The University of Buckingham’s Master’s programme in Garden History offers the opportunity to pursue research at Master’s level in any one of a wide range of garden- and landscape-related topics: from explorations of individual sites; their designers, gardeners and owners; to studies of the social and political use of gardens, or aspects their of conservation, botany, ecology, horticulture, archaeology, buildings – and much else besides.
While Individual research topics are closely focused, the approach of the course is to encourage students to take a broad view of the links between gardens and landscape, and of history and culture more generally.
Recent papers on these themes have included a survey of travellers’ accounts of garden-visiting in the eighteenth century; gardeners as philanthropists in the nineteenth century; the links between garden sculpture and imperialism; horticultural knowledge in seventeenth-century Holland; men’s fashion and flowers; and reappraisals of several garden-makers. A suggestive list of topics can be seen on the ‘Symposium’ page of the Gardens Trust website.
The choice of subject area is ultimately the student’s own.
The MA is awarded solely on the basis of the dissertation (there are no ‘exams’), and the relationship between you and your supervisor is therefore at the heart of the course. The maximum length for the MA dissertation recommended by the School of Humanities is 25,000 words (or approximately 75 pages at a line-spacing of 1.5), excluding notes and references. Student and supervisor meet regularly on a one-to-one basis to discuss, plan, and review the dissertation as it develops through the year.
Defining a subject for research
Some students know from the outset the precise subject on which they intend to work. For most, however, the definition of a research proposal is usually a gradual process, with the student starting with a general area of interest, and then focusing on a more closely defined topic as a result of further reading and consultation, usually with the Course Director. Most students do not arrive at the final title of their dissertation until towards the end of the first Term, just before Christmas.
The Course Director, David Marsh, is available to offer advice to prospective students who would like to discuss possible subjects for their research before they apply. He can be reached directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Seminar Programme 2023-24
Private research and supervision are complemented by a rich programme of seminars and lectures which give students direct access to some of the United Kingdom’s most distinguished scholars in their field. Seminars will generally take place in the university’s London base in Bloomsbury, but background lectures will often be online.
The seminars are of course academic events, with a talk by a visiting expert; but they also have a social dimension, bringing research students and senior scholars together to discuss matters of common interest in an informal and congenial atmosphere. Each seminar starts at 6:30 pm, with an illustrated presentation by the visiting speaker and is followed by a 40-minute question-and-answer session. Particular events will be marked with a drinks reception at the end of the seminar, where students and faculty-members can mix informally.
This coming year’s seminars will include a series of case-studies of important gardens, organised chronologically, and led either by academic garden-historians or, in some case, by their scholarly owners. These seminars will explore not only the history of particular gardens, but also what is involved in their management and conservation.
In addition the seminar series, there will be a series of background lectures on wider garden and landscape history for each period.
Seminar and lecture dates 2023-2024
The programme for 2023-24 is as follows. Please note that all seminars and lectures will take place at the University of Buckingham’s offices at 51 Gower St, Bloomsbury, unless otherwise stated. Details may be subject to change, which will be noted on this website.
