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As the nights draw in we enter an exciting new chapter in the story of Benton End. The Garden Museum has taken the helm, and set a course towards Benton End once more becoming a place of botanical and artistic learning.
 
With an emphasis on building community, inclusion and diversity, the Garden Museum brings a wealth of experience to the project, to complement the rich history of the house and Cedric and Lett’s legacy.

In this newsletter we bring you the story of the transfer of Benton End from The Pinchbeck Charitable Trust to the Garden Museum, artwork by Cedric Morris as discussed by Philip Mould Gallery, stories and plants from fellow artist plantsman John Morley, news, films and events - as well as stunning images of Benton End from the Garden Museum's head Gardener Matt Collins.
 

Trip to the Garden Museum from Hadleigh

 
In September the Garden Museum welcomed a coach party of Hadleigh residents to London. They visited the Constance Spry exhibition (herself a friend and visitor to Benton End), explored the Beth Chatto Archive and sampled the delicious food from the museum café, while hearing about plans for Benton End.
 
The Garden Museum’s director, Christopher Woodward discussed the potential projects that Benton End could deliver, invited ideas for how the house could be used, and how the Hadleigh community could be involved.

The picturesque town of Hadleigh has a thriving, very proactive community, committed to the  improvement of services and facilities to the benefit of all. The Trust looks forward to working with the residents of this welcoming, beautiful Suffolk town.

Trustees celebrate transfer

 
The Garden Museum announces plans to revive
Cedric Morris' Suffolk home at Benton End
as a centre of Art & Gardening

 
(Clockwise from top left) Trustee Phillip Mould, Robin Pinchbeck, Bridget Pinchbeck and supporter  and National Collection holder of Irises bred by Cedric Morris, Sarah Cook.

On 1st November 2021 the Garden Museum and the Pinchbeck Charitable Trust jointly announced plans to revive and restore the former Suffolk house and garden of artist-gardener Sir Cedric Morris (1889 – 1982) as a new centre of gardening, art, and creativity. The Pinchbeck Charitable Trust acquired Benton End and has now transferred ownership of the house, a private home since Morris’ death in 1982, to the Garden Museum.

The revived Benton End will similarly aim to support and inspire artists and gardeners of all ages and to encourage freedom of invention, enthusiasm, and enjoyment, following in spirit the original ethos of Morris and Haines.


Bridget Pinchbeck says: “The robust and exciting partnership between the Pinchbeck Charitable Trust and the Garden Museum will underpin the future development of Benton End, ensuring that the enchanting story of the house and the characters who inhabited it will not be lost. The aim is for Benton End to be a place of inclusivity and enthusiasm. It was Ronald Blythe, author and friend of Cedric and Lett who best summed up the experience of Benton End when he wrote, “The atmosphere was one of intellectual freedom. Everything was discussed. It was Bohemian in the best sense… The whole atmosphere was exciting and liberating…”, adding that, “The greatest crime at Benton End was to be boring!” We are thrilled that this collaboration has come about and look forward with great anticipation to the next stages unfolding…”
 

The Garden Museum plans to begin work renewing Morris’ garden in 2022. Redeveloping the house will be a longer-term project, aiming to restore Benton End’s post-war bohemian glamour and atmosphere, build an exhibition gallery and spaces for learning dedicated to the art of the garden, and to make the building more accessible.

In a gift of remarkable generosity, the Pinchbeck Charitable Trust transferred ownership of Benton End to the Garden Museum with the only request that a consideration of £350,000 towards its value to the Charitable Trust be made in 2024, three years from now, so that the Pinchbeck Charitable Trust may replenish its support for other charitable causes, including medical needs, education, as well as mental health and well-being.

Christopher Woodward, photographed by Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph

Garden Museum Director Christopher Woodward says: “I’ve been involved in museums for more than 25 years, but never come across a gift of such generosity. It’s from the heart. And we are pleased that Bridget will be involved in the creative development of the project.

This would not be a rural outpost of the Garden Museum. The new Trust will be a hybrid of the Garden Museum and the heritage of Benton End and its neighbourhood. It will not be a museum, but once again a house where things happen.”

Read the full press release

Aeoniums
(Experiment in Green)
1971

 
Comment by Philip Mould Gallery
 
Cedric was a painter of the natural world and one of the most original artists of the 20th century.  This work was painted in 1971 towards the end of Morris’s career and depicts one of his favourite subjects – succulents.  Morris collected succulents from a young age and some of his earliest works in oils are studies of cacti.  Given their resilience, this type of plant was perfect for Morris’s lifestyle which often involved long periods of absence from the studio.  This was especially true of his early years in Paris when he would disappear for many months at a time travelling around Europe and North Africa.  Every time Morris went away, however, he would bring back another succulent which he would add to his burgeoning collection.  The succulents shown here are from the aeonium genus and can be identified by their long stems and thick, wax-like layers of leaves.  Aeoniums are native to the Canary Islands and these specimens were almost certainly retrieved by Morris on one of his many trips to the islands in the 1950s with friend and partner Nigel Scott.
Cedric Morris (1889-1982)
Aeoniums (Experiment in green) 1974
Oil on canvas 32 1/8 x 20 1/8 in (81.5 x 51 cm)

 
Explore more works by Cedric Morris at Philip Mould & Company

A  link to the past

 
John and Diana Morley share plants, stories and photographs of Benton End and their dear friend, Cedric Morris
Cedric Morris c.1970
Image courtesy of John Morley.

