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Denmans listed on National Heritage List for England

by | 26 Aug 20 | News

Denmans Gardens has been added to the National Heritage List for England as a Grade II post-war garden. The West Sussex garden.

Denmans, once part of Lord Denman’s Westergate Estate, was started by plantswoman Joyce Robinson who lived on the property from 1947 until 1996. In 1970, she began to experiment with the use of gravel in a naturalistic way that was innovative at the time, including the creation of two dry riverbeds inspired by the rivers of the South Downs.

John Brookes, the first independent designer to show an exhibition garden at the Chelsea Flower Show (1962), visited for the first time in 1973 and fell in love. He wrote that “it seems to pioneer a type of decorative gardening from which we all could learn”. He shared her love of the South Downs as well as her concerns about the environment.

In 1979, it was agreed John would renovate the stable block as his home. Designed by London architect Jonathan Manser, John moved in and opened his Clock House School of Design. He took over management of the gardens in 1984, and in subsequent years integrated his own unique style with Joyce’s.

The garden suffered from a long struggle between John and his former business partner. John explained to friends shortly before he died in 2017 that “Sadly, and as a result of the litigation, the business involving the cafe, plant centre and gift shop was not maintained as it should have been and the garden was closed to the public. I recognise that it is rather a sad looking place at the moment. I hope you will understand that I cannot go into the detail of that litigation, but I am pleased to say that it has now been resolved.”

The garden now is in private hands, but the goal is to make it financially self-supporting and to transfer Denmans into the John Brookes-Denmans Foundation which was set up before John died.

The Foundation and the dedicated team of gardeners, volunteers, and staff at Denmans are committed to restoring the garden and to ensure it remains open to the public for years to come.

Gwendolyn van Paasschen, Chair of the John Brookes-Denmans Foundation said that “We have worked tirelessly to restore this amazing place so being listed  is an affirmation of the garden’s place in history and will help to secure its future.  It is a unique, modern garden that reflects design trends that are unquestionably relevant for designers and gardeners today.”

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