English Landscape Gardens: 1650 to the Present Day (Online)


This course is the ideal introduction to English garden history. It provides an overview of five centuries of development, from Baroque formalism through the naturalistic landscape style, right up to contemporary cutting-edge planting style. The course was written by Tim Richardson, an independent garden historian and landscape critic. Tim writes regularly for newspapers and magazines including The Daily Telegraph, Financial Times and Country Life, and is the author of nine books on garden and landscape subjects. He is a trustee of the Garden History Society and a member of the gardens advisory panel of the National Trust.

The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner called the landscape garden Britain's major contribution to the visual arts, and this course aims to explore why and how that came to be so. Beginning in the mid 17th century, when grand gardens were laid out in formal style, the course traces the development of garden style across five centuries. There is special emphasis on the early-18th-century landscape garden, as perhaps the high-point, when politics, art, science, philosophy and gardening intersected in an unprecedented way. Later in the century Capability Brown made the style his own, creating a landscape monopoly across Britain, before Humphry Repton brought back an element of formality in the Regency period. The 19th century witnessed the apogee of the head gardener and the creation of the first public parks, while new plant introductions from China and elsewhere provided new impetus to horticulture.

The 20th century was one of the richest periods in English garden history and will be fully explored here. Gertrude Jekyll pioneered the colour-themed herbaceous border and her partnership with architect Edwin Lutyens created what is often seen as the perfect stylistic union between house and garden. The story is brought right up to date with modules on 20th-century planting theory and contemporary art or sculpture gardens such as Little Sparta.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1: IntroductionIntroduction: The formal background

  • Kenilworth: An Elizabethan garden
  • The formal background: Versailles and Badminton
  • English Baroque: Wilton House and Sayes Court
  • London and Wise

Unit 2: The Anglo-Dutch Gardens of the William and Mary period

  • The Dutch influence
  • Hampton Court and Het Loo
  • Westbury Court
  • Castle Howard

Unit 3: Queen Anne and Early Hanoverian Gardens, 1701-13

  • Palladianism and the Hanoverian succession
  • Naturalism meets formality: Wrest Park
  • Joseph Addison and the Whig Garden Project
  •  Mainstream Whig gardens

Unit 4: Alexander Pope and William Kent

  • Exotic planting
  • Alexander Pope
  • Tory rebel farmers
  • William Kent at Chiswick
  • William Kent at Rousham
  • Gothick and chinoiserie

Unit 5: The apogee of the English Landscape Garden

  • Stowe 1 – The overall structure
  • Stowe 2 – The Elysian Fields
  • Other political gardens in Prince Frederick's circle
  • Studley Royal
  • The artistic inspiration
  • Stourhead

Unit 6: Capability Brown versus the Picturesque

  • 'Capability' Brown's pastoral style
  • 'Capability' Brown's reputation
  • The Picturesque movement – theory
  • The Picturesque movement – practice

Unit 7: Humphry Repton and Regency gardening

  • Repton in context
  • Repton and the Picturesque
  • The Red Books
  • Regency garden design

Unit 8: Victorian gardening

  • J.C. Loudon and the Gardenesque
  • Charles Barry and the cult of the Italianate
  • The Victorian kitchen garden
  • The development of the public park
  • William Robinson and the wild garden
  • The cottage garden

Unit 9: Arts and Crafts and Gertrude Jekyll

  • The Arts and Crafts atmosphere
  • Gertrude Jekyll
  • The Jekyll– Lutyens partnership
  • Arts and Crafts garden architecture
  • Baillie Scott and the makings of suburbia

Unit 10: Gardens in the later 20th Century

  • Modernism
  • Hidcote and Sissinghurst
  • Little Sparta/Cosmic Speculation
  • New Perennials and naturalistic design
  • Conceptualism
  • Naturalism and the 'Sheffield School'

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of successfully passing the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £350.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Mrs Jill Sinclair

Jill Sinclair trained in landscape history and design at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. She is a director of the Historic Gardens Foundation and has been editor of its journal, Historic Gardens Review. Her book Fresh Pond: the History of a Cambridge Landscape was published by the MIT Press and she regularly writes and lectures on aspects of English and international garden history.

Course aims

To provide an overview and introduction to English garden history, with special emphasis on the 18th-century landscape garden and on the 20th century.

Course Objectives:

1. To understand the trajectory of English landscape history from formalism to increasing naturalism.

2. To trace the development of garden style across five centuries.

3. To gain an understanding of how textual and other sources can be complemented by on-the-ground study of gardens and landscape.

Teaching methods

1. Guided reading of documents and of visual sources such as garden plans

2. Research topics with student feedback

3. Discussion sessions

4. Set questions on primary materials

5. Questions to be answered in personal folders

6. Quizzes

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

1. The ability to examine texts and visual sources with some discrimination as to their reliability.

2. An understanding of the importance of the wider cultural and political context of garden-making.

3. An appreciation that gardens are not just about plants or vice versa.

4. An appreciation of the importance of using both archival materials and books, as well as on-the-ground visits to gardens.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/english-language-requirements


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.