Thursday 5 October Introductory Lecture: Introduction to the course of research and study – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 12 October: Research Skills for Garden History – Dr Tamsin Macmillan (The Gardens Trust)
Thursday 19 October Seminar: Garden Archaeology – Dr Stephen Wass (Polyolbion Archaeology)
Saturday 21 October Day Visit to Stowe: Dr Stephen Wass (Polyolbion Archaeology)
Thursday 2 November Lecture (online): Medieval Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 9 November Lecture (online): Tudor and Jacobean Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Saturday 11 November Day Visit to Lyveden New Bield and Kirby Hall – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 16 November Seminar (online): Case Study: Bramshill House, Hampshire – Dr Paula Henderson (Historian and landscape consultant)
Thursday 23 November Seminar (Gower St): Issues in Garden Conservation – Margie Hoffnung (Conservation Officer, the Gardens Trust)
Thursday 30 November Seminar (Gower St): The place that garden history plays in managing the National Trust’s gardens – Andy Jasper (Head of Parks and Gardens, the National Trust)
Thursday 7 December Lecture (online): Restoration and Baroque Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 14 December Seminar (Gower St): Bramham Park, West Yorkshire – Nick Lane Fox (Owner of Bramham Park)
Thursday 4 January Lecture (online): The Early Eighteenth-Century Garden – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 11 January Seminar (Gower St): Case Study: Holkham Hall, Norfolk – The Earl of Leicester
Thursday 18 January Lecture (Online): The Landscape Garden – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 25 January Seminar (Gower St): Case Study: Stourhead, Wiltshire – Dr Oliver Cox (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Thursday 1 February Lecture (online): The Picturesque and Regency Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 8 February Seminar (Gower St): Case Study: Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire – Daniel Hale (Head Gardener at Brodsworth)
Thursday 15 February Lecture (online): Victorian Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 22 February Seminar (Gower St): Case Study: Belvoir Castle, Rutland – The Duchess of Rutland
Thursday 29 February Lecture (online): Edwardian Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 7 March Seminar (Gower St): Twentieth-century Gardens – Dr Katie Campbell (Garden historian)
Saturday 9 March Day Visit to Eltham Palace – Christopher Weddell, Senior Gardens Advisor, English Heritage
Thursday 14 March Seminar (Gower St): Case Study: Shute House, Wiltshire – Dr Kate Felus (Designed-landscape historian)
Thursday 21 March Seminar (Gower St): Contemporary Gardens – Tim Richardson (Garden historian)
Thursday 28 March Seminar (Gower St): Round-up – Dr David Marsh
Study visits to country houses in 2022-23
The programme includes four full-day field trips to historic gardens, which will link with the lecture and seminar series. Further details will be circulated to students.
The programme for 2023-24 is as follows. Please note that all seminars and lectures will take place at the University of Buckingham’s offices at 51 Gower St, Bloomsbury, unless otherwise stated.
Tutorials usually take place at the University’s offices in Bloomsbury (51 Gower St, London, WC1E 6HJ) or can take place online if the student prefers.
In addition to the seminar programmes and students’ one-to-one meetings with their supervisor, the programme also offers specialist classes on thesis-writing, referencing, and on how to use archival and on-line research resources. For those who need to work with manuscripts (from the Tudor period and later), there is also a series of classes on palaeography (the reading of early handwriting) that will enable students to acquire fluency in the reading of manuscript sources.
Opportunities to take the MA research to PhD level
Students who wish to take their research further have the opportunity, at the end of their year of MA studies, to extend their studies to doctoral level. Where the topic and the related evidence is appropriate, students are permitted to treat their year of Master’s research as the first year of the three required for PhD study. If approved for ‘upgrading’ to doctoral study, they may submit their expanded dissertation for the PhD degree after a further two years of writing and research.
Dr David Marsh
David Marsh was awarded his PhD in 2005 for a study of the ‘Gardens and Gardeners of Later-Stuart London’ and has been lecturing and supervising research in Garden History ever since, and has taught at the Institute of Historical Research, Birkbeck University of London, and the Garden Museum. He was co-convener of the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes seminar at Institute of Historical Research, London University, from 2011-2022. He is a trustee of the Gardens Trust and chaired their Education Committee until early 2023. He set up and runs the Gardens Trust’s successful on-line lecture programme and is the author of their weekly blog about Garden History.
Dr Katie Campbell
Writer, garden historian and lecturer, Dr Campbell has taught at Birkbeck, Bristol and Buckingham Universities, and writes for various publications and leads art and garden tours. Her most recent book, British Gardens in Time, accompanied a BBC TV series. Other books include Paradise of Exiles, Icons of 20th-century Landscape Design and Policies & Pleasances: A Guide to Scotland’s Gardens. She is currently working on a book about how the Medici Villas reflect the changing ideas of the Renaissance.
Thomas Coke, 8th Earl of Leicester
Lord Leicester runs the family estate at Holkham in Norfolk. The Grade-I listed house sits in the middle of one of the largest and most significant landscape parks in the country. Recently, there has been a major restoration programme in the walled garden and vinery. Holkham’s vision is to be a pioneer as the UK’s most sustainable rural estate.
