GERTRUDE JEKYLL 1843-1932
In 1848, the Jekylls came with their family (Gertrude was the fifth of seven children) to Bramley where they lived for 20 years. Miss Jekyll returned to Munstead in 1878 with her widowed mother to a newly built house. Then in 1883 she bought some land across the road to make a garden of her own.
From her childhood, Miss Jekyll was fascinated by plants and flowers, their relationship with each other, and with the lanes, heaths and woods she loved to explore on her own. She learnt the country crafts, mastering thatching, fencing, walling, carpentry and metal working. In 1861 she went to the South Kensington School of Art, studying the writings of Ruskin and the paintings of Turner. She traveled widely, always noticing the plants. Besides painting and drawing she made herself proficient in carving, gilding and inlaying; embroidery and its history was a major interest and photography was to become one after 1885.
Miss Jekyll's talent and reputation was such that her professional advice was sought as an interior designer and decorator. Her circle of friends was wide and influential- including John Ruskin, William Morris, G. F. Watts the painter (who came to live in Compton) and Hercules Brabazon Brabazon - a watercolour artist whose experiments with colour profoundly influenced her. On settling in Munstead she was much occupied with working in silver decorated by embossing. The Witley Church Communion Plate was commissioned from her.
MISS JEKYLL'S INFLUENCE
In her later years, Gertrude Jekyll's fame grew through her writings, whilst her own interest in the disappearing country crafts led to her collecting old household implements and recording their use.
Miss Jekyll's articles and books, often illustrated by her own photographs and drawings, had a profound influence, direct and indirect, on garden design throughout the British Isles, in France and particularly in the United States. Her books were concerned with garden ornaments and flower decoration in the home, as well as the principles of planting, colour grouping and garden design. Everything was based on her own experience and showed the same meticulous attention to detail - reflecting perhaps her own extreme shortsightedness.
Although sustained by modest wealth, Gertrude Jekyll took a positive interest in female suffrage, creating embroidered banners for the Guildford and Godalming branches. She was prominent in the campaign to save the Old Town Hall in Godalming from demolition. She designed the garden for the Phillips Memorial and supervised the transformation of Hydon Heath into an accessible public memorial for Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust.
After the First World War, Miss Jekyll provided planting schemes for the overseas cemeteries cared for by the Imperial War Graves Commission. In the 1920s Sir Edwin Lutyens created a Dolls' House for Queen Mary: 60 artists and 150 craftsmen contributed and the garden was designed by Miss Jekyll. She was designing gardens until her death. Her tombstone in Busbridge Churchyard, designed by Lutyens, is inscribed: "Artist, Gardener, Craftswoman."