Bushey Rose Garden plays an important role in the Bushey community, due to its former use as an art school and the collaboration of artist, Sir Hubert von Herkomer, and landscape architect, Thomas Mawson in the design of the garden you see today.
The Art School
During the latter part of the 19th Century many notable artists lived in Bushey. From 1883 until 1904 the rose garden was the site of an art school established by Sir Hubert von Herkomer RA, an eminent Victorian artist (1849-1914).
Herkomer had some 500 to 600 artists studying there before he eventually grew weary of the responsibility of overseeing the school. Lucy Kemp-Welch, a former student of Herkomer’s, opened her own art school – The Bushey School of Painting – on the same premises in 1905. Herkomer then re-purchased the school in 1912 and demolished it.
Herkomer built a house called ‘Lululaund’ in Melbourne Road adjoining the rose garden but all that remains of the house is part of the front elevation which is now the entrance to the Bushey branch of the Royal British Legion. The house was designed by H H Richardson, an American architect, and was built between 1886-1894. It has been referred to as a ‘Bavarian Castle’ and was named after Herkomer’s second wife Lulu.
In 1912 Herkomer demolished the art school and commissioned Thomas Mawson (1861-1933) to design a garden. Mawson noted his proposals on his first visit:
“…The garden was to be separated from the kitchen garden by a brick-built pergola, with a handsome garden pavilion at one end. The centre of the panel rose garden was to be sunk two feet, with a fountain in the centre, and considerable spaces of ground were to be planted as foils against adjoining properties…”
Many of the original features of the garden still remain such as the sunken garden, summer house, monument, column and pergola. The cloister in the lawn area were the remnants of the art school and were found by Three Valley Water at their depot in Clay Lane and re-erected in the garden in the mid-1990s.
The garden was commissioned in exchange for a portrait by Herkomer. In Mawson’s autobiography he wrote:
‘…Herkomer remarked: “We have still to settle your fees, and I am going to make a suggestion which I hope you will accept. I think,” he said, “you ought to have our portrait painted; my price for this would be six hundred guineas. Let’s swop. I’ll do your portrait, whilst you design my rose garden, and we’ll call it quits.”’
Mawson later became the President of the Landscape Institute in 1929 and has left a legacy of parks and gardens in the UK and abroad.
The Bushey Urban District Council bought the garden in 1937 from the Herkomer estate and it was opened to the public in the same year.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s the rose garden, in common with many parks nationally, suffered from under-investment which lead to the deterioration of the fabric of the garden.
In 2002 the rose garden was registered as a Park and Garden of Special Historic Interest Grade II, but it had to be closed in December 2005 due to vandalism.
In 2013 the Bushey Rose Garden celebrated its centenary.
The Peace Palace in the Hague also celebrated its centenary and donated daffodils to the garden to commemorate the landscape designer, Thomas Mawson, who designed both the Peace Palace gardens and Bushey Rose Garden. We look forward to seeing the daffodils in bloom next spring.
Other centenary celebrations this year included the garden party, tea and tour (part of Bushey Festival), laughter therapy, yoga, story telling and a school art competition. Thank you to everyone for coming along and supporting the events.
New cycle racks have been installed by the potting shed. The racks were made by local blacksmith, Steve Rook, and are inspired by the poppies that flower in the garden in summer.
After successfully received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund ‘Parks for People’ programme in 2008, we restored the garden to its former glory.
Work began in August 2009. Contractors Crispin & Borst worked with Land Use Consultants and architects Rees Bolter Associates to complete the garden restoration in June 2010.
The garden was officially opened on 23 July 2010 by the Lord Lieutenant, Countess of Verulam in front of 150 VIPs.
What work was carried out?
The summer house roof was replaced with handmade tiles; the interior work includes plasterwork and restoration of the fireplace. New doors and glass fanlights were installed. The summer house is now an information office containing a display about the history of the garden, Hubert von Herkomer and the designer Thomas Mawson.
The fountain was thoroughly cleaned, repaired and is now a working fountain.
The cloisters was carefully dismantled, cleaned and reassembled and now forms a backdrop for music and theatrical performances. Paving has been laid for the ‘stage’ area.
For the potting shed and toilets a new one-storey building was built in a similar style to the summer house with rendering, red brickwork and handmade roof tiles.
An artist has created a replacement plaque which is the focal point at the end of the pergola. The original seven foot plaque designed by Sir Herbert von Herkomer was stolen in the 1960s.
New curved oak beams were fitted to the pergola.
The rose temple column was restored to the original design of a rose temple.
Each paving brick was carefully lifted and as many as possible were re-used. The bricks were laid in the original basketweave pattern and yorkstone relaid around the fountain.
Rose pillars similar to the original design were installed. The metal tops were made by local blacksmith, Steve Rook.
Over 4,000 plants have been planted, many from Thomas Mawson’s plant list. The planting scheme has been designed to bring year round interest to the garden, with a focus on roses and clematis.
New railings were fitted to the top of the existing High Street wall and the original gate was treated and refitted.
Other items include new gate and railings at the Herkomer Road entrance; new seating similar to the original design by Thomas Mawson; new lawn; new footpath along Rose Walk and around the lawn; CCTV; bins and benches.
Further details on Sir Hubert von Herkomer can be found at Bushey Museum.