MA Garden HistorySchool of Humanities and Social Sciences
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 email@example.com.
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 Lecture: Medieval Gardens – Dr David Marsh
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 Seminar: Research Skills for Garden History – Dr Tamsin Macmillan (The Gardens Trust)
Thursday 9 November Lecture: 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 TBC): Case Study: Bramshill House, Hampshire – Dr Paula Henderson (Historian and landscape consultant)
Thursday 23 November Lecture: Issues in Garden Conservation – Margie Hoffnung (Conservation Officer, the Gardens Trust)
Thursday 7 December Lecture: Restoration and Baroque Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 14 December Seminar: 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: Case Study: Holkham Hall, Norfolk – The Earl of Leicester
Thursday 18 January Lecture: The Landscape Garden – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 25 January Seminar: Case Study: Stourhead, Wiltshire – Dr Oliver Cox (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
Thursday 1 February Lecture: The Picturesque and Regency Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 8 February Seminar: Case Study: Brodsworth Hall, South Yorkshire – Daniel Hale (Head Gardener at Brodsworth)
Thursday 15 February Lecture: Victorian Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 22 February Seminar: Case Study: Belvoir Castle, Rutland – The Duchess of Rutland
Thursday 29 February Lecture: Edwardian Gardens – Dr David Marsh
Thursday 7 March Lecture: 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: Case Study: Shute House, Wiltshire – Dr Kate Felus (Designed-landscape historian)
Thursday 21 March Seminar: Contemporary Gardens – Tim Richardson (Garden historian)
Thursday 28 March Seminar: 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.
The minimum entry level required for this course is as follows:
- a first or upper second-class honours degree from a recognised university or,
- a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience.
In cases where candidates are applying on the basis of work experience, they may be asked to complete a short written assignment and/or attend an interview as part of the applications process.
Age is no barrier to learning and we welcome all applications from suitably qualified students. Due to their flexibility, our London-based MAs by research attract a wide variety of applicants from a range of backgrounds, including people in full-time employment and retirees. Our current students range in age from 21 to 75.
We are happy to consider all international applications and if you are an international student, you may find it useful to visit our international pages for details of entry requirements from your home country.
The University is a UKVI Student Sponsor.
If English is not your first language, please check our postgraduate English language requirements. If your English levels don’t meet our minimum requirements, you may be interested in applying for our Pre-sessional English Language Foundation Programmes.
Those who wish to attend the talks and dinners, but who do not wish to take a degree, may join the course as Associate Students (in US usage ‘Audit Students’). This status will enable the student to attend the ten guest seminars and dinners, join the field trips, and to meet the guest lecturers, but does not require the submission of written work. Associate Students are not registered for the MA degree.
Candidates apply online, sending in their supporting documents, and will be assessed on this basis by the Programme Director. The Programme Director or Admissions Assistant will be happy to answer any enquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Contract for prospective students
When you are offered a place at the University you will be notified of the student contract between the University and students on our courses of study. When you accept an offer of a place on the course at the University a legal contract is formed between you and the University on the basis of the student contract in your offer letter. Your offer letter and the student contract contain important information which you should read carefully before accepting an offer. Read the Student Contract.
The MA does not offer systematic instruction in the facts; instead, the emphasis is on independent thought and research.
At the heart of the Buckingham MA is the close working relationship between student and supervisor. While the final thesis must be an independent work, it is the supervisor who offers advice on refining the topic (if necessary), on primary sources, on secondary reading, on research techniques and on writing the final text (which should be not less than 25,000 words). Supervisors and students will meet frequently throughout the year, and not less than twice a term; and the supervisor shall always be the student’s primary contact for academic advice and support.
The University’s Course Directors, students’ supervisors, and the Research Officer and Tutor for Graduate Students are available to discuss students’ post-graduation plans and how they may utilise most effectively the skills acquired during their studies.
The fees for this course are:
|Start||Type||1st Year||Total cost|
Full-time (1 Year)
Part-time (2 Years)
Full-time (1 Year)
Part-time (2 Years)
Full-time (1 Year)
Part-time (2 Years)
The University reserves the right to increase course fees annually in line with inflation linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) to take account of the University’s increased costs of delivering educational services. If the University intends to increase your course fees it will notify you via email of this as soon as reasonably practicable.
Course fees do not include additional costs such as books, equipment, writing up fees and so on. Where applicable, these additional costs will be made clear.
** Please be aware that the 6 month option relates to the associate course only
Please note that The University of Buckingham has four terms per year. Students will pay the same termly fee for the duration of their studies, unless studies are interrupted and resumed later. The tuition fee quoted is therefore the total cost of the degree.
Postgraduate loan scheme
A system of postgraduate loans for Masters degrees in the UK is available with support from the UK Government. The loan is available for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. The loans can be used for tuition fees, living expenses or both.
Details of other scholarships can be found on our main Bursaries and Scholarships page. You should make an application to study at the University and receive an offer letter confirming our acceptance of your application before applying for a scholarship.
You may also find it useful to visit our External Funding page.
You can apply directly using our online application form – all you need to do is click the ‘apply’ button at the bottom of this page.