1. Indexes to the National Register of Archives
These notes briefly describe the unpublished sources noted in the National Register of Archives (NRA), the principal relevant repositories with strong collections relating to garden history, other useful links and general works of reference.
The indexes to the NRA are indexes to the creators of records. It is possible to search for the records of corporate bodies or the papers of families and individuals, and for groups of letters from prominent individuals which are to be found in collections other than their own. It is not possible to use the indexes to search for single letters or papers relating to a certain theme, e.g. rock gardens.
Users can access the online indexes to the National Register of Archives. Guidelines on how to undertake searches are available on the search pages.
2. Accessions to repositories
Each year The National Archives contacts approximately 250 of the principal record repositories in the British Isles in order to discover which major and unusual accessions have been received. This information is added to the indexes to the National Register of Archives. It is also edited and used to produce thirty-three thematic digests, including one relating to gardening. The digests are made available online and distributed for publication in a number of learned journals and newsletters. Further information about accessions is available on our website.
3. Relevant repositories
The following provides details of repositories and institutions that hold major collections relating to garden history.
Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1V 0LQ
Holds the archives of the Linnean Society, founded in 1788, the papers of Carolus Linnaeus and manuscripts from contemporary naturalists such as William Swainson. The archive is therefore rich in 18th and early 19th century material and includes prints, watercolours and sketches. See the Catalogues of the manuscripts in the library of the Linnean Society of London (1934-1948).
English Heritage, Enquiry & Research Services, National Monuments Record Centre, Kemble Drive, Swindon SN2 2GZ
Formerly the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England (RCHME), now absorbed within English Heritage. Maintains the National Archaeological Record, including written reports, measured surveys, drawings and reports, as well as the record files of the RCHME dating from 1908. Also maintained by the RCHME are the National Library of Air Photos and a number of speciall collections of papers, including copies of a collection of Gertrude Jekyll's papers. See RCHME The National Monuments Record: a guide to the archive (1992).
Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD
Holds a collection of manuscripts associated with scientists such as Sir Joseph Banks. Non-manuscript material includes watercolour paintings and sketches of natural history subjects and a collection of portraits of naturalists. See also Catalogue of the books, manuscripts, maps and drawings in the British Museum (Natural History) (8 volumes, 1903-1949).
The National Archives, Kew, Richmond TW9 4DU
Holds records of gardens in central government and royal custody, generated especially in the Office of Works; for example, WORK 16 contains files on the Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens. For a description of the history and records of works departments see department and series level information for WORK on Discovery, our cataloguea search tool with descriptions of tens of millions of documents from the UK central government, law courts, and other national bodies.
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, The Library, Inverleith Row, Edinburgh EH3 5LR
Originally established in 1670 as a physic garden for growing and studying medicinal plants, it has developed as a distinctive focus within Scotland for world-wide botanical research and horticulture. Holds much historical published and unpublished material, the latter including the correspondence of George Forrest, Joseph Rock and others.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Library and Archives, Kew, Richmond TW9 3AE
Holds letters, diaries, files and field notebooks of those botanists and horticulturists involved in the creation of Kew's plant collection, as well as the registered files of the garden itself.
National Monuments Record of Scotland, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, John Sinclair House, 16 Bernard, Edinburgh EH8 9NX
Maintains the National Monuments Record of Scotland, with similar archaeological responsibilities as English Heritage.
National Monuments Record of Wales, Crown Building, Plas Crug, Aberystwyth SY23 1NJ
Maintains the National Monuments Record of Wales, with similar archaeological responsibilities as English Heritage.
Royal Horticultural Society, 80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE
Founded in 1804 to encourage the science, art and practice of horticulture in all its branches. It is now the world's leading horticultural organisation, with extremely active science and educational departments based at RHS Garden, Wisley. The Society is responsible for organising a number of shows, of which the Chelsea Flower Show is the most famous.
Besides the archives of the RHS, the Lindley Library holds the English Heritage Register of parks and gardens of special historic interest, and sets of gardening magazines, including The gardener's magazine and The gardener's chronicle.
