7 of the Best Post-war Parks, Gardens and Landscapes in England

Many post-war gardens demonstrate incredible thought and care for the people who use them, while others mark significant turning points in the history of English gardening.

Green open spaces improve the quality of the environment around us, are good for our wellbeing and give us breathing space, but post-war-gardens are often overlooked and undervalued.

Here are seven of the amazing post-war landscapes that exist all over the country.

1. Beth Chatto Gardens, Colchester, Essex

Beth Chatto Gardens, Colchester, Essex © Historic England Archive DP236782
Beth Chatto Gardens, Colchester, Essex © Historic England Archive DP236782

This informal garden at Elmstead Market in Essex was created by garden designer, Beth Chatto, between the 1960s and the early 21st century. It’s significant worldwide in the history of English gardens.

Chatto was an advocate of using plants that worked in harmony with local conditions. Her ‘right plant, right place’ philosophy was radical at the time, but still shapes gardening today.

Beth Chatto Gardens, Colchester, Essex © Historic England Archive DP236776
Beth Chatto Gardens, Colchester, Essex © Historic England Archive DP236776

Her work also drew on the artistic principles of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.

Beth Chatto’s garden is open to the public, with access details available on their website.

Like this? Check out York Gate Garden in Leeds, West Yorkshire, Denmans Garden in Fontwell, West Sussex and Shute House in Shaftesbury, Dorset

2. Kennedy Memorial landscape, Runnymede, Surrey

Kennedy Memorial landscape, Runnymede, Surrey © Historic England Archive DP221707
Kennedy Memorial landscape, Runnymede, Surrey © Historic England Archive DP221707

This memorial landscape was designed in 1964-65 by Geoffrey Jellicoe, one of Britain’s best-known post-war landscape architects.

He created it for the British government and the Kennedy Memorial Trust, as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in November 1963.

Kennedy Memorial landscape, Runnymede, Surrey © Historic England Archive DP221719
Kennedy Memorial landscape, Runnymede, Surrey © Historic England Archive DP221719

In his design, Jellicoe used the existing landscape but introduced new elements to provide an allegorical narrative based on John Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’.

The garden features a steep climb up a flight of 50 steps to an inscribed stone monument. Each step is different, with the entire flight made from 60,000 hand-cut granite setts.

The Kennedy Memorial is open to the public, with access details available on the National Trust website.

3. Alexandra Road Park, Camden, London

The circular lawn at Alexandra Road estate, Camden, London © Historic England Archive DP251043
The circular lawn at Alexandra Road estate, Camden, London © Historic England Archive DP251043

A formal, sculpted landscape in a modern housing estate is rare, making Alexandra Road Park internationally significant.

At the heart of the Alexandra Road Estate, the park was a collaboration between the leading public housing architect, Neave Brown, and the renowned landscape architect, Janet Jack.

Terraces at Alexandra Road estate, Camden, London © Historic England Archive DP251022
Terraces at Alexandra Road estate, Camden, London © Historic England Archive DP251022

It features walled and sunken play areas, and open spaces including ‘The Mound’ and ‘The Meadow’, planted with lime, cherry and plane trees.

Jack’s design creates shelter and privacy, as well as attracting wildlife, while plants and trees contribute to the landscape’s character of woodland and parkland.

Like this? Check out Brunel Estate in Westminster, London, Golden Lane Estate, London and Fieldend in Twickenham, Middlesex

4. The Improvement Garden at Stockwood Park, Luton, Bedfordshire

The Improvement Garden at Stockwood Park, Luton, Bedfordshire © Historic England Archive DP247684
The Improvement Garden at Stockwood Park, Luton, Bedfordshire © Historic England Archive DP247684

The Improvement Garden was designed in the 1980s by Ian Hamilton Finlay. It’s the only complete garden remaining in England by the artist, poet and landscape designer.

The garden’s six sculptures and their setting integrate poetry, history and nature. Inspiration ranges from Greek mythology and Roman architecture to the grand landscape gardens of the 18th century.

Sculpture of Aphrodite at the Improvement Garden at Stockwood Park, Luton, Bedfordshire © Historic England Archive DP247690
Sculpture of Aphrodite at the Improvement Garden at Stockwood Park, Luton, Bedfordshire © Historic England Archive DP247690

The design is an example of Finlay’s collaboration with the sculptors and carvers he used in his later career.

The Improvement Garden is accessible via the Stockwood Discovery Centre.

Like this? Check out Campbell Park in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, Harlow Town Park, Essex and Roper’s Garden in Chelsea, London

5. St Catherine’s College, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Barbara Hepworth sculpture within the landscape at St Catherine's College, Oxford © Historic England Archive DP221772
Barbara Hepworth sculpture within the landscape at St Catherine’s College, Oxford © Historic England Archive DP221772

The landscape at St Catherine’s College was created in the 1960s along with its buildings by Arne Jacobsen – one of the most significant architects and designers of the mid-20th century.

The scheme is Jacobsen’s only completed commission in England. It’s a highly unusual and complete integration of architecture and landscape.

St Catherine's College, Oxford © Historic England Archive DP221777
St Catherine’s College, Oxford © Historic England Archive DP221777

In the long central garden, yew hedges and walls create a network of ‘rooms’ for studying and socialising.

The walls extend the buildings’ form and materials into the landscape, and elements from the landscape are reflected in the buildings.

6. Cummins Engine Factory landscape, Darlington, County Durham

Cummins Engine Factory, Darlington, County Durham © Historic England Archive DP100834
Cummins Engine Factory, Darlington, County Durham © Historic England Archive DP100834

The landscape at Cummins Engine Factory in Darlington was designed between 1964 and 1966 by Dan Kiley, considered to be the father of modern landscape architecture in the United States.

Kiley worked closely with the architect of the Cummins Engine Factory, Kevin Roche, to create a simple landscape of grass, inset with a rectangular reservoir fronting the factory building.

Cummins Engine Factory, Darlington, County Durham © Historic England Archive DP100836
Cummins Engine Factory, Darlington, County Durham © Historic England Archive DP100836

The design uses a limited palette of materials for the hard landscaping, to complement the main building. The reservoir is kerbed by the same blue brindle bricks used in the factory building and acts as a reflecting pond.

Like this? Check out the Jellicoe watercourse at the former Cadbury Factory in Moreton, Wirral

7. Broadwater Park, Denham, Buckinghamshire

Broadwater Park, Denham, Buckinghamshire © Historic England Archive DP247334
Broadwater Park, Denham, Buckinghamshire © Historic England Archive DP247334

Broadwater Park was designed in the early 1980s by Preben Jakobsen as the setting for a new out-of-town office block.

Jakobsen became an acclaimed specialist in creating landscapes for the commercial and public sector offices built in the 1980s. Broadwater Park is the most extensive and best surviving example of his work.

View from the top of the office building at Broadwater Park, Denham, Buckinghamshire © Historic England Archive DP247338
View from the top of the office building at Broadwater Park, Denham, Buckinghamshire © Historic England Archive DP247338

Jakobsen considered order, structure and geometry all essential components of a good landscape. The layout is informed by the mirrored office building, designed at the same time with input from Jakobsen.

Like this? Check out Stockley Park in Uxbridge, London

What have we missed? Let us know your favourite post-war parks, gardens and landscapes in the comments below.

Find out more about Registered Parks & Gardens on our website and help us Enrich the List.

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