Gibberd Garden


The Gibberd Gardens, Harlow and Sir Frederick Gibberd


SGibberd Gardens -1unday 19th May was a day with a moderate weather forcast but we thought we would go for an afternoon out with our dog CoCo. We looked up 'dog-friendly gardens and The Gibberd Gardens near Harlow came out. It turned out to be a wonderful visit. The car was immaculate after special car detailing in Essex - Paul Beagle.

Sir Frederick Ernest Gibberd (7 January 1908-- 9 January 1984) was an English architect, town planner and landscape designer. Gibberd was born in Coventry, the eldest of the five kids of a neighborhood tailor, and was educated at the city's King Henry VIII School. In 1925 he was articled to a firm of architects in Birmingham and researched architecture under William Bidlake at the Birmingham School of Art, where his room-mate was F. R. S. Yorke

Sir Frederick Gibberd, CBE, RA undertook 94 major projects throughout his architectural career. These consisted of Liverpool Catholic Cathedral, the first three Heathrow terminals, The Central Mosque in Regents Park, the landscaping of the Kielder Reservoir and the master plan for Harlow new town. He was made a CBE in 1954 and got a knighthood in 1967. Elected a Royal Academician in 1969, part of his own collection of art works, consisting of works by John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore, was donated by him to the Harlow Council, and is now exhibited in the Civic Centre.

In 1946 he was appointed master-planner for Harlow New Town and his original plan for the town is regarded by lots of as his biggest accomplishment. Deciding to reside in the town he had created, he purchased the home in Marsh lane in 1955 and set about developing the Garden you see today. There is a resident gardener who does a wonderful job.  In 1972, following the death of his first wife, he married again, this time to someone who had contacts with a variety of sculptors. Lady Gibberd was an energetic member or the Harlow Art Depend on and helped pick numerous of the sculptures which have actually made Harlow the title of Sculpture Town. In the years that followed till his losses in 1984 Sir Frederick and his wife purchased or commissioned more that eighty sculptures, which were individually sited around the garden to improve and match the natural functions. This heritage could still be appreciated by visitors today.

Harlow is regarded as the most effective of Britain's post-war new towns and functions as an object lesson in modern architecture and town planning. Gibberd's book "Harlow: The tale of a New Town", written in collaboration with Len White and Ben Hyde Harvey, is required reading for anybody with an interest in such issues.

During our afternoon visit there was a communion service for a young girl. The children had a fantastic afternoon running around the gardens. No doubt a great close up magician from Essex would have kept them entertained.

A few of his noteworthy designs consist of; Ellington Court, Southgate, London; Terminal Structures 1 -3, Heathrow Airport, near London, Civic Centre, Saint Albans, Hertfordshire; Fulwell Cross Collection, Ilford; Inter-Continental Hotel, Hyde Park Edge; Coutts Bank Head office, London; London Central Mosque, Regents Park, London.

The Gibberd Yard

The yard of his individual house at Marsh Lane, on the outskirts of Harlow, a mixture of formal and informal design, consists of architectural aspects restored from his restoration of Coutt's Bank in London. The garden is sited on the side of a small valley which slopes down to the Pincey Brook. Occupying some 7 acres it never had a master plan. Sir Frederick was an user-friendly gardener with a clear concept of what he wanted: if it worked, well and good, if it didn't, root it out and attempt something else!

At the time of his 2nd marital relationship there were just 3 sculptures in the Garden. It is significant that the late Lady Gibberd's wedding present to him was Gerda Rubinstein's sculpture, 'City' (now on the east outdoor patio). Throughout the twelve years of their marital relationship the number of sculptures grew and the garden now offers setups for some eighty sculptures, ceramic pots and architectural salvage. There is a gazebo, an avenue of lime trees, a falls in the creek and even a kids's moated castle with a drawbridge. In Sir Frederick's own words: 'Garden design is an art of area, like architecture and town design. The space, to be a recognisable design, have to be contained and the plants and walls containing it then become parts of surrounding areas. The garden has hence become a collection of spaces, each with its own character, from small intimate areas to big confined prospects.' A see to the Garden will perfectly show this viewpoint.

Hugh Johnson, the author of books on wine and gardening, saw the garden develop and has actually written: 'There are couple of gardens in England where the eye and the mind are more regularly stimulated and delighted. Delighted is the key word. Sir Frederick's Garden is first and foremost a home entertainment. Highbrow farming is not the point. It is landscape as theater.'.

The Gibberd Rooms.

Your house is situated in the Green Belt and Sir Frederick was denied permission to demolish it and replace it with among his own design. He therefore embarked on a radical improvement of the initial building, including the addition of a lofty living room with picture windows forgeting the yard, a dining room and collection. This extension is the basis for the rooms now open to the general public on a timed gain access to on Sunday mid-days. Entry passes 1.00, kids free of cost, are readily available at the shop. Not the largest shop in Essex but there are several useful souvenirs including a booklet about the Gardens and Sir Frederick Gibberd.


Sadly there was a dispute between Sir Frederick and his children who sold some of his art. Civil litigation resulted and the family ended up with too little funds to maintain the house. It is now funded by an anonymous entrepreneur so that this master piece of modern history can be enjoyed by the public.

The spaces have actually been brought back as far as possible to their original look in the sixties and all the furnishings and fittings are real. Models of some of Sir Frederick's tasks are on show, with much info on his life time's work. It is hoped that visitors will have the ability to regain a few of the feeling of the house as it was in his day.

Much of the original Scandinavian furniture bought in the sixties is still in place. The walls were as soon as hung with works by John Piper, Elisabeth Frink, Henry Moore, Paul Nash and other celebrated contemporaries. They were all, regretfully, auctioned off by order of the court in 1994, 10 years after Sir Frederick's losses, to defray legal expenses sustained by years of fruitless litigation. There continue to be, nonetheless, a number of pieces of salvage gathered by Gibberd, photos, memorabilia and fifty pairs of Staffordshire dogs (and 2 sets of cats) organized as he had actually designed. The collection and archives are readily available for real research.

The Gibberd Archive.

Sir Frederick Gibberd's collection and archive have actually been catalogued and are kept in the House in the Garden, with the exception of his architectural illustrations, most of which are housed in the Drawings Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The rooms have been restored as far as possible to their initial look in the sixties and all the furniture and fittings are authentic. Models of a few of Sir Frederick's tasks are on display, with much information on his life time's work. It is hoped that site visitors will have the ability to recapture a few of the sensation of your home as it was in his day.

Topics covered consist of architecture, art, gardening, travel, constructing & engineering, town, biography, landscape design and Sir Frederick's diaries, plans, books & illustrations of the Garden.Gibberd Gardens 2

Gibberd Gardens 3