T Hall Gardens
The papers record the development and progress of the Gardens department, and garden work in other areas. The papers, include correspondence, and relate to:
horticultural matters; buildings; personnel; garden designers, H Avray Tipping, Beatrix Farrand and Percy Cane; horticultural student training; the Friends of Dartington Hall Gardens; Gardens Committee Meetings; Horticultural Training Centre and financial assistance; Symon's Tree Nursery; Gardens Staff Committee meetings; September Weekend Gardening Courses; reports and accounts; King Edward VI School; greenhouses; Son et Lumiere (50th Anniversary); Reg Snell publication, 'From the Bare Stem'.
Correspondents include: Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst; P W Woods, head gardener; R S Lynch, Gardens Superintendent; J Johnson, head gardener; Terry Underhill, Gardens Superintendent; Francis Huntington; Ruth Ash; Maurice Ash; estate staff; architect, Robert Hening; Dartington Amenity Research Trust.
Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst were intimately concerned with the development and design of the Hall Gardens from 1925, when they purchased the estate, until their deaths, with Dorothy in particular bringing vision and perception into every aspect of the Gardens progress. With the assistance of head gardeners or gardens superintendents, their staff and landscape designers, the gardens were restored and developed using the contours of the land as a basis for the natural effects of height, depth and distance. Trees and shrubs were introduced to give structure to the compositions, lawns created to emphasise space, the great trees, cleared of undergrowth, and vistas opened that would link the gardens to the countryside and distant views beyond.
Initially, P W Woods was engaged as head gardener, and was responsible for the clearance of the gardens. In 1928 Avray Tipping was consulted on landscaping in the immediate surrounds of the Hall. His plan resulted in a yew hedge at the end of the bowling green and the second hedge that runs up to the corner of the former old kitchen, now the White Hart, thus enclosing and creating the Private Garden. He also introduced the retaining wall on either side of the ruined arcade (known as the arches but actually the upper windows of what was probably a long gallery) and the wall running the full length of the bowling green, alongside the Sunny Border.
R S Lynch, who had studied, and had practical experience of, landscape gardening, was appointed as Gardens Superintendent in Nov 1928. He was responsible for increasing the size of the department, developing and maintaining the grounds and gardens of the Hall and estate, and for entering the commercial market as nurserymen and garden contractors. In 1932 Dartington Hall Ltd became responsible financially for this department.
Lynch was also responsible for the construction of the open air theatre (or tiltyard), which had been previously constructed in two levels and planted up with trees, shrubs and formal flower beds. Considerable construction work and planting was also carried out on the estate, in particular in the vicinity of each of the new buildings, with continuing maintenance work.
In 1934 the department was transferred to the Dartington Hall Trustees under the control of the Land Agent, J C Luard. D Calthorpe became head gardener, and Lynch, until his retirement in 1943, manager of the Gardens Department, which then concentrated on nursery work and garden design and construction off the estate, emphasising its role as a commercial department of the company. (See C/GN).
The design of the Hall Gardens themselves developed from 1934 to 1939 under the direction of American landscape designer, Beatrix Farrand, whose first task was to redesign the Courtyard. Her concept for the Gardens was to connect one part with another, resulting, for example, in the creation of paths and several flights of steps. Her planting policy was to use native plants, such as yew, bay and holly, to full advantage for backdrops, and she introduced more ornamental shrubs and climbers.
J Johnson took over as Head Gardener in 1943. He was a knowledgeable plantsman and a regular contributor to Gardens Chronicle for many years. From 1946 the development and design of the Hall Gardens continued under landscape designer Percy Cane. He too studied the contours of the ground, opened up new views and strengthened the links between areas. He was responsible for new features including, the Glade, the Heath Bank steps, the Azalea Dell, redesign of High Meadow, the upper part of the Valley Field, some of the paving and stone seats, and planting schemes.
