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Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens

A local introduction to their lives and work by David Coombs

Contents Introduction
The Museum Garden
Old West Surrey
The Arts & Crafts movement
Gertrude Jekyll
Miss Jekyll's influence
Sir Edwin Lutyens
Miss Jekyll and Mister Lutyens
Sir Edwin Lutyens' fame
The Empire's Architect
Churchill & Lutyens
Selected further reading



The buildings and hedgerows, streets, heaths, villages and lanes of south west Surrey engaged and affected the lives and work of Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens. Both were very familiar with Godalming and its ancient High Street.

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) spent her childhood in Bramley and returned as a young woman to Munstead where she created her own garden and remained until her death.

Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) came as a child to Thursley, studied local buildings and received his early architectural commissions from nearby friends and connections.

Each achieved international recognition, both separately and in partnership. Their work and influence can be found throughout the British Isles and in France, the United States, South Africa and India.

The Museum Garden
Godalming museum's garden is conceived as a cottage garden in the Surrey style created by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, using her ideas of planting and his of design.  Lutyens used traditional materials and demanded the finest craftsmanship.

The museum garden shows several features often found in his designs: stone paving, herringbone brick paths, old mill stones, dry stone walls and broad curving steps.

Gardens & Ornamental Pathway

Miss Jekyll made regular use of a wide range of plants with certain favourites of her own: lavenders, bush and rambler roses, clematis, lilies, hollyhocks, stachys and pintos with clipped yew and ferns. Scent was important to her as were the massing and sweep of colours; textures and shapes were carefully considered and harmonised. All were directly related to the constraints and opportunities of the overall design and the spaces available.

When they first began to work together both would visit the site; as Lutyens' work took him further and further away from Surrey he would survey the future garden and send the details to Miss Jekyll for suggestions and later to work out the planting plan. Often the plants would be sent from her own garden's nurseries at Munstead Wood, as her meticulous notebooks, preserved in Godalming Museum, indicate. Overall, the partnership resulted in the blending of the formal and natural garden philosophies of the period.

In 1905 Lutyens designed a small house, Millmead, in Bramley as a speculation for Miss Jekyll, her own planting scheme for the garden is one of the few that remain. It is this and Lutyens's delightful Summerhouse there that provided the inspiration for the Godalming Museum garden, which has been designed by Michael and Frances Edward's with the advice of Jane Brown, and built with funds donated by the Hamamelis Trust.


In the 19th century, this was a sparsely populated and unfashionable rural area. Its people depended upon agriculture, timber and related businesses such as corn-milling, brewing and leather-tanning.

The local people had their own dialect and manner of dress. The roads were few and off the main highway little more than tracks. In the middle of the century railways were built, giving easy access to London. Businessmen moved out of the city with their families, building new houses in spacious grounds or converting and extending old farmhouses. Large estates began to be broken up but new opportunities for employment were created.

The attractive and varied landscape was the setting for ancient buildings - often timber framed with brick infixing, tile-hung on the upper floors and with deep roofs. Artists, like Myles Birkett Foster and Helen Allingham who both lived in Witley, came in search of inspiration. Whilst architects, including pioneers of the Arts and Crafts movement, such as Richard Norman Shaw and Philip Webb

(the latter living for a while in Cranleigh) came to study methods of construction and the use of local materials.


As industry and machinery began to bear down on more and more lives during the 19th century, it was thought that opportunities for personal fulfillment through the practice of the arts and crafts were being lost, as were the skills.

The reaction was led by the writer and artist John Ruskin, who linked ideas of social reform with the revival of hand craftsmanship, the better to improve the lives of individuals. There was an emphasis on local materials, naturally used. Ruskin's most fervent and influential disciple was William Morris, who founded a business to implement these ideas; he was a practical craftsman himself and the designer of wallpapers, furniture and fabrics as well as a manufacturer of tapestries. He commissioned the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones to design stained glass windows of which there are examples in Busbridge Church as well as a Morris embroidery altar frontal.

The revival of interest in Gothic architecture in the 19th century coincided with the need to preserve old examples in their original form. Godalming Parish Church, for example, experienced two bouts of restoration. William Morris, a man of huge energy, founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the first of its kind. He was aided considerably by the architect Hugh Thackeray Turner, who designed his own house and garden at Westbrook in Godalming and the Phillips Memorial by the River Wey. Through his own efforts, Thackeray Turner saved the medieval bridge at Eashing and the old Deanery Farm barn in Charterhouse Road.


In 1848, the Jekyll's 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 travelled 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.


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 short-sightedness.

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."


In 1877, Lutyens's artist father bought a house in Thursley. Ned was the tenth of 13 children and because of illness the only one not to be formally educated. Instead he wandered the country lanes studying the buildings and haunted the village carpenter's shop.

Edwin Lutyens's close interest in local architecture extended beyond the vernacular farm dwellings and buildings. His friends, Barbara and Robert Webb, lived at the scrupulously formal, early Georgian, Milford House; subsequently Lutyens designed a row of cottages for them in the village. Lutyens was also encouraged by another neighbour, the artist Randolph Caldecott, whose illustrations for children's books and stories often included idealized West Surrey cottages. Ned acquired detailed technical knowledge through constant boyhood visits to Tickner's builder's yard in Godalming and from the buildings on which they were working.

In 1885, aged 15, Edwin Lutyens went to the South Kensington School of Art to study architecture. Two years later he joined the office of the architect Sir Ernest George and went on sketching tours with Herbert Baker, who became a life-long friend. Although without professional experience, Lutyens set up on his own and in 1889 received a commission from Arthur Chapman to design an additional wing for Crooksbury House near Farnham.


Miss Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens were introduced in 1889 by Harry Mangles of Littleworth near Seale, a pioneer rhododendron grower for whom Lutyens had already designed a gardener's cottage.

