Loyal R. Johnson: papers and photographs relating mainly to a garden 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’.


The archive was arranged into sections relating to Johnson's trip to Great Britain, his horticultural studies and career, and collected items

Conditions Governing Access


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 in Dec 2015

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. 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.