Scope and Content

The collection comprises manuscripts, proofs and original photographs for 'Old West Surrey', (Longmans, Green, 1904), and press reviews of the book. There are also two albums of sketch books with paintings and drawings by Gertrude Jekyll compiled on her travels in Italy, France, England, Scotland, Wales and Algeria in the 1860s and 1870s.

The growth of the railway network in the late 19th century opened up those parts of Surrey which had been described by Gertrude Jekyll in her earlier published works and idealised for public consumption by artists such as Helen Allingham and Myles Birkett Foster. By 1900, it had become possible for the wealthy businessman to set up a family home in the county and commute to the City within the hour. In addition, tourists came to the county, seeking the sites described in her books. Miss Jekyll felt that the presence of so many incomers was destructive and corrupted the locals, turning their heads to thoughts of 'fashion'.

Thus her declared intention in writing 'Old West Surrey', published by Longmans in 1904, was to celebrate 'the ways, ... lives and habitations of the older people of the working class of the country [she had] lived in almost continuously since ... a very young child.' In it, Miss Jekyll sought to illustrate 'the modern exchange of the solid furniture of pure material and excellent design' for the 'cheap [and] pretentious articles, got up with veneer and varnish and shoddy material' she saw in many homes of the day.

Gertrude Jekyll took approximately 200 new photographs and the remainder were gathered from the albums she had compiled in the 1880s, shortly after she took up photography. Many of the objects photographed were from her own large collection, parts of which she then donated to Guildford Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. As with all her other publications, she concerned herself with all elements of the design, from the layout of the pages to the design of the cover and title page. The original designs for the cover and title page are now held by the Royal Horticultural Society Lindley Library.

Administrative / Biographical History

Gertrude Jekyll was born on 29 November 1843, in Mayfair, London, and the Jekyll family moved to Bramley Park, Surrey, in 1848. As a child, she had the freedom to explore the Surrey countryside, to learn about the plants and to make friends with the local people. What she learned from these explorations had a strong influence on her approach to garden design and was also to be the source of information for several of her books on folklore and customs. Except for a brief period of residence at Wargrave, Berkshire (1868-1876), Gertrude Jekyll remained in the county for the rest of her life.

In 1861 Gertrude Jekyll enrolled at the South Kensington School of Art where she studied botanical drawing and attended lectures on the scientific principles underlying the harmonies of colour. She also visited the London galleries, attending exhibitions and copying the works of Old Masters. Her circle of friends and influences at this time grew to include artists such as George Frederic Watts, William Morris and the critic John Ruskin. The English impressionist, Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, also had a profound influence on Gertrude Jekyll who later wrote 'nobody has helped me more than Mr Brabazon to understand and enjoy the beauty of colour and many matters concerning the fine arts'. Her ambition to become a professional artist was curtailed as a result of her severe myopia.

She first travelled abroad in 1863, on a tour of the Aegean with her friends, Charles and Mary Newton. From then onwards, she travelled extensively in Britain and Western Europe, particularly the Mediterranean, the Riviera, Greece and Italy, and also to Algiers. As she toured she sketched and painted constantly. At about this time she also began to amass a collection of embroidery and textiles which she added to throughout her life and which she used as an inspiration for her interior designs and embroidery patterns.

George Leslie, RA, an artist and friend of the family described Gertrude Jekyll in his book 'Our River' (1881):

'Miss Jekyll is a lady of such regular and remarkable accomplishments ... clever and witty in conversation, active and energetic in mind and body, and possessed of artistic talents of no common order, she would have at all times shone conspicuously bright amongst other ladies. The variety of her accomplishments, however is far more extensive ... - carving, modelling, house painting, carpentry, smith's work, repousse work, gilding, wood inlaying, embroidery, gardening, and all manner of herb and flower knowledge and culture; everything being carried on with perfect method and completeness. Her artistic taste is very great, and if it had not been for the extreme near-sightedness of her vision, I have little doubt that painting would have predominated over all her other talents.'

