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Gardens and Gardening for Mental and Physical Health in North West England, c. 1450-1650

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  • Full or part time
    Dr K Hurlock
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This collaborative project between Manchester Metropolitan University and the National Trust investigates the external spaces of gentry houses in the North West (Little Moreton Hall, Speke Hall, Rufford Old Hall) to explore the ways in which they were designed and planted to aid physical and mental health. It explores the holistic approach of the Tudors to health in an era of religious change and intellectual change.

***Aims and objectives***

The role of gardens to human wellbeing has long been recognised. In England from the middle ages onwards, writers, gardeners, horticulturalists and historians have emphasised the healing benefits of being in a garden space, and of the curative properties of the plants grown there. Indeed, scholarship on garden history is extensive, and includes discussion of identity, enclosure, and gender. (Munroe, 2008; Skinner and Tyers, 2018). The works of Dendle and Touwaide (2008) and others have, however, tended to focus on gardens and health in relation to the growth of medicinal herbs, in part a reflection of the interests of late medieval and early modern herbalists, and often look only at very specific examples (Minter, 2003; Rawcliffe, 2008). Mental health is largely overlooked, only entering the discussion as a secondary consideration in a few works on gardens as gendered spaces (Medieval Feminist Forum 2014), or in passing in relation to one aspect of spirituality, such as prayer, in larger works (Ryrie 2013). Other works which look at gardens tend towards periodisation (Francis, 2018; Leslie, 2015) which does not leave room for discussion of the impact of major social changes on garden design, planting, and use.

This project will look at the planting and design of gentry gardens, asking how plants were chosen to reflect changing understanding of medical treatment or healthy eating, or design features incorporated to enhance the role of gardens as a place of health and mental wellbeing. Examining physical and mental health is more reflective of the early modern understanding of wellbeing as the Tudors took a holistic approach to regulating their bodies for physical and mental health.

For more about the project, please see our website:

Funding Notes

This is a fees-only scholarship which will cover your annual tuition fees (around £4,260). The project is also included in a wider open funding competition which may lead to a full scholarship being offered. We will confirm the funding available before we issue any offers.

Related Subjects

How good is research at Manchester Metropolitan University in History?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 14.20

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