In the spring of 1940, Cedric Morris and his partner Lett Haines bought a decrepit Tudor Manor House in a river valley outside Hadleigh in Suffolk. It was called Benton End. It became an art school and a garden as celebrated as Sissinghurst in its day: ‘a paradise of pollen and paint’ recalled the writer Ronald Blythe, as gardeners and students’ easels shared the beds of Cedric’s celebrated irises.
At Cedric’s death, it became a private house, and his plants were shared between friends such as Beth Chatto and John Morley. In 2018 the Pinchbeck Charitable Trust bought Benton End with a vision of reviving house and garden as a place of art, horticulture, learning – and friendship – and are working with the Garden Museum to make that happen. In this talk Garden Museum Director Christopher Woodward will look back over five hundred years of the house’s architectural history, then evoke the atmosphere created by Cedric and Lett and friends from Elizabeth David to Kathleen hale, John Nash to Beth Chatto.
He will be joined by Head Gardener Matt Collins to share some of the botanical discoveries he has made in a year living at Benton End, which he recently wrote about in this Guardian article.
Garden Museum Director
Matt Collins is Head Gardener at the Garden Museum, and contributes articles on horticulture, nature and travel for publications including The Guardian, Gardens Illustrated and Hortus. He writes a monthly column for the Daily Telegraph on plant provenance and cultivation. Matt’s interests lie at the intersection between cultivated and natural environments; his latest book, Forest, Walking Among Trees traces an intercontinental pathway between British trees and their wild-wooded counterparts, and was shortlisted for an Edward Stanford Travel Writing award.