Dr Oliver Cox
Dr Cox is a historian by training and teaches architectural and cultural history with a focus on the eighteenth century. Formerly a British Academy Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, he is now Head of Academic Partnerships at the Victoria and Albert Museum, leading on the strategic development of new academic partnerships that build on the V&A’s track record in innovative, interdisciplinary teaching and research.
Dr Kate Felus
Kate Felus is a researcher and advisor on all aspects of the restoration, planning and management of historic parks and gardens. The author of The Secret Life of the Georgian Garden, she was the National Trust’s Garden Historian at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire, and involved in the massive restoration programme of that vast palace and its grounds that began in 1990. She has also been involved with work at Hestercombe and the National Trust’s first restoration of a Modernist building, the Erno Goldfinger House in Hampstead.
Daniel Hale has been in the horticulture industry for fifteen years. He gained experience as a landscape gardener in his early career before moving into historic gardens. He was acting Head Gardener at Wentworth Castle gardens before joining English Heritage ,and has been Head Gardener at Brodsworth Hall since 2015, where he taken a key role in the restoration of the gardens.
Dr Paula Henderson
Paula Henderson is an independent scholar who specializes in the architectural and garden history of Tudor and Stuart Britain. Her book, The Tudor House and Garden: Architecture and Landscape in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005) won the Berger Prize for British Art History. Dr Henderson has worked as a consultant and expert witness for several important historic gardens, including Bramshill and Lyveden.
Margie Hoffnung is a horticulturist who has worked at Westonbirt Arboretum and at Highgrove, as well as with Rosemary Verey and Lady Mary Keen. She completed an MSc in the Conservation of Historic Gardens and Cultural Landscapes at Bath, and has worked for the Gardens Trust since 2013.
Nick Lane Fox
Nick Lane Fox is the owner of Bramham Park, a Grade-I listed house near Leeds where he is overseeing a large-scale restoration project of the early eighteenth-century gardens and parkland. Bramham lies at the centre of a 2,265-hectare agricultural estate where, in addition to farming and forestry, he has helped develop an events programme including the Bramham Horse Trials and the Leeds Music Festival.
Dr Tamsin McMillan
Tamsin worked on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest before spending five years as an Historic Environment Adviser.
Emma Manners, Duchess of Rutland
The Duchess of Rutland is châtelaine of Belvoir Castle, the main residence of the Manners family since Tudor times, which was extensively rebuilt between 1801 and 1832 and has a series of extensive gardens set within an even larger landscape park. She is author of several books including Capability Brown & Belvoir: Discovering a Lost Landscape which tells the story of how Brown’s plans were rediscovered and then used to complete the work on Belvoir’s landscape that Brown himself never got to finish.
Tim Richardson is a garden-writer, historian and critic, and an advisor to the National Trust on gardens. His many books include The Arcadian Friends, Avant Gardeners, and The New English Garden. He regularly contributes to the Daily Telegraph and Country Life, as well as being the Director of the Chelsea Fringe Festival, an extremely successful ‘alternative’ garden event, celebrating the more quirky horticulture that does not appear in the Chelsea Flower Show.
Dr Stephen Wass
Stephen Wass is a professional archaeologist and consultant specialising in historic gardens. Much of the work he has undertaken has been for the National Trust including such major sites as Chastleton House, Packwood House, Croft Castle and most recently Stowe Landscape Gardens. He is the author of The Amateur Archaeologist and Seventeenth-century Water Gardens and the Birth of Modern Scientific Thought in Oxford: The Case of Hanwell Castle.
Christopher Weddell has been Senior Gardens Advisor at English Heritage since 2008, setting and monitoring the standards of garden presentation and curation at English Heritage’s garden sites, advising and supporting garden teams and property staff, and supporting garden projects at (among other places) Eltham Palace, Walmer Castle, Marble Hill, Wrest Park, and Witley Court. He has also worked for the National Trust, for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and for the Royal Horticultural Society.