MERL Seminars: Discovering the Landscape

Jakobsen seminar smallIn 2013, MERL received the archives and library of the Landscape Institute. Our Spring 2015 seminar series focuses on these collections as well as the figures and themes which have shaped the English landscape over the past 200 years.

  • 1-2pm, Tuesdays* in February & March, 2015
  • Free
  • Register  
  • Conference room, Museum of English Rural Life**

**The Museum galleries and garden are closed for redevelopment until early 2016. The archives and library reading room, meeting rooms, staircase hall and gift shop remain open. Access is via the main entrance as usual, unless otherwise indicated


From garden space to masterplan: The Landscape Institute collections at MERL

Caroline Gould, Deputy University Archivist, University of Reading
Annabel Downs, Chartered Landscape Architect and Registered Fellow of the Society of Garden Designers

  • 10 February

In this seminar, Caroline and Annabel will explore the varied collections that came to MERL as part of its work with the Landscape Institute, including well-known landscape architects such as Geoffrey Jellicoe, Sylvia Crowe, Brenda Colvin, Milner White and more. Attendees will have the opportunity to look at drawings, plans, photographs and rare books that help to tell the story of landscape architecture in Britain.


Changing landscapes of farming and estates after the First World War

Jonathan Brown, MERL Honorary Fellow

  • 17 February


Reading Abbey revealed: An update with the architects

Giles Pritchard, Head of Historic Buildings and Conservation, Hampshire County Council
Barnaby Wheeler, Senior Architect, Hampshire County Council

  • 25 February (*Please note this is a Wednesday)

Reading Borough Council is developing an exciting plan to transform Reading's Abbey precinct into a unique historical and cultural destination. The Abbey Quarter plans will pull together a number of important historic sites, buildings and structures, under a single, co-ordinated approach. In this seminar, the Abbey Quarter architects will talk about their plans.


Gertrude Jekyll: Artist, gardener, craftswoman

Richard Bisgrove, Garden historian and former Course Director for the BSc in Landscape Management, University of Reading

  • 3 March
  • Please note that due to high demand for places at this seminar, it will now take place in Lecture Theatre LO22 at the Institute of Education, a 2 minute walk from the Museum. (Building 22 on the London Road campus map pdf) 

Gertrude Jekyll was, and remains, one of the most renowned English gardeners of all time, designing some 250 gardens between the closing years of the nineteenth century and her death in 1932, three years after the formation of the Institute of Landscape Architects. She also wrote a dozen or so books and contributed more than two thousand articles to Country Life and other periodicals. Preferring to be known as an ‘artist gardener’, she very rarely used the term ‘garden design’ because for her it was through gardening that the garden came into being. Richard will outline her life and work and briefly explore the relationship between the artist gardener and the landscape architect.


All around is Fairy ground: Pleasure and the Regency garden

Professor Timothy Mowl FSA, Professorial Research Fellow in History of Architecture & Designed Landscapes, University of Buckingham

  • 10 March

In his richly illustrated lecture, Timothy Mowl will explore gardens, including Lord Blandford’s Whiteknights, which were characterised by exuberant formal parterres, jewelled island beds of graduated flowers, frothy basket-work borders, shrubberies laced with flowers and over-arching trellises covered with rambling roses, jasmine and clematis. Their lawns were enamelled with spring bulbs, enlivened with elegant vases, strewn with Chinese barrels for casual alfresco seating, cut with reflecting oval pools backed by specimen shrubs and dramatised by deep-delved grottoes. Every pleasure ground had its meshed aviary and pheasantry, there were fountains with writhing dolphins, rustic garden seats, thatched and pebbled-floored, Swiss-style bridges, greenhouses and conservatories overflowing with exotics. These flowery paradises were readily accessed from the house via ground-length sash windows, tree-trunked verandahs entwined with climbers and conservatories arcing out from the house into the garden. By day they were ablaze with colour and by night, lit by coloured lamps hanging from the trellises and the trees, they sparkled and glittered.


Order in the landscape: Rediscovering Preben Jakobsen

Karen Fitzsimon, MA Garden History, University of Buckingham; Landscape Architect

  • 17 March

Preben Jakobsen (1934-2012) was an award winning, inspiring and passionate Danish landscape architect who spent his professional life working in the UK. Through his many built works, lectures and writing he educated a generation of landscape designers. A self-declared modernist, he considered landscape design a true art form. His expressive and creative use of plants was highly regarded. He stopped working in the mid-1990s and so missed out on the world wide web. As a result his important contribution to British landscape architecture has been mostly forgotten. Using the LI archive material and other field research Karen’s illustrated talk seeks to remedy this situation and to revive an interest in the man and his work.


Brenda Colvin; An insight into a founder member of the Landscape Institute

  • Saturday 21st March
  • 1pm 
  • £10 payable on the day

Some of Brenda's drawings will be on display at the Study Day. Her practice partner, Hal Moggridge, will be giving a talk, as will Guy Baxter, University Archivist. This event has been organised by FOLAR; Friends of the Landscape Library and Archive at Reading.

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