Gertrude Jekyll's reputation as a plantswoman and garden designer had been steadily growing. Her circle included William Robinson (author of The English Flower Garden), Dean Hole of Chichester (who wrote A Books about Roses) and G. F. Wilson, owner of the gardens at Wisley which now belong to the Royal Horticultural Society.

Miss Jekyll was determined to have her own house in her own garden and now that she had found her architect, they began to explore the landscape and architecture of south west Surrey in her pony cart. Her house, Munstead Wood, one of Lutyens's early masterpieces, was begun in 1896.

Lutyens's practice was also increasing: it included a pair of lodges at Park Hatch, Hascombe, a new kitchen wing at Rake Manor, Milford, cottages at Frensham and Shere, Tilford Institute, Farnham Liberal Club and a chancel screen for Busbridge Church.

They shared the same downrightness of view and considerable sense of humour: sometimes unexpectedly revealed in his architecture. Miss Jekyll became increasingly involved in the gardens Lutyens was designing for his houses, advising on the materials to be used and supplying detailed planting plans. A supreme example of their work together is Orchards in Munstead which is one of Lutyens's finest houses and built entirely of local materials; other examples of the partnership are at Tambourine Court, Witley and Goddard's in Avinger Hammer. Miss Jekyll's design for the Headmaster's garden at Charterhouse led to Lutyens being commissioned to build the Red House on Frith Hill, Godalming.


Knighted in 1918 and at the height of his fame, Lutyens continued to design great houses and gardens in Britain and overseas but extended his work to include more and more public and commercial buildings.

With his practice expanding and his growing family making more and more demands, so his work became increasingly intense. Lutyens's ambitions and opportunities coupled with his own interest and inclinations, called him to move away from designing buildings in the Surrey vernacular style. Since childhood he had been attracted by the symmetry and geometry of classical architecture as seen particularly in Georgian houses and most notably in the work of the architect Sir Christopher Wren.

Lutyens developed and interpreted these classical ideas in his own way and with great attention to detail, using form, proportion and space with a loving care that is belied by the simple beauty of the results.

The range of Lutyens's architecture was extraordinary: Castle Drogue in Devon (derived in part from the Red House in Godalming), the central buildings for Hampstead Garden suburb, Johannesburg Art Gallery and the British Embassy in Washington. In London he designed the headquarters of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company at Fins bury Circus, public housing for Westminster City Council, and the Midland Bank adjacent to St. James's Church in Piccadilly. He was also responsible for Hampton Court Bridge linking Surrey and Middlesex across the Thames.

Like Miss Jekyll, Edwin Lutyens took particular delight in designing for children. One of his nurseries was circular so that no child could ever be put in a corner. He also designed scenery for the original production of J. M. Barrie's play Peter Pan.


The transfer of the seat of government in India from Calcutta was to provide Lutyens with his greatest commission when, in 1912 he was invited with Sir Herbert Baker, to design the central buildings for New Delhi, a task that was to occupy him until 1931. Between these years Lutyens was to travel many times over the long sea journey between Britain and India. His principal preoccupation was with Viceroy House, an enormous building, to the design of which he brought his own innate sense of western classical order, incorporating Indian elements in his uniquely sensitive way. Now the Presidential Palace, it includes a vast garden inspired by Mogul ideas using terraces, fountains and pools.

The aftermath of the First World War led to one of Lutyens' most famous commissions: the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Unveiled in 1920, its simplicity disguises its geometric complexity, for it is without a straight line or a flat surface. The Imperial War Graves Commission, with the task of forming permanent cemeteries on the French and Belgium battlefields, was aided by a group of architects including Lutyens who designed the Stone of Remembrance to be found at them all. The huge Monument to the Missing in the Somme was entirely his, as was the elegantly simple War Memorial outside Busbridge Church. Lutyens' own funeral was in Westminster Abbey, his ashes being buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.


Although Sir Edwin Lutyens never worked directly for Sir Winston Churchill, they had many friends and connections in common. Winston and his wife Clementine were frequent visitors to Knebworth, family home of Lutyens's wife Emily Lytton, where the architect did much work on the garden and in the house, including the Great Hall - which was the subject of one of Churchill's paintings .

Clementine Churchill's cousin, Venetia Montagu, had a country house in Norfolk, Breccles, altered by Lutyens, which was set in a wonderful garden that often inspired Churchill's painterly instincts.

In fact it was near Godalming, at Hoe Farm in Hascombe that Churchill began to paint in oils. The original 16th century house was modified by Lutyens for Joseph Godman who had already used the architect to design a pair of gate houses for his principal residence at Park Hatch. During the First World War in the summer of 1915, Hoe Farm was let to the Churchill family after the disastrous Dardenelles campaign, for which Winston was held to be politically responsible and forced to resign from the Admiralty. There are four known paintings done by Churchill at Hoe Farm in 1915. Two of these were returned to Lady Churchill in 1963 by Mrs Julia Tickner, widow of the former head gardener, who had cared for them faithfully since they were painted 1915, having being asked to keep them to dry.

Grateful thanks to: Michael Kerry, Alan Bott, Michael Edwards.


Gardens of a Golden Afternoon. The story of a partnership: Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. By Jane Brown. Allen Lane l982.

Gertrude Jekyll. By Sally Festing. Viking 1991.

Lutyens and the Edwardians: An English Architect and his Clients. By Jane Brown. Viking 1996.

The Life of Sir Edwin Lutyens. By Christopher Hussey. Country Life 1950.

Godalming Museum, 109A High Street, is open from Tuesday to Saturday inclusive. Information: telephone .

[c] Trustees of Godalming Museum 1998.


                                                                    Web site last updated 20/10/2004