Lecture / Talk

Women of the Welfare Landscape: Uncovering women’s contribution to post Second World War landscape architecture in Britain

by Dr Camilla Allen, Research Associate, 'Women of the Welfare Landscape' project, Manchester School of Architecture
East Kilbride Greenway, courtesy of East Kilbride Library


Women of the Welfare Landscape: Uncovering women’s contribution to post Second World War landscape architecture in Britain

Manchester School of Architecture’s research project ‘Women of the Welfare Landscape’ commemorates the roles and achievements of women landscape architects and their collaborators who shaped the post-war designed landscapes of the British Welfare State.

Through “projects of the everyday” such as public housing, parks, and industrial environments these women created landscapes to be shared by all, and which served diverse communities and social contexts.   

Brenda Colvin (1897-1981) is central to the Women of the Welfare Landscape’ project which marks key milestones in her distinguished career including

  • the centenary of her independent practice in 1922,
  • her election as the first woman President of the Institute of Landscape Architects in 1951 when she was described as “probably having done more than anyone in the profession to foster a recognition of the organic basis of landscape architecture”
  • her lasting impact on landscape architect education

Colvin designed and advised on many gardens, such as Sutton Courtenay and her own garden at Little Peacocks; public institutions such as Aberystwyth University, and municipal parks and open spaces such as in East Kilbride.  She also worked on industrial landscaping, e.g. around power stations. A significant example of the latter is the development of the ash disposal hill at Gale Common, Eggborough in Yorkshire, with her practice partner Hal Moggridge, former Professor of Landscape Architecture at Sheffield University, which was forty years in the making.  

The Women of the Welfare Landscape project also explores questions of female leadership, the changing profession of landscape architecture, and the role of these landscapes in the current debates around accessibility of green spaces.

Project Website: Women of the Welfare Landscape

Image: East Kilbride Greenway courtesy of East Kilbride Library

Speaker biography:

Dr Camilla Allen is a landscape architect and historian, and editor of The Politics of Street Trees with Dr Jan Woudstra (Routledge, 2022). She completed her doctorate, ‘The Making of the Man of the Trees’, in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield on the forester and conservationist Richard St. Barbe Baker (1889–1982).

There is also a 'Women of the Welfare Landscape' touring exhibition visiting: 

the Liverpool School of Architecture in March,

Garden Museum and Bartlett School of Architecture in London in April,

Birmingham University in May,

Oxford in June (TBC) and

Styal Village in Cheshire in July,

before ending its tour at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading.