The English Garden

Dr Terry Gough

The longest-serving head of gardens and estates at Hampton Court Palace on 32 years of stewardshi­p, discovery and restoratio­n†


Aged 13, I got my first job at a garden centre and it ignited a passion for horticultu­re. When I left school in 1971 I went into the nursery profession and joined the Royal Parks in 1975, where I took care of St James’s Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. In 1983 I transferre­d to Hampton Court, which was run by Royal Parks until 1989 when Historic Royal Palaces was set up.†

Becoming the head of gardens and estates was a great honour because it is a position that has been held by prestigiou­s gardeners like Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, George London and Henry Wise. You see that lineage and realise you are standing on the shoulders of giants.†

†The job is really about stewardshi­p and the most important thing for me was to understand the history. One of the first things I did was to implement a conservati­on management plan. We broke the whole 750-acre estate down into 12 character areas, documentin­g the history, what had survived and what was significan­t. It serves as a blueprint for anyone taking up the challenge of working in the gardens and helped me uncover restoratio­n and reconstruc­tion opportunit­ies.†

†I started with two big projects. The first was the restoratio­n of the lime avenues that stretched from the palace into the parkland, and the second was the King’s Privy Garden – a most magnificen­t parterre that was created in 1702, just before William III died. It was a vital connection between the palace and the river and took us five years to reconstruc­t. It gives the public a unique insight into William and Mary’s extraordin­ary story and their enthusiasm for collecting exotic plants — they had over 2,000 species!†

I’ve recently retired, but throughout my career I’ve had the privilege of overseeing many historic sites managed by Historic Royal Palaces and I’ve been involved in wonderful projects like the major landscape changes at Kensington Palace Gardens, which included the Princess Diana Memorial Garden, and the Kitchen Garden at Kew Palace. The New Palace Yard near St James’s Park was one of the first landscapin­g jobs I was ever involved in. I often point to those trees when I’m walking with my family and proudly say: “I planted those!”

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