Local record offices
These repositories have a fairly standard collection of estate, inclosure, tithe and Ordnance Survey maps for the area they cover, all of which may help in tracing the development of parks and gardens. They also usually have a good collection of prints, drawings, photographs and sale particulars, as well as the standard sources such as census and land tax returns. Contact details can be found on ARCHON.
4. Useful links
Access to Archives (A2A)
A2A aims to create a virtual national archives catalogue, bringing together a critical mass of information about the rich national archival heritage and making that information available globally from one source via the World Wide Web. The records are held in geographically dispersed archives offices in England.
The Archives Hub provides a single point of access to descriptions of archives held in UK universities and colleges. At present these are primarily at collection-level, although where possible they are linked to complete catalogue descriptions. The Archives Hub forms one part of the UK's National Archives Network, alongside related networking projects.
AIM25 is a major project to provide electronic access to collection level descriptions of the archives of over fifty higher education institutions and learned societies within the greater London area.
A national organization representing County Gardens Trusts that are actively engaged in conserving, researching, documenting and caring for the heritage of parks, gardens and designed landscapes.
This Society promotes the study of the history of gardening, landscape gardening and horticulture.
The largest and most comprehensive survey of parks and gardens of local historic interest in the capital.
Maintains many historic gardens noted on the UK Database of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Scottish Archive Network (SCAN)
The Scottish Archive Network was established: to create an electronic network and search room linking the catalogues of nearly 50 Scottish archives; to provide a range of additional electronic services including a Knowledge Base of Frequently Asked Questions on Scottish history, together with exhibitions, publications, discussion groups, all of which will enhance and encourage the use of Scottish archives; to create a computerised index to the wills of Scots from 1500 to 1875, and to link this to digital images of the wills, thus opening up a vast historical resource.
Parks & Gardens UK is an ongoing project to develop a dedicated web-based resource, freely available to individuals. It provides information relating to historic parks, gardens and other green open spaces throughout the United Kingdom.
Currently free access is given to over 6,600 records of individual sites, 3,800 digital images to better illustrate the landscapes and 2,100 biographies of associated people, including gardeners, horticulturalists, botanists, designers, architects, artists and writers.
There are also a number of articles in the Explore, Conservation & Restoration and School Zone areas of the website.
5. Further reading
David Lambert, Peter Goodchild and Judith Roberts, Researching a Garden's History: A Guide to Documentary and Published Sources Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies (1995)
Ray Desmond, A Bibliography of British Gardens(1984)
M Hadfield, A History of English Gardening (1960)
C Hussey, English Gardens and Landscapes 1700-1750 (1967)
D Jarrett, The English Landscape Garden (1978)
Country Life magazine. An annual cumulative index exists.
Gavin DR Bridson, Valerie C Phillips and Anthony P Harvey, Natural History Manuscript Sources in the British Isles (1980)
WR Dawson, The Banks Letters: a Calendar of the Manuscript Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks Preserved in the British Museum (Natural History) and other Collections in Great Britain (1958)
Peter Eden, Dictionary of Land Surveyors and Local Cartographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1550-1850 (1977). Dr Sarah Bendall, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, is currently revising and expanding the Dictionary of Land Surveyors and would be prepared to provide information if requested.
Ray Desmond, William T Stern, Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists(1977)
Miles Hadfield, Robert Harling and Leonie Highton, British Gardeners: a biographical dictionary (1980)
John Harvey, Medieval Gardens (1981)
David Jacques, Georgian Gardens (1983)
Brent Elliott, Victorian Gardens (1986)
Registers of historical parks and gardens: historic descriptions of the most important gardens with a bibliography for each site. The format differs between counties. They are not normally for sale but are available at English Heritage, National Monuments Record of Scotland, National Monuments Record of Wales and often in county record offices and planning departments.
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. Maintained by English Heritage. One volume for each county, 1984 onwards.
Register of Landscapes, Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales. Maintained by CADW. One volume for each county, 1994 onwards.
An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland. Maintained by the Countryside Commission for Scotland. One volume, 1987.
Heritage Gardens Inventory. Maintained by the Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Committee. One volume, 1992.