The role of gardens in suburban development: a study of Kingston upon Thames 1800-1914

Simms, Barbara (1997) The role of gardens in suburban development: a study of Kingston upon Thames 1800-1914. (MPhil thesis), Kingston University, .


Gardening is one of the prevailing tasks of the people, - it is loved and practised by the tenants of places as well as of cottages, - and is a source of pleasure, health and profit to all, (‘The Cottage Gardener’, 1860) This study investigated the meaning of the possession and cultivation of a garden for the Victorian middle classes, who moved to the suburb of Kingston upon Thames to escape overcrowding and insanitary conditions in central London. Archival research confirmed that Kingston was the home of a wide spectrum of the middle classes, as well as the weekend retreat of royalty, the aristocracy and government ministers. It was also found that although many gardens were created on its fertile soil, little tangible evidence of these remain. Contemporary documentary sources indicated that during the period of the study the role of gardens in peoples' lives was complex. A prime aim of many people was to use their gardens for relaxation, whether just being in the garden with friends or family; or entertaining more extravagantly. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the garden also became the setting for social activities focused on sports and even some small gardens were found to have a croquet or tennis lawn. For families Kingston also provided ideal "rural" surroundings, but for others, a house and garden in the suburbs may have been the embodiment of their hopes and aspirations for a new life. Gardening activities or the opportunity to take part in horticultural shows and meet others with similar interests may have been an attraction for some people; but the traditional garden function of providing vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers for domestic use also continued, not always, perhaps, out of necessity but because it was an enjoyable and healthy activity - a "healthful, pleasurable occupation". A review of the history of garden design portrayed significant changes in aesthetic theory and fashionable style during the period which changed the nature of many gardens throughout Britain. It was, therefore, considered that these influences might (or might not) have also affected changes made in Kingston gardens. An important economic effect of the increase in the number of private gardens in Kingston was the corresponding increase in garden-related markets, indicated by the rising numbers of gardeners, nurseries and gardening products advertised and an increase in newspaper reports of local horticultural shows, exhibitions, societies and educational courses. In summary, hundreds of gardens were created in Kingston upon Thames during the period 1800-1914, but few traces remain. However, through local newspaper and journal articles and the writings of local "personalities", it has been possible to gain an insight into the motives, aspirations and interests of those who moved to the suburbs during the nineteenth century and to document at least some of their gardening achievements.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page