Landscape and Green Spaces in the Midlands: new directions in garden history

Birmingham B15 2RT, University of Birmingham 58 Edgbaston Park Road, Winterbourne House and Garden
Saturday 20 July 2024 (09:30-17:00)
  • Centre for Midlands History and Cultures Annual Conference
  • Keynote speaker: Dr Clare Hickman (Reader in Environmental and Medical History Newcastle University)
  • Multifareous and Diverse Forms: sensing the past in landscape history
  • Booking now open (closes 30 June 2024)

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the conference Landscape and Green Spaces: Garden History in the West Midlands held at the University of Birmingham. The Conference and resulting edited collection demonstrated how the study of green spaces can reveal more about both local and national themes in the history of the Midlands. At the same time it aimed to stimulate further movement away from what had been acknowledged as garden history’s traditionally narrow focus on the ‘great men’ designers and a few key sites.

But much has changed in the decade since 2014. The study of garden history has continued to take new directions and there is plenty to celebrate, to excite and to stimulate in the new research paths that have emerged over the last ten years. There has been a retreat from a concentration on the aesthetics of design towards seeing gardens and the activity of gardening within wider social, economic, political, and cultural contexts. Gardens are now better understood as part of the shaping of urban as well as rural landscapes influenced by scientific, technological, industrial, medical, intellectual and climate developments and their history is benefitting from the insights of scholars drawn from a wide range of disciplines.

This conference brings together academics, especially postgraduates and early career researchers, independent scholars, and heritage, museum and archive professionals who are researching any aspect of the history of gardens and green spaces in the Midlands to raise new questions and to explore new directions.


09.30   Arrivals and registration 

10.00   Keynote by Dr Clare Hickman, Reader in Environmental and Medical History, Newcastle University: Multifareous and Diverse Forms: sensing the past in landscape history

Followed at 11.10 with a series of papers presented by:

  • Isobel Akerman, University of Cambridge: Changing the World: environmental education in Oxford Botanic Garden
  • Olivia Beards, Independent Researcher: ‘The best apology Wolverhampton could offer for Hyde Park’: Molineux Pleasure Grounds 
  • Fiona Crouch, Northumbria University: ‘A place for pretty thoughts and soft musings’: the value of the outdoor rooms at Snowshill Manor
  • Lee Hale, Winterbourne House and Garden: Winterbourne and Horticultural Heritage
  • Henrietta Lockhart, Winterbourne House and Garden: Women in the University of Birmingham Herbarium
  • Dr Dianne Long, Independent Researcher: Experiencing the Industrial in the Georgian Garden 
  • Francesca Murray, Queen Mary University of London: The Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Institution
  • Gillian Parker, University of Sheffield: Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Backhouse Nursery rockworks in the Midlands
  • Virginia Warren, University of Cambridge: Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Derby Arboreturm and the Loudons’ social reform agenda.

17.00   Conference closes

Between 12.15 and 14.00 the conference will break for lunch when there will also be an opportunity to visit Winterbourne House and to spend time in the Garden.

Note that Winterbourne is hosting ‘Jazz in the Garden with Florence Joelle’ at 6.30pm as part of the Birmingham Jazz Festival. This is a separate Winterbourne event that is not part of the Centre’s Conference but may be of interest to delegates. Further information and booking here: