Thomas Hayton Mawson

Thomas Mawson started the Lakeland Nursery in Windermere in the 1880’s, and later went on to became a landscape architect of high repute.

Thomas H Mawson

Thomas H Mawson, Photo by Chris Mawson (copyright).

Thomas Mawson was born at Scorton in Lancashire on 5th May 1861, and because of his family’s poverty, he was forced to leave school at the age of 12 to make a living. He worked in the building trade with an uncle in Lancaster, who happend to have a strong interest in gardening.When his father died, he was taken by his mother to London, where he was employed by a firm of nurserymen.
 
Eventually he moved back to the North of England, and set up a nursery business in Windermere with his two brothers. Lakeland Nurseries was so successful, that after initially concentrating on the plant trade, Thomas Mawson was able to dedicate himself to garden design work.Family photo (left) copyright Chris Mawson.
 
 
 
His first commission was a local property – Graythwaite Hall, where his designs contained a blend of architecture and planting that was to become a feature of his work. He then went on to design the gardens at Langdale Chase, Holehird, Brockhole and Holker Hall around the turn of the Century. In spite of his spreading fame, he still undertook local work, and in 1909 he designed the formal garden at Rydal Hall.
 
Later he went on to design gardens not only throughout Britain, but also in Europe and Canada. In 1908 he won a competition to lay out the gardens for the ‘Palace of Peace’ at the Hague. He advised on the development of the Smoky Mountains National Park in America.
 
Thomas Mawson became interested in town planning and public parks. In 1923 he was awarded the position of president of the Town and Planning Institute, and in 1929 he became the first president of the newly formed Institute of Landscape Architects.
 
The 45 acre public park in Barrow-in-Furness is based on a design by Thomas Mawson. The park was recently restored to his original plans with Heritage Lottery money, even re-making and matching the buildings to old photographs. The park has since won the Landscape Institute Heritage and Conservation award 2007, a prestigious national award.
 
He published two considerable volumes in 1901, ‘The Art and craft of Garden Making’,which is widely accepted as the foundation of modern landscape architecture. He was all his life a devout Christian, and emphasised in his writing the importance of gardens to the general well-being of mankind.
 
Mawson died at Applegarth, Hest Bank, Lancaster, on November 14th 1933, and is buried in Bowness Cemetery within a few miles of some of his best gardens.
 

Some gardens in Cumbria designed by Thomas Mawson :
Graythwaite Hall Newby Bridge 1889 formal gardens
Langdale Chase Troutbeck 1890 formal gardens
Cleeve How Windermere 1894 remodelled gardens
Holehird Windermere 1898 orchid houses
Heathwaite Windermere 1899 villa gardens for Mawson family
Moor Crag Windermere 1899 new gardens for house by Voysey
Brockhole Windermere 1900 formal gardens
Cringlemere Troutbeck 1900 trees and shrubs on an elevated site
The Yews Storrs 1902 gardens
Blackwell Windermere 1902 new gardens for house by Baillie Scott
The Corbels Windermere 1906 house and garden for Thomas Mawson
Shrublands Windermere 1907 garden for Mawson’s brother Robert
Lindeth Fell Country
House Hotel
Windermere 1907
Rydal Hall Ambleside 1909 formal gardens and a wild garden
Wood Hall Cockermouth 1910 formal gardens
Holker Hall Cark-in-Cartmell 1910 rose gardens
Above Beck Grasmere 1913 extensive rock gardens
Gatehouse Eskdale 1914 Japanese gardens
Keen Ground Hawkshead

 

 
These drawings by Thomas Mawson show better than words his belief that garden design
should complement the architectural style of the house and its surrounding landscape.
 

 
Cumbria Archive Service put forward a bid for lottery funds to preserve the T H Mawson archive, which comprised 14000 plans and drawings of garden designs, town planning schemes, and architectural projects throughout the UK and abroad. There are also about 6500 glass plate negatives and photographs recording the successful implementation of the designs. It covers all aspects of Mawson’s work, and was rescued from the architectural businesses in Windermere and Lancaster.
 
The proposal was not just to preserve the collection, but to promote the Mawson archive more widely. The content of the archive is relevant to many areas of the UK, as well as abroad. It is likely that property owners, garden historians and researchers are totally unaware of the existence of the plans and photographs that would shed light on the history of gardens and would help in their restoration.
 
[Unfortunately the application was rejected.]  
In September 2006, author Elizabeth Kissack published a biography of Thomas Mawson – “The Life of Thomas Hayton Mawson, Landscape Architect 1861-1933”, ISBN 0955365300. This is an attractive 100-page paperback book, profusely illustrated, and largely written from a Lake District perspective.
 

Pergola at 'The Hill', Hampstead, London. Photo by Chris Mawson (copyright).

Pergola at ‘The Hill’, Hampstead, London. Photo by Chris Mawson (copyright).

 
Of note are his designs for Lord Leverhulme: at his Cheshire house, Thornton Lodge, a 400 acre park near Bolton, and his London home of ‘The Hill’ in Hampstead. This is a fine example of the period, with a unique atmosphere of mellowed classicism.
 
When William Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, who made his fortune with Sunlight soap, built a mansion in Hampstead, London, Inverforth House, there was a public footpath between the two parts of his property, which he was unable to get closed. So between 1906 and 1925 he had Thomas Mawson design an 800ft long pergola, over 15ft above the level of the surrounding heath to join the two parts together. The pergola was opened to the public on 31 May 1995 after extensive renovations.
 
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