Henry Moore's personal gardens as Perry Green near Much Hadham
PUBLISHED: 14:45 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:14 20 February 2013
Artist Henry Moore lived and worked at Perry Green near Much Hadham for over 40 years. Philippa Pearson visits the recently restored garden at the family home, Hoglands, and the sculpture gardens
ARRIVING at Perry Green, it's easy to understand why Henry Moore chose this tranquil village to live and work. Henry and his wife Irina moved to Hoglands, their home in Perry Green, in the autumn of 1940 during the first weeks of the Blitz. Moore's Hampstead studio was damaged by a nearby bomb blast and their friend Labour MP Leonard Matters, who had a house in South-End, Perry Green, suggested the Moores rented part of Hoglands in the village as a temporary measure. They immediately felt settled and bought the house outright the following year when it unexpectedly became available, the deposit of 300 provided by the timely sale of Moore's sculpture, Reclining Figure (1939).
Whilst Henry worked on his sculptures, Irina began transforming the garden around the house
Whilst Henry worked on his sculptures, Irina began transforming the garden around the house and later the grounds, as further land and outbuildings were purchased over the years for the estate which now covers 70 acres. She designed and laid out the grounds as an outdoor gallery for Henry's works of art where the smoothly mown lawns acted as a floor and hedges as walls, so that sculptures were placed in series of 'rooms'. Irina's intention was not to draw attention away from Henry's sculptures, but for the landscape to complement them and she treated planting in an architectural way. The upper garden, near the house, was planned as a low maintenance garden as only Irina and one other gardener looked after all the gardens and grounds. Here, two wide herbaceous borders, a vegetable plot and fruit trees were appreciated by Henry whilst he worked or relaxed inside the house.
When Henry died in 1986 and Irina in 1988, very little changed or was altered in the intervening period at Hoglands. After negotiations with the artist's family, the Henry Moore Foundation were able to purchase the family home in 2004 and spent three years, in collaboration with Moore's daughter Mary, restoring and recreating the house as it appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The house's gardens, too, were part of that restoration process and designer Yvonne Innes was commissioned to restore the Hoglands garden. Working closely with staff, Yvonne used photographic archive and Stephen Spender's book 'In Irina's Garden' (now out of print) to restore the garden back to its condition in the early 70s. Evidence and clues of Irina's planting existed in borders where some original plants had survived under mountains of weeds. Other work in the now overgrown garden involved bulldozing a line of mature Leylandii conifers, re-laying turf and re-instating hoggin paths. New fruit trees were added, many native to East Anglia, and the wide herbaceous borders are now filled with plants that were available in the 1950s to early 1970s period. Many of these plants are still good garden worthy specimens and are widely used in today's gardens. Two greenhouses have been restored and filled with a fascinating collection of cacti and succulents, plants which Henry loved to collect.
Henry Moore was proud to be a Yorkshireman and whilst much has been made of the impact of the rugged Yorkshire landscape on his larger pieces, the influence of the gentle rolling agricultural countryside of east Hertfordshire is also evident in his work. The nearby fields at Perry Green yielded a supply of flints and fragments of bones and, together with objects found by Irina Moore in her vegetable patch, Henry developed small scale plaster and terracotta models of these finds, known as marquettes, which would be a forerunner to larger works of art. A special studio in the grounds, the Bourne Marquette Studio, was built in 1970 to house the accumulation of the 'found objects'.
'Gardening is Irina's sculpture,' Henry remarked of his wife's great contribution to Perry Green. Walking around the family garden and sculpture ground, it is very apparent that this tranquil area of Hertfordshire is a remarkable achievement of a couple devoted to each other and to the world of art. Visitors need to book their visit in advance, but the advantage of this is that you have the chance to enjoy the estate without too many crowds.
The Henry Moore Foundation
Perry Green, Much Hadham
Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 5pm until October 18.
All visits are by appointment only
and must be booked in advance.
Pre-booked guided tours of the gardens, studios and galleries take place Tuesday to Friday at 2.30pm. Separate morning tours of Hoglands are available.
Admission Adults 12, concessions 8, students and under 18s, 4. Family and season passes available.