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Constance Villiers-Stuart: Earthly Delights

This exhibition celebrates the acquisition of Constance Villiers Stuart’s archive (1876-1966), recently donated to the Archive of Garden Design by her granddaughters Electra Nemon Stuart and Aurelia Young. Sharing highlights from the archive, the exhibition explores the life and work of this accomplished garden historian.


Constance’s pursuits included writing, painting, social activism, photography, and flower arranging. She travelled widely but lived at her family home, Beachamwell Hall, in Norfolk, where she tended a 4000-acre estate. In 1911, Constance married Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Villiers Stuart and joined him on his military posting to India. Her admiration of Indian garden design culminated in her first book, Gardens of the Great Moghuls (1913), establishing Constance as an authority on Mughal Garden history. It also launched her career as a historian on other topics including the Moorish gardens of Spain, the garden design of great European houses, and flower arranging.

Constance kept a treasure trove of paintings, sketchbooks and ephemera relating to her life’s work, preserved by her grandchildren. Over the past few years, the esteemed art administrator and historian Mary Ann Prior has used the archive to extensively research and write the biography, Constance Villiers Stuart: In Search of Paradise (Unicorn, 2022), the first in-depth study of Constance’s life.

Now that the biography is published (available for sale at the Garden Museum Shop), we will endeavour to catalogue the archive, preserve it for posterity, and make it available to the public for research.

All images are from the Constance Villiers Stuart Archive.