Gardeners’ World host unveils blue plaque for first female landscape gardener

·2-min read
Fanny Wilkinson (Lucy Millson-Watkins/PA)
Fanny Wilkinson (Lucy Millson-Watkins/PA)

Gardeners’ World presenter Rachel de Thame has unveiled a blue plaque in honour of Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener.

The BBC broadcaster, 60, said Fanny Wilkinson “blazed a trail” for women to work as gardeners at the “highest level”.

Wilkinson held an honorary position at the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association (MPGA), a charity whose mission was the formation of gardens and public parks that would create green “lungs” in London.

Rachel de Thame with the blue plaque (Lucy Millson-Watkins/PA)
Rachel de Thame with the blue plaque (Lucy Millson-Watkins/PA)

Within two years she had persuaded the charity to pay her, becoming Britain’s first professional female landscape gardener, and she went on to create more than 75 public gardens.

De Thame said: “Fanny Wilkinson was a horticultural pioneer. She blazed a trail for those women who work as head gardeners, garden designers and landscapers at the highest level today.

“Many of her gardens survive, including Vauxhall Park and Paddington Street Gardens, and remain a great asset to the capital.

“And yet few of us will immediately know her name. English Heritage is to be applauded for this blue plaque, which will bring Fanny Wilkinson’s considerable achievements to prominence once more.”

On Tuesday, de Thame unveiled the plaque outside Wilkinson’s former flat in Shaftesbury Avenue, central London, where she lived between 1885 and 1896.

Fanny Wilkinson blue plaque (Lucy Millson-Watkins/PA)
Fanny Wilkinson blue plaque (Lucy Millson-Watkins/PA)

Wilkinson was a campaigner for the protection of open space in London and the plaque looks out on to the open space she laid out 130 years ago.

English Heritage historian Rebecca Preston said: “For her role as an early professional female landscape gardener, a promoter of women’s horticultural education, an advocate for women’s rights, and a campaigner for the protection of open space in London, Fanny Wilkinson deserves to be better known.

“She is to be honoured with a plaque at the place where she really established her career and laid out an adjacent piece of ground.

“Her legacy is to be found not just in the larger parks and the many gardens created from London’s disused churchyards, which she was also responsible for, but in the multitude of small open spaces – such as the one that still lies opposite this building – to be found throughout London.”

English Heritage previously said it was working to address the “historic gender imbalance” within the blue plaque scheme as only 14% of more than 950 plaques commemorate women.

The charity has been encouraging people to nominate more notable female figures from the past for a blue roundel.

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