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An Overview of Research and Recording Practice

Article Index

  1. An Overview of Research and Recording Practice
  2. Researching and sources of information
  3. Getting started
  4. Making a site survey
  5. Writing up your findings
  6. All Pages

What is a historic designed landscape?

A wide range of landscapes in the city, town and countryside are important to our heritage. They include:

  • archaeological remains
  • the gardens and landscape parks of large housesStowe. Photograph copyright: Louise Wickham.
  • smaller parks and gardens (both urban and rural)
  • public parks
  • community gardens
  • civic landscapes
  • urban squares
  • cemeteries and churchyards
  • hospital groundsStowe Palladian Bridge and Gothic Temple
  • allotment sites
  • ‘new town' landscapes
  • urban green spaces and ‘green corridors'
  • village greens.

Gardens, parks and other green spaces are of historic interest when:

  • They are particularly old (early 18th century or before). In general, the older a garden, the more likely it is to be a rare example of its kind.
  • They illustrate some particular aspect of garden history. For example, they may show the work of a particular designer, or have components remaining from a particular period or which are designed in a particular style.
  • They have significant historical associations, perhaps with a particular person or event.
  • They have a group value in combination with other buildings or landscape, which together make them of historic interest.

The historic garden registers and inventories maintained by state agencies for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland cover places which are considered to be of special historical interest. Because of this, they are highly selective (see appendix 7.1 of the Parks & Gardens UK Volunteer Training Manual and Researchers' Resource Guide for more information on the statutory criteria for registering historic parks and gardens).

The criteria used by these national registers can be a useful starting point in defining gardens of local and regional historic importance, but here a wider definition of ‘historic interest' may be used, reflecting regional and local interests. For example, there may be a greater emphasis on plantsmanship in a county renowned for it. A garden may be the work of a designer of local importance, or be connected with prominent figures in local history.

Queen's Park, Loughborough, postcard, early 1900's. Courtesy of Leicestershire and Rutland Gardens Trust.

Queen's Park, Loughborough

Why record historic designed landscapes?

Researching and recording historic parks, gardens and designed landscapes helps to highlight their value and the contribution they make to the landscape. It can help to protect them and assist with restoration or conservation. Research of this kind also helps other people to learn about historic gardens, and increases understanding.

There are many reasons for researching a garden, and it is important to define the main reason for recording a particular garden. For example, it might be:

  • To identify places that ought to be nominated for a local or national register or inventory.
  • To highlight gardens of which local authorities and special interest groups should be aware.
  • A first step in making an application for funding.
  • To underpin plans for the future conservation, restoration and management of a garden.