Alvilde Lees-Milne

Alvilde Lees-Milne was a designer active in the mid- to late-20th century. She was born in London on 13 August 1909, the only child of Lieutenant-General Sir George Tom Molesworth Bridges (born 1871, died 1939) and Janet Florence Marshall, née Menzies (born 1867/8, died 1937), his wife.

On 9 January 1933, she married the zoologist, Anthony Freskin Charles Hamby Chaplin (born 1906, died 1981), who succeeded, in 1949, as third Viscount Chaplin, and with whom she had a daughter, Clarrissa. In 1950 their marriage was dissolved.

After 1950, she moved to France to a house left to her by Princesse Edmond de Polignac. In France she met architectural historian and conservationist (George) James Henry Lees-Milne (born 1908, died 1997) whom she married on 19 November 1951. She and her husband, James moved to Roquebrune in the Alpes Maritimes soon afterwards to a house, La Meridienne. Here Alvilde Lees-Milne created one of her first gardens.

In 1961 the couple returned to England to a house at Alderley Grange, Gloucestershire. They then moved to Lansdown Crescent in Bath in 1974 and then Essex House, Badminton in 1975. At both Essex House and and Alderley Grange Alvilde Lees-Milne created much admired and talked about gardens, inspired mostly by Vita Sackville-West. In addition to creating her own gardens at her own properties, she also received and took on commissions from others. In France she created gardens for Mick Jagger and President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

In addition to gardening and designing, she also wrote and edited works about gardens. She edited, along with Rosemary Verey, The Englishwoman's Garden in 1980 and The Englishman's Garden in1982, The Englishwoman's House in 1984 and The Englishman's Room in 1986.

Alvilde Lees-Milne died of a stroke at Essex House on 18 March 1994. She was survived by her husband, James, and her daughter, by her first marriage, Clarissa (Chaplin) Luke.

James Lees-Milne died of cancer 3 years later. Despite a marriage of ups and downs and a string of homosexual and lesbian affairs, his and Alvilde's ashes were scattered together in the garden she had created at Essex House.

Bibliography

Bloch, Michael, 'The Official James Lees-Milne Website' <http://www.jamesleesmilne.com/> [accessed 27 December 2007]

Doon, Ellen, 'James Lees-Milne Papers, GEN MSS 476', Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, General Collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts', New Haven, Connecticut, October 2000 <http://webtext.library.yale.edu/xml2html/beinecke.LEESMIL.con.html >[accessed 26 December 2007]

Fergusson, James, ‘Milne, (George) James Henry Lees- (1908–1997)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/68798> [accessed 27 December 2007]

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