Papers of Miles Hadfield

Scope and Content

The collection consists of notes by Miles Hadfield on his family history and gardening notebooks created by Miles Hadfield (86) and Edward Cahen (32) including notes, drawings, photographs, excerpts, newscuttings, offprints and correspondence, among which are letters to Hadfield from Edward Cahen (11), Maynard Greville (2) and Sacheverell Sitwell (1) and letters to Cahen from Maynard Greville (3) and L.J. Rogers (10).

Administrative / Biographical History

Miles Heywood Hadfield was born in 1903 in Handsworth on the outskirts of Birmingham, the eldest of the three sons of Heywood George Hadfield (1872-1946) and Hilda Bragg (1876-1959). The family were prosperous and lived in a substantial house, Hamstead Mount, built in 1873 by Hilda's father Charles Bayley Bragg (1850-1933), a jewellery manufacturer.

In 1918 Miles went to public school at Bradfield near Reading, returning to live at home and study engineering at Birmingham University in 1921. In 1924 he went to work for the local firm of Best and Lloyd, designers and makers of light fittings. A steady job was necessary for the family's finances had suffered a reverse and Hamstead Mount was divided into two with one half being let to provide more income. Miles stayed with Best and Lloyd, in Birmingham and in their London showroom, for six years, but he had other ambitions. He began to study at Birmingham School of Art in the evenings and in 1930 left the firm and became a fulltime student. He then embarked on a career as a botanical artist and writer on gardening and forestry. Miles Hadfield published The Gardener's Companion, a miscellany with his own illustrations, in 1936 and Everyman's Wild Flowers and Trees in 1938, both of which sold well.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Miles Hadfield redirected his horticultural expertise towards the war effort and joined the Ministry of Food, Midland Division. He eventually became Deputy Controller of Food for the Midlands and was especially concerned with the supply of food to Coventry during the blitz. After the war he could have continued as a senior civil servant but at the end of 1949 he resigned and returned to writing, contributing regular articles to Country Life, The Gardener's Chronicle and House and Garden among other periodicals. In 1957 he wrote and illustrated British Trees and established his reputation as a garden historian with Gardening in Britain, published in 1960 and still a standard work on the subject. Some of his other books included Gardens of Delight, written in collaboration with his brother John, the novelist and editor of the Saturday Book series, in 1964 and A Book of Country Houses in 1969. He was also interested both in the local history of Handsworth and in his family history.

Miles Hadfield worked as an advisor to the National Trust, helping with their reconstructions of historic gardens including Westbury Court in Gloucestershire. He was instrumental in the formation of the Garden History Society and became its first president. He was honoured for his services to arboriculture by the Royal Forestry Society and for his services to horticulture by the Royal Horticultural Society.

After the death of his mother Hamstead Mount was sold and Miles Hadfield moved to Dillon's Orchard in Ledbury in 1962. In 1975 he married Rachel Hughes but in the same year his health began to fail after a fall and he became increasingly blind. He died in 1982.

The friendship between Miles Hadfield and Edward Cahen probably dates from 1936 when Cahen favourably reviewed Hadfield's Gardener's Companion for Gardening Illustrated. Edward Cahen was born in London in1880, the eldest son of the banker Albert Cahen. He was educated at Marlborough and studied chemistry at The Royal College of Science in London from 1900, becoming a member of staff there from 1907-1911. Cahen then travelled on the continent prior to becoming a demonstrator at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, in 1913, married Florence Marian Elder in 1914 and in 1917 moved to the National Explosives Co Ltd in Cornwall. In 1923 Cahen retired and devoted himself to his interests in gardening and photography. The garden of his house, Bird's Fountain, at Dunsford near Exeter was regularly opened to the public. He died in 1961 and it was probably at this point that Miles Hadfield acquired his gardening notebooks.

Access Information

Access conditions: Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Mrs Hadfield, 1975


This description was written by Gil Skidmore

Other Finding Aids

An item-level list is available in the archives reading room

Related Material

There is a collection of Edward Cahen's portrait photographs in the University of Exeter, MS 4