill and Walmer Castle.

Friday 5th February at 7 pm: Strawberry Hill: the open grove in which Walpole explored the ‘gaiety in nature’. Henrietta Gentilli

Strawberry Hill is “an open grove through which you see a field which is bounded by a serpentine wood of all kind of trees and flowering shrubs and flowers.” Although the former water meadows of Strawberry Hill that separated the gardens from the Thames have now been developed, the core of the gardens remains intact. The development of the gardens and landscaping of the grounds started at Strawberry Hill when Horace Walpole acquired the property in 1747 and continued until his death in 1797. Further additions to the gardens were made during the 19th century, most notably during the occupation by Lady Waldegrave, but it is Walpole’s intervention that provides the greatest significance and interest. Explore the 18th Century Garden through this lecture, taking in the ‘goose-foot’ trio of avenues to the famous veteran trees of Strawberry Hill to find the ‘gaiety in nature’ that Walpole describes at Strawberry Hill and that is still present today.

Henrietta Gentilli has been both a city and country gardener for 40 years and is trained and practising as a garden designer for the last 16 years. She has worked with local horticulture institutions such as Roots and Shoots and Thrive and is an advisor to local community gardens. She is part of the curatorial team for The Garden Museum, Lambeth and is a member of Strawberry Hill’s Garden Advisory Group.

Wednesday 10th February at 7 pm: Fishponds, great cedars and Jayne Mansfield – renovating the historic landscapes of Boston Manor Park for the 21st century. Sion Thaysen and David Stockdale

Boston Manor Park is the surviving part of a larger estate which existed in Brentford from the 12th century to the 1920s. It was a priory farm in the 13th century, supporting St Helen’s Priory in the City of London and had later associations with Sir Thomas Gresham, Lady Mary Reade and the Clitherow family. Today it is a public open space and the setting for the 17th century Boston Manor House and both still retain features from their long history. Our talk will focus on the planned Lottery-funded renovation of the Park and the challenges of preserving and adapting its historic landscape.

David Stockdale works for the London Borough of Hounslow and has been part of the team delivering the Lottery-funded restoration of Boston Manor House and Park since 2015. As a social history curator, historic house manager and heritage professional he has worked on collections and historic building interpretation in Scotland, Yorkshire and London. He is a member of DEMHIST and a Research Associate of the University of York.

Sion Thaysen is a landscape architect and director at Allen Scott, and has been appointed by the London Borough of Hounslow to lead the design team in the regeneration of Boston Manor Park. His interest and passions lie in parks and urban spaces, and how the process of visioning and collaboration breathes new life into places, heightens our sense of beauty and delight, and allows us to connect to each other and nature

Thursday 11th February at 7 pm: Pleasure Garden to Parkland: The Changing Landscape of Orleans House. Minna Andersen

The gardens and grounds of Orleans House were ceremoniously transformed and reconfigured by each occupant of the 18th century house. As the estate expanded down to the river and up towards Richmond Road, the gardens saw orchards, grottos, ice houses, formal planting and wild woodland. During this talk, Blue Badge London tour guide Minna Andersen will take us through the notable features of the ever changing gardens, from their initial landscaping by James Johnston to the woodland grounds you can walk through today.

Minna Andersen is a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide. Over the past 30 years, she has worked with embassies, government bodies, industry VIPs and heads of state, assisting their visits to London and offering them tailor made experiences. They have ranged from art gallery tours and visits to famous London sights to specialist walking tours. She frequently appears in Finnish TV and news to promote all aspects of London. She is a volunteer with Orleans House Gallery and the Poppy Factory, using her skills as a speaker and as a guide to bring their history to life once more.

Friday 12th February at 7 pm: 17th to 21st century – is Ham House Garden still a garden of contemporary ideas? Rosie Fyles

Ham House Garden is part restoration and part re-creation of a c17th landscape, designed with house and garden in harmony, created to impress. This illustrated talk will consider how the garden has evolved to offer the contemporary visitor beauty and relevance while still retaining the original ideas and intentions of its creators.

Rosie Fyles is Head Gardener of Ham House and Garden. Over the last five years Rosie and her team have received numerous accolades for their transformative, creative and nature-friendly gardening appearing widely in broadcast and print media. Rosie is a Trustee of Silent Space, a charity that promotes peaceful time in green spaces.