Matt Collins, along with Lucy Skellorn, Benton End Researcher, recently visited the home of John and Diana Morley, long-time friends of Cedric Morris. John, an artist plantman himself, first met Cedric through mutual friend and author, Elizabeth Smart in the early 1970’s.
Smart is probably best known for her book By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945) a novel in prose poetry inspired by
 her passionate affair with the British poet  George Barker.

John was lecturer at Suffolk College at the time, and would often stay over at Benton End on Thursdays to save the long journey back to his home in north Suffolk by moped.

Suffolk pink, ox blood lime-washed walls on the north gable  c.1970.
Image courtesy of John Morley.
'Newlyn Blue' window frames and doors at Benton End, c.1970.
Image courtesy of John Morley.

 John recalled the eccentric nature of life at Benton End. A rarely used back staircase would often cause the housekeeper Millie consternation; upon opening the door a barricade of sticks and twigs would fall out, causing her to conclude ‘the Jackdaws have been at it again’.
 
Cedric Morris with Rubeo the macaw.
Image courtesy of Sarah Cook.
 
Diana recalled that the more (in)famous avian resident of Benton End, Rubeo the Macaw, known for it’s foul language - had belonged to the mother of Elizabeth David, the well-known post-war author of many best selling cookery books and a great friend of both men. Cedric once reflected to her that ‘Rubeo was lovely, but he did eat the window’ – referring to the bird’s penchant for nibbling at a particularly decrepit window sill.
 Baggage the cat outside Benton End.
Image courtesy of John Morley.
Tall bearded Iris 'Benton Baggage'.

Before making a art school and home at Benton End in 1940, Cedric and Lett had lived at 'The Pound', a house fondly remembered for its raucous parties and Cedric's birds; ducks, peacocks and parrots that roamed the garden.
On moving to Benton End, Rubeo the macaw relocated too though in addition to a continued emphasis on birds, Benton End also became a haven for cats. A lean-to building which once joined the south side of the house was affectionately known as St. Thomas', due to all the kittens that would be born there.
Diana said that 'Baggage' the cat was so called as she was always pregnant. 
Cedric famously named many of his iris cultivars after the most impressionable characters in his life, with both 'Baggage' and 'Rubeo' being immortalised in this way.
 
The walled garden at Benton End with Knifpohias, Irises and Lillies c.1950's.
Image courtesy of John Morley.
Diana & John Morley collecting seed alongside Matt Collins.
Artist plantsman John Morley.
Matt and Lucy greatly appreciated the rich recollections of John and Diana, and could have spent hours more poring over their cornucopia of artwork, letters and photos.
Very generously John and Diana collected seed, cut plant material and dug up bulbs - all gifts from Cedric to John over 40 years ago. These will join the growing collection at Benton End as we continue to reunite Cedric's plants with his garden.
Seeds included Cedric’s annual poppy, derived from our native field poppy. Cedric developed this strain by collecting seed from natural mutations found in the field. Papaver rhoeas ‘Cedric Morris’,  produces flowers in smokey shades, picotees (flowers with a light ground and dark-edged petals)  and some with delicate veining.
These poppies also go by the name 'Mother of Pearl' and 'Fairy Wings'.
Images courtesy of Diana Morley.
John also gave a generous clump of Fritillaria pyrenaica 'Cedric Morris', a multi-headed fritillary collected and named by Cedric.
From his bountiful greenhouse a young Cotyledon orbiculata 'Cedric Morris' was found.
Always watchful for new and interesting plants, Cedric discovered this Cotyledon growing wild on the island of Gran Canaria whilst on a winter retreat to paint. This statuesque succulent was used as a the subject for several of Cedric's paintings, its large fleshy leaves developing a red rim when kept outdoors during the summer months.

 
The Morley's greenhouse bursting with citrus and succulents.
The Morley's home, Venetian red lime washed walls, inspired by the original house colour at Benton End.
Cedric Morris in the walled garden at Benton End c. 1970.

"Cedric's garden gave me an amazing buzz. I hadn't seen a garden quite like it before. It was like an alpine meadow, a magical place for a plantsman, full of source material, exciting for the knowledge you could gain from it. Cedric was not particularly interested in arranging plants, only in placing them where they grew happily, yet the effect was aesthetically pleasing. It felt wonderfully free. A bit of Provence in an English garden. Cedric was immensely generous, both with his knowledge and with gifts of plants, whole clumps of them, though he would shudder with blue-haired lady gardeners with notebooks' that bore down on him. I have many of his plants, especially fritillaries, in my garden and have passed hundreds to other gardeners."
John Morley 'Benton End Remembered' (2002).


