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The Secret Garden

Kids go free!

The Garden Museum’s summer exhibition will celebrate Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved classic children’s book The Secret Garden. Explore how different artists’ illustrations from the past hundred years bring the story to life, embrace the healing power of gardens, and discover the true story of Burnett’s real ‘secret garden’ which inspired the book.

Enter our magical Secret Garden in this immersive exhibition suitable for all ages, with interactive games and trails for children to learn about the plants, animals and stories found in The Secret Garden and to inspire young visitors to try their hand at gardening!

Free entry for all kids under 18! Under 16s must be accompanied by a paying adult

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Generously supported by

Mrs Sowerby visiting the garden, image courtesy of Studio MinaLima

The Secret Garden (first published 1911) tells the story of Mary Lennox, an unhappy 10-year-old orphan sent to live her widowed uncle at his sprawling and mysterious Yorkshire estate, Misselthwaite Manor. Here she discovers the key to a long-abandoned hidden walled garden, which she begins to tend. As Mary cares for the plants in the garden with the help of her cousin Colin Craven, its restorative powers help her overcome her grief. Spending time in the garden also gives Colin the strength to build up his physical and mental health after years of neglect from his father.

The Secret Garden was first published in The American Magazine from November 1910 – August 1911. Following its success, it was published as a book in 1911. Precious first editions of both the magazine and the book will be on display in the exhibition, alongside contemporary interpretations by children’s book illustrator Lauren Child and an interactive edition by Studio MinaLima, the graphic design studio behind the graphic universe of the Harry Potter movies.

Inside the Wonderful Garden, Lauren Child, collage on paper

Inside the Wonderful Garden, Lauren Child, collage on paper (c) Lauren Child

As well as celebrating illustrations from The Secret Garden, the exhibition will explore Frances Hodgson Burnett’s keen interest in gardening in real life, including her gardens at Great Maytham Hall, Kent – famous for providing the inspiration for The Secret Garden.

Frances Hodgson Burnett photographed in her garden at Maytham Hall, published in Country Life (1906)

The exhibition will run through the summer holidays accompanied by a programme of art, gardening and cooking activities suitable for children and families.

Images: Rough Sketches for The Secret Garden © The Estate of E.H. Shepard, 1956. Reproduced with permission from Curtis Brown Group on behalf of The Shepard Trust. University of Surrey Archive Ref No EHS/G/7/2; J Scott Williams, illustration for the serialised publication of The Secret Garden, 1910, Garden Museum; Header image: The Secret Garden illustration © 2007 Inga Moore, reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd

The Secret Garden Online Learning Resources

The Secret Garden project with Evelina Hospital School and artist Katie Spragg