On the Making of Gardens (first published 1909)

George Reresby Sitwell (1951, Charles Scribner’s & Sons)

Recommended by Hattie Walters

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Sir George Reresby Sitwell could frequently be found in analytic concentration within great Italian gardens, making meditative notes that would form a large part of On the Making of Gardens—his personal design treatise. It is a curious text, devoid of  plants—made up instead as part rhapsodic commentary on derelict garden architecture, part summary of garden historical progression, part examination of the effects of the Renaissance garden, part rules for good design—and was painstakingly constructed in his attempt to revitalise the modern English garden. Initially, his endeavours had limited success (Sir George blamed the book cover design), and yet his text provides an intriguing insight into his planning of the gardens at Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire; his particular understanding of Renaissance formalisms, and his tantalising descriptions of old gardens in states of solitude inaccessible to the modern visitor.

Jon Stevens

Jon Stevens

MA by Research, English University of Birmingham

In the late 1960s, I moved to Liverpool to study architecture. I became acutely aware of the disconnect between the modernist dream of high-rise public housing (which many architects espoused) and the reality of the communities being destroyed to realise the dream, while their former residents were dispersed into desolate ‘overspill’ estates. Later, in Hackney, I became involved in community action, fighting to prevent an area of predominately working-class housing from being bulldozed for such redevelopment. These early experiences shaped my professional career over the next forty years – working, initially, on community-led approaches to the renewal of older areas of housing and, later, on various collaborative ways of creating housing and communities. Underpinning this was my interest in how people shape and are shaped by places.

More recently, I have turned to thinking about how places acquire different meanings and values over time. My just completed Masters by Research project examines how the historic city of Bruges was reimagined and reinvented during the nineteenth century by a succession of British poets, travel writers, artists and scholars and how their ideas permeated later Symbolist conceptions of Bruges. 

I am about to start another piece of research entitled ‘Bruges and the Meaning of Place’, in which I plan to delve deeper into Romantic notions of Bruges, as expressed in poems by Robert Southey and William Wordsworth and as shown in a series of suggestive sketches by JMW Turner, and I want to consider the impact that Bruges had on the thinking and practice of the leading advocate of the Gothic Revival, Augustus Welby Pugin. It was Pugin’s ‘principles’ that guided the comprehensive transformation of the centre of Bruges that we see today.  I plan to locate my research within the interdisciplinary field of place studies, examining how Bruges became a nexus of ideas about the meaning of place in the nineteenth century.  

Explore the travels of objects at TIDEfest

For the last five years the TIDE Project has been exploring Renaissance travel, promoting transcultural education in schools, and revealing hidden wonders from archives around the world. Nandini Das and Lauren Working invite Arts of Place friends to join TIDEfest, a free online literary festival over the weekend 31 July-1 August.

You can register here for a Creative Writing workshop 5.00-6.30pm on Saturday 31 July. Led by award-winning poets Sarah Howe and Fred D’Aguiar, the session will explore ideas of migration and cultural memory through objects that cross borders and spaces. A tobacco leaf leaves North American soil and ends up pressed between the pages of an Oxford botanical book; an ivory salt cellar carved by West African craftspeople leaves Sierra Leone for the courts of Europe. Using artefacts in Oxford museums and beyond, this workshop will encourage participants to think about the connections between objects and the imaginative places they take us.

    Salt cellar from Siera Leone

Tobacco leaves travel to Europe… an ivory salt cellar sets out from Sierra Leone…