A campaign is under way to restore the Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe-designed Water Gardens in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

Hemel’s Water Gardens today
Hemel’s Water Gardens

Despite being named by English Heritage as one of the country’s most important postwar landscapes, the Water Gardens are in a bad state of neglect. Lying alongside the River Gade near the town’s main shopping street, today the site is untended and full of litter.

Now the Garden History Society has launched a campaign to bring the gardens back to their former glory. Options include applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund and lobbying the local authority to get volunteers involved in maintaining the grounds.

Hemel Hempstead is a ‘new town’ created on the northern fringes of London after the Second World War to provide homes for those displaced by the Blitz. Jellicoe’s vision was to enhance the new residents’ environment with a relatively small, but highly creative and inspiring open space.

Inspired by a Paul Klee painting, Jellicoe designed a canal in the shape of a serpent, with weirs and delicate footbridges to lead visitors from the car park to the shopping centre. He added a waterfront lawn and his wife Susan Jellicoe created a rose garden.

Quoted in the Financial Times, Dominic Cole, chair of the Garden History Society, said: “No one seems to realise that we have a 20th-century gem on our hands.”


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