 
 
With the help of the Morleys and their photos of Benton End taken over 40 years ago we are increasing our understanding of the way in which Cedric laid out the garden. The emphasis was particularly on species plants and giving them the best possible conditions in which to thrive. With an eye for detail, shape, colour and form were of the utmost importance to Cedric.
Winding paths between and around the plants allowed them to be appreciated from all angles as well as giving opportunities for art students to pull up easels and paint their subjects.
Diana Morley said that visiting the garden was 'like no other...it was like landing on the moon'.

 
The generous gardener -
Coteyledon orbiculata 'Cedric Morris', gifted by John Morley.
Image courtesy of Matt Collins.
Galanthophile John Morley founded North Green Snowdrops in 1984,  the oldest snowdrop nursery in the country.
John has named many iconic snowdrops including Galanthus 'Benton Magnet', which he named following Cedric Morris' death in 1982.
Catalogue - North Green Snowdrops

A year at Benton End

Matt and Clemmie with their son in the garden at Benton End in Suffolk. 
Photograph: Eva Nemeth/The Guardian.
During the last turbulent year, Benton End has been exceedingly fortunate to have had the Collins family in residence at the Coach House. Matt, Clemmie and their young son swapped lockdown London for sunny Suffolk and haven’t looked back.
 
Carefully observing, recording and nurturing ‘Cedric’s ghost’, Garden Museum Head Gardener Matt has also beautifully captured promising shoots – from fritillaries to narcissus, Iris and Ornithogalum.
'Cedric's ghost': FritillarIia imperialis, Mespilus germanica with a carpet of Corydalis and Fritillaria meleagris.
Images courtesy of Matt Collins.
Guardian article Saturday 2nd October 2021.
In a Guardian magazine feature Matt describes his year at Benton End, his plant discoveries and how this 16th century house once offered rooms for students.  Referencing nature writer Ronald Blyth in his Suffolk memoir,  Matt mentions that Blyth recalls  “we all flowered there… it was three guineas a week, bring your own sheets.”

Matt is no longer gardening at Benton End - but hasn't moved far. Having fallen for Suffolk he and his family are now living in the beautiful nearby town of Hadleigh.
Read The Guardian article

Goodbye Matt hello Sam


Introducing Sam Woodward (no relation as far as we know to Christopher), the new custodian and gardener to Benton End. Now moving on, Matt Collins has handed the baton to Sam, who you may have met at local markets where he also tends to his plant stand. We hope you'll join us in extending a warm welcome to Sam as he gets to grips with Benton Ends borders.
 
Late summer delights at Benton End; Fuchsia magellanica, Sternbergia lutea, Buddleja × weyeriana 'Sungold', all recorded in the walled garden.
Images courtesy of Matt Collins.

Films about Benton End

Continuing our commissions by the Garden Museum to create short films recording the history of those connected to Benton End, we are delighted to announce that Sarah Cook will feature in our next in the series.
Sarah first visited the garden as a young girl when her granny took her to the Red Cross open gardens day at Benton End.
Having grown up in Hadleigh Sarah went on to study at Kew Gardens, later becoming head gardener at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. It was whilst working in the gardens famously designed and planted by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson that she came across an Iris bred by Cedric Morris named 'Benton Nigel'. This encounter went on to spur her establishing a National Collection of Irises introduced by Cedric Morris and an ongoing love, admiration and understanding of this great artist-plantsman's contributions to British horticulture.
Sarah Cook as a child, the age she was on first visiting the garden at Benton End.
Iris 'Benton Old Madrid' in Sarah's garden near Hadleigh, Suffolk.
 
These films aim to recognise and celebrate the huge influence that Benton End had on 20th century art and horticulture.
On completion, these films will be made available through the Garden Museum website.
Sign up - Garden Museum mailing list

The story of Benton End:
A Paradise of Pollen & Paint

On 26th October 2021 Garden Museum Director, Christopher Woodward looked back at over five hundred years of Benton End’s architectural history, evoking the atmosphere created by Cedric and Lett, along with friends welcomed there such as Elizabeth David, John Nash and Beth Chatto.
Joined by Head Gardener Matt Collins and Researcher Lucy Skellorn, the garden's history and recent botanical discoveries were discussed, peppered with anecdotes on this bohemian household. 
This event was recorded and can be enjoyed again via the Garden Museum website.

Cost £10            Film length: 1 hour 10 minutes

Watch Event: A Paradise of Pollen and Paint

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Benton End House & Garden Trust is a private limited company registered in England and Wales. Registration number: 11807625.


Registered office: Benton End House, Hadleigh, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP75JR.


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