Loyal R. Johnson: papers and photographs relating mainly to a tour of British gardens in 1928 (catalogued)

Scope and Content

The archive comprises journals, a photograph album and papers of American horticultural student Loyal Johnson, who at the age of 25 visited Great Britain with his friend Sam Brewster. Together they undertook a three-month tour of English, Welsh and Scottish gardens, covering 1500 miles on bicycles purchased at Liverpool, with their belongings in a 12-inch case strapped to the back of each bicycle. In total the young men visited around 70 gardens, including Munstead Wood where Gertrude Jekyll was in residence, Gravetye Manor with garden paths adapted for William Robinson's wheelchair, Great Dixter where they were reprimanded by Nathaniel Lloyd who then gave them a guided tour, Aldenham House, Chatsworth, Levens Hall, Blickling, Hestercombe House, Hoar Cross House, Compton Wynyates, Blenheim Palace, the Sutton Nursery Company at Reading and many others. Loyal kept a detailed diary of the trip in three volumes, describing the gardens they visited, places they stayed and people they met, creating a historical and social record of inter-war Britain and its gardens. They endured rain and headwinds, biting insects, poor and non-existent roads, multiple falls from the saddle, straw beds, hunger, sickness and falling out with each other. They took pleasure in the scenery ('the finest I've ever seen – man could never even dream of heaven being so beautiful'), the kindness of the people they met and stayed with, and larking about together: 'such funniness I haven't seen since [Sam] ate the banana with the rubber band in it'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Loyal Robert Johnson (1904-1999) was born in Monte Vista, Colorado, United States of America, on 19 Oct 1904. His father was Thomas Henry Johnson, a potato and wheat farmer, and his mother Elme Ann Watson, a travelling seamstress. Their four other children were Harold, Willard, Craig and Ella Vene, who died in infancy. Loyal Johnson attended schools in Monte Vista and went on to attend Colorado Agricultural and Mechanical College in Fort Collins, Colorado (as at 2016, Colorado State University). After graduation, he pursued a Master's degree in landscape architecture at what would become the University of Massachusetts. The main content of this archive is focussed on his tour of the gardens of England, Scotland and Wales in the summer of 1928. This was to be the foundation of his Master's degree, which he did not complete. He began his employment with the Long Island Parks Department, New York, participating in the landscaping at the new Jones Beach Park. He moved into landscape design and was involved with layouts for the new Long Island Parkways. In the early 1930s he worked in the New York City Parks Department, and did some landscape design work for golf course designer Robert Trent Jones. He married Madeline Margaret Ramsauer on 18 Aug 1934, and they had four children, Marshall, Everett, Robert and Audrey. In 1941 his book 'How to Landscape Your Grounds' was published by A.T. DeLaMare, revised in 1950. In 1951 the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where Loyal Johnson worked for Martin Funnell and Associates, a landscape architecture and city planning firm. The family moved to a small farm in Bel Air, Maryland, and a few years later Johnson was appointed County Planner for Harford County, Maryland.

Loyal Johnson was a life member of the agricultural fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho, serving on the stock judging team in college. In the early 1950s he won a landscape proposal for a community park in Bel Air, although his inclusion of a swimming pool was rejected because of the segregation of schools and other facilities at that time. He was active in local Episcopal churches, and was president of the Bel Air High School Parent Teachers Association in 1959. He was skilled at woodwork, bowling, and plant identification, and wrote poetry, some of which was published. After retirement he lived on a smallholding near Bel Air, Maryland, and continued to grow vegetables including popcorn and rhubarb which he sold and also traded for packaged goods at a local supermarket. He participated and won medals in the Maryland Senior Olympics for many years. He died on 1 Jan 1999.

Source: Compiled in 2016 by Loyal Johnson's son Marshall Johnson, with input from Everett Johnson and Audrey Beale, nee Johnson.


The archive was arranged into sections relating to Johnson's trip to Great Britain, his horticultural studies and career, photographs not relating to the tour,and collected items

Access Information



Due to the fragile nature of the original volumes readers are required to consult surrogate digital images of the journals, reference LRJ/1/1-3. The photograph album, reference LRJ/1/4, is unfit for production and is awaiting conservation. The remainder of the archive is open for consultation and readers are asked to take care due to the fragile nature of the materials. It is essential to check opening hours and make an appointment.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Marshall Johnson between Dec 2015 and May 2019

Other Finding Aids

The Lindley Library descriptive catalogue, available on-line via the Archives Hub, and as a paper copy in the Research Room.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Liz Taylor, RHS Lindley Libraries archivist, in Jun 2017 and updated n Aug 2019. Cataloguing assistance given by Mara Uzzell, RHS Lindley Library volunteer. Packaging assistance given by Annie Johns, RHS Lindley Library volunteer

Appraisal Information

This archive was donated along with:

'Winter Botany' by William Trelease. 1925. With Johnson's signature at front (transferred to the Library's printed collections, class mark 581.9 (7H) Tre)

'The Harvest of the Years' by Luther Burbank with Wilbur Hall. 1931 (transferred to the Library's printed collections, class mark 920 BUR)

'The Garden Lover's guide to Britain', by Patrick Taylor. 1998 (duplicate, added to book sale)

'Private Gardens of England' by Penelope Hobhouse. 1986 (duplicate, added to book sale)

Custodial History

The papers have been in the family since Loyal Johnson's death.

Related Material

The papers of Marshall Johnson, designer and son of Loyal Johnson, are held at the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, United States of America, including a baby book compiled by Loyal and Madeline Johnson, c.1940.