September Meeting Report
Gertrude Jekyll, the influential garden designer, and her much younger architect collaborator Edward Lutyens, were the stars of our talk this month. Jo Pocock, one of the founding Friends of Hestercombe, told us about the history of the development of the gardens at Hestercombe, and about the unlikely partnership between the late-middle-aged Miss Jekyll, and the up and coming young architect.
The development of the gardens started with the Portman family, locals since the middle ages who moved to London in the 19th century, made a fortune, and, wanting to return to Somerset, bought Hestercombe. Having modernised the house, they created an Italianate garden on the south side, where there had not been a garden previously. The Great Plat, which Lutyens and Jekyll (‘to rhyme with treacle,’ as she emphasised) designed, was developed between 1903 and 1908. It is laid out in the form of a sundial.
We learned that Gertrude Jekyll had become a garden designer comparatively late in life, when poor sight meant she could no longer see well enough to continue with. the wide range of other craft activities which she had enjoyed. As she was very well-connected, she had no problems in finding wealthy patrons. She and Lutyens met by chance, but their complementary skills proved invaluable in developing a vernacular, ‘cottage garden’ approach. They created over 100 gardens together, and also worked with the War Graves Commission for the Great War.
Jo told us that the gardens were nearly lost in the 1990s, as the Fire Brigade, which used Hestercombe as its headquarters, wanted to put a hard surface over a large area. Only one vote in the SCC meeting tipped the balance against the proposal, and the Councillor who saved the gardens then took on responsibility for restoring them, in partnership with Cannington College. The Friends were established at this point, and have been very pleased with the subsequent success of the restoration work.
Our members’ time activity followed the garden theme, as we had a ‘daisy drive’- like a beetle drive, but with players throwing dice to create a daisy instead. Some very unusual flowers resulted.
The next meeting will be on Thursday 20 October, 7.00 for 7.30 pm at the Beambridge Inn. Some of our skilful members will be running craft sessions, and we will be filling shoeboxes for the YMCA Christmas appeal. Visitors will be very welcome.
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