Gertrude Jekyll returned to Surrey following her father's death in 1876 to live at Munstead House, near Godalming, with her mother and brother, Herbert. Her first major project on moving was to lay out the gardens for the family home at Munstead House.

During the 1880s, Gertrude Jekyll had begun to write for 'The Garden' magazine and contributed photographs to 'The English Flower Garden', by William Robinson (editor of 'Gardening Illustrated' which merged with 'Country Life' magazine in 1897). As her fame spread, she wrote many more articles and published fourteen books on topics ranging from garden design to folk history. During this decade, she also took up photography, taking many pictures of the surrounding countryside and of her own gardens at Munstead Wood. From this period until c.1914, when she effectively gave up photography on account of her poor eyesight, she used her own photographs to illustrate her books and articles. Several albums of her photographs are now held at the University of California at Berkeley.

In 1889, when Gertrude Jekyll was in her mid-forties, she met the twenty-year-old architect, Edwin Lutyens. Their joint love of domestic architecture and garden design, and most importantly their evocation of the 'Surrey Style' of domestic architecture, led to their collaboration on some of the best examples of Arts and Crafts design. During the 1890s, in Surrey alone, Jekyll and Lutyens collaborated on the design of gardens for Orchards in Godalming, Goddards in Abinger, and Tigbourne Court in Witley, at the same time as they worked on the construction of her new home at Munstead Wood. Here, she laid out the gardens and Lutyens designed every building on the site from the main house to the thatched garden shed.

During her lifetime, Gertrude Jekyll created designs for approximately 500 gardens mainly in Britain, although she did design gardens for properties in the United States of America and Germany. Despite her failing sight, she continued to design gardens, publish articles and maintain a regular correspondence with friends and readers of her articles until her death, aged 89, on 9 December 1932. She lies buried in St John's Churchyard, Busbridge, Surrey, beneath a memorial designed by Lutyens which bears the epitaph: ARTIST, GARDENER, CRAFTSWOMAN

Access Information

There are no access restrictions. The photographs in -/2/2/- are extremely vulnerable: please refer to the first edition of 'Old West Surrey' to see them

Information on visiting Surrey History Centre can be found on our website.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from the Surrey Local Studies Library, Guildford and accessioned in November 1998.

In her article 'Where Flowers Bloom in the Sands' ['Country Life', 12 Mar 1998] Judith Tankard suggests that the sketchbooks were sold at the sale of Gertrude Jekyll's effects in 1948 and subsequently passed to Guildford Library. They were found amongst the Local Studies holdings at Guildford Library in the early 1980s.

The manuscripts, proofs and press reviews of 'Old West Surrey' were also found among the holdings of Guildford Library in the early 1980s when the Local Studies Librarian began to amass material following the establishment of the Surrey Local Studies Library. It is not certain how they came to be deposited there.

In 1908, Gertrude Jekyll deposited the photographs which were used in the publication of 'Old West Surrey' with the Photographic Survey and Record of Surrey which was based in Croydon. During the mid 1980s, the entire set was transferred to the Surrey Local Studies Library by the Croydon Local Studies Librarian.

Other Finding Aids

The item level catalogue of the collection, including some images of photographs from 'Old West Surrey' is on the Surrey History Centre online catalogue .

Conditions Governing Use

All literary and artistic works created by Gertrude Jekyll in the possession of Surrey History Centre are in copyright and may not be reproduced before 31 Dec 2039 without the written permission of the Trustees of the Jekyll Estate.

Related Material

A summary list and index to the Reef Point Gardens Collection of Jekyll plans and correspondence at the University of California, is held at Surrey History Centre as part of Z312/- along with microfilm copies of the Reef Point Collection and of Gertrude Jekyll's six albums of photographs taken between c.1885 and 1914. Both collections of original material are currently held by the Centre for Environmental Design, University of California at Berkeley.

A set of 41 booklets relating to commissions undertaken by Gertrude Jekyll and including extensive plant lists is held at Godalming Museum.