The official title in 1951 became Grounds and Gardens department, which it remains to this day, and its province included the maintenance of the Hall grounds and gardens, and some of the areas on and off the estate, including housing estates. The open air theatre was converted into what was then largely believed to be its original purpose, a tiltyard, between 1954 and 1955.
Terry L Underhill NDH taking over as Gardens Superintendent in 1964, after the sudden death of J Johnson a year earlier, came from Liverpool University Botanic Gardens. He instigated a Friends of Dartington Hall Gardens membership scheme, that included producing a regular newsletter for members, which continued for several years. He was responsible for almost every plant in the Gardens at that time being labelled with its botanical name and origin. He was also responsible for erecting a new glasshouse unit, the transfer of the Gardens Shop to this area, and for reorganising and developing the student programme.
A weekend gardening course for amateur gardeners and horticulturalists evolved during Johnson's time and became the September Weekend Gardening course, which continued under Underhill for some years. Terry Underhill left the Trust in 1980.
Significant sculptures in the Gardens are: Henry Moore's Reclining figure, a memorial to Arts Administrator Christopher Martin (1945-46); Willi Soukop's bronze donkey (1935); 'Swans Fountain' (1950); and in 2005 'Jacob's Pillow' by Peter Randall-Page.
The lead statue 'Flora' was presented to Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst on Foundation Day, June 1967. The Temple in the Glade was designed by architect Robert Hening (1960). Will Carter cut the names of the Trustees on the Temple, and on the plaque for Flora.
The Sunny Border was redesigned by Preben Jacobsen in 1985.
The Japanese Garden (previously a flower cutting garden that had replaced a rhubarb patch) was designed by Philip Booth in 1990.
The Courtyard Forecourt was designed with new plantings by Georgie Wolton in 1992.
Horticultural training scheme:
In 1950, under J Johnson, in collaboration with Devon County Education Authority, who provided a special grant, a training scheme was developed mainly for boys coming direct from Devon schools. Residential and running over two years, it taught the students basic theoretical and practical skills in all aspects of horticulture, and at the same time they were paid a small weekly sum, and sat Royal Horticultural Society exams.
The course was reorganised and intensified to encompass both boys and girls from schools nationwide when Terry L Underhill arrived in 1964; a day a week was set aside for lectures and three mornings of practical demonstrations. Comprehensive lecture notes and glossaries of scientific and botanical terms were encouraged to be kept by the students. Weekly 'pocket money' was still paid, and the remainder of the week spent working in the Gardens. The students then sat exams comprising the RHS General, City and Guilds Stage I, a Dartington diploma and O level English, Maths and Botany (if not attained already ) and the course became known as the Horticultural Training Centre with Underhill as its director.
In 1967 financial assistance was sought from the H M Inspectors for Education, who recommended that the Devon Education Authority support the training scheme under the same terms as those relating to short term college courses. Meetings were held with the Local Education Authority, an HMI from the Department of Education and Science, and the Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry Industry Training Board. An arrangement resulted in that for each intake of students, the appropriate local authorities provided financial assistance for the relevant student.
Eventually some students were able to complete the course in one year. The scheme closed in August 1976, due to the lack of adequate financial support from local education authorities and industrial training boards.
Information for Researchers
All papers belonging to The Dartington Hall Trust Archive (with the exclusion of Dartington Hall School pupils individual records) are held at the Devon Record Office. All enquiries relating to research should be made to Devon Records Office, Great Moor House, Bittern Road, Sowton, Exeter, Devon EX2 7NL
+44 (0)1392 384253
+44 (0)1392 384256
The following requests should be made direct to the Archives & Records at The Dartington Hall Trust as shown below:
Copies of images as seen on The Dartington Hall Trust online catalogue with appropriate reference number (Ref No.)
Permission to publish or quote from any document held in the Dartington Hall Trust Archive
Former pupils of Dartington Hall School wishing to view their records
Archives & Records
The Dartington Hall Trust
Totnes TQ9 6EL
This information is copyright The Dartington Hall Trust