Surrey History Centre holds a collection of sketch plans and elevations, letters and planting plans relating to gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll between 1890 and c.1925, ref. 4113/-.

Further material held at Surrey History Centre includes:

Copy of the catalogue of the sale of contents of Munstead Wood, 1948, ref. Z/321/-.

Signed first edition presentation copy of 'Gertrude Jekyll, A Memoir', by Francis Jekyll, her nephew, and letters from Gertrude Jekyll, and Francis Jekyll, 1923-1934, ref. 6582/-.

Catalogue of books at Munstead House to be sold at auction by the Jekyll Family of Munstead, Godalming, 1953, ref. 6625/-

Copies of letters to American correspondents and articles for the Bulletin of the Garden Club of America, [1919 x 1932], ref. Z/309/-.

Copies of Gertrude Jekyll's correspondence concerning garden design at St Fagan's, Cardiff, 1925 – 1928, ref. Z/329/-.

For photocopies and transcripts of Gertrude Jekyll's letters, newscuttings etc, 1913-2001; and CW Earle, 'Pot-Pourri From A Surrey Garden', 1902, see ref. Z/351/-.

Transparencies of Gertrude Jekyll's photograph album of views of flowers, gardens and rural scenes, c.1883-1886, ref. Z/360/-.

Copies of letters from Gertrude Jekyll to her niece, Pamela McKenna (nee Jekyll, 1889-1943), nd [1926?], ref. Z/384/-.

Copies of letters from Gertrude Jekyll and FA Judges [?of Guildford], 1890, ref. Z/401/-.

Copies of papers relating to Gertrude Jekyll's garden design for the home of Sir Henry Wood, conductor, at Appletree Farm, Chorleywood Common, Hertfordshire, 1924, ref. Z/404/-.

Copies of letter from, bibliography about and list of works by Harold Falkner, architect of Farnham (1875-1963), c.1951-1967, ref. Zs/318.

Copies of architectural drawings by Edwin Lutyens of Sullingstead (now High Hascombe), Hascombe, nd [1896 x 1897], ref. Z/381/-.

Sale particulars of the Albany Park Estate, Kingston upon Thames, ref. SP9/31/2. Sale particulars of North Munstead Cottage are held as CC99/61/1.

An album of drawings and photographs by Gertrude Jekyll, together with a workbook of interior designs by Jekyll and 61 letters to Mrs Amy Barnes-Brand of Woodhouse Copse, Holmbury St Mary, are held at the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Twelve letters from Gertrude Jekyll to successive Directors of the Royal Botanical Society are held by the Library of the Society at Kew Gardens.

Correspondence between Gertrude Jekyll and Lady Frances Wolvesey, founder of the Glynde School for Lady Gardeners, is held at Hove Central Library.

Letters written by Gertrude Jekyll to Dr A W Rowe between 1904 and 1910 are held in the Sherborne Bequest at the British Library, Additional MS 45926.


For further biographical detail concerning Gertrude Jekyll and her work, see:

Gertrude Jekyll , Sally Festing (Viking, 1991).
Gardens of a Golden Afternoon, The Story Of A Partnership: Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll , Jane Brown (Allen Lane, 1982).
Gertrude Jekyll, a Vision of Garden and Wood , Judith Tankard and Michael R Van Valkenburgh (John Murray, 1990).
The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll , Richard Bisgrove, (Frances Lincoln Ltd, 1992).
Gertrude Jekyll: Essays on the Life of a Working Amateur , eds. Michael Tooley and Primrose Arnander, (Michaelmas Books, 1995). Includes comprehensive lists of gardens designed and publications written by Miss Jekyll; and bibliography of publications about her.
Gertrude Jekyll at Munstead Wood: Writing, Horticulture, Photography, Homebuilding , Judith B Tankard (Sutton Publishing, 1996).

There is an entry for Gertrude Jekyll in the 'Missing Persons' volume of the Dictionary of National Biography